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Black Hawk Down in Iraq; Families of American POWs Find Hope in Lynch Rescue

Aired April 3, 2003 - 04:30   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Here's what's happening at this hour. Conflicting reports on U.S. deaths in a helicopter crash in Iraq. Pentagon officials say seven American troops were killed near the city of Karbala when their Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by small-arms fire. U.S. Central Command confirms the crash, but says six people were on the helicopter, and CENTCOM has not confirmed the casualty figures.
A single-seat F/A-18C Hornet has also crashed in Iraq, the fate of the Navy fighter pilot unknown. A search-and-rescue operation is under way. The plane was from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk.

U.S.-led forces are closing in on the southern edge of Baghdad. The Army's V Corps and 1st Marine Expeditionary Force are leading the way. One top Marine says the troops will be in Baghdad, quote, "before you know it."

The Arab news agency Al Jazeera says it has suspended the work of all its correspondents in Iraq. The move comes after Iraq banned one of its reporters and suspended the accreditation of its chief Baghdad correspondent. But Al Jazeera says it will continue to broadcast live video from some parts of the country, including Baghdad.

Flight attendants want the government to help protect them from the potentially deadly respiratory illness known as SARS. The union representing flight attendants at 26 U.S. airlines wants the FAA to let them wear protective gloves and masks on flights. SARS has killed 78 people worldwide.

And we are bringing you various aspects of the war. Coming up this hour, Iraqi torture chambers, complete with an electrocution room. You have got to see it to believe it. Plus, the push to Baghdad. U.S.-led forces just south of the city. We will take you to the front lines. And rescue brings hope. How Jessica Lynch's dramatic rescue gives the families of other U.S. prisoners of war and missing a reason to hold on.

And a good morning to you. It is Thursday, April 3. From CNN's global headquarters in Atlanta, I'm Anderson Cooper -- Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Anderson. I'm Daryn Kagan from Kuwait City. We're going to show you live pictures now from Baghdad. The war to oust Iraqi president Saddam Hussein has now entered its third week, these live pictures showing a relatively quiet morning in Baghdad, considering especially what is happening on the outskirts of that city. First we want to go ahead and update where the coalition forces are in Iraq. We star to the west. The Army's 3rd Division is inching closer to the southern edge of Baghdad. To the east, our Martin Savidge tell us, the Marines have been pounding Iraqi defenses with long-range artillery most of the day. Farther to the south, the 101st Airborne Division has taken control of Najaf and isolated Iraqi forces in that area. At Samawa (ph), the 82nd Airborne launched a surprise attack on paramilitary forces trying to regroup there. And near the coast, coalition forces have seized a giant food distribution center in Basra that was formerly used by the United Nations.

Well, coalition forces have started their final push towards Baghdad. Our Miles O'Brien is going to bring us up to date now on the day's fast-changing developments.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 11:08 AM, CNN's Barbara Starr reporting from the Pentagon. Sources tell her there will be no letup in the current U.S. push and that this is the first phase of the final push to Baghdad. 1:05 PM, at the Pentagon, Major General Stanley McChrystal says the Medina and Baghdad Divisions of the Republican Guard have been defeated and are no longer credible forces. 2:30 PM, CNN's Karl Penhaul reports some U.S. forces are within 15 miles of Baghdad, part of a two-pronged advance on the Iraqi capital.

5:00 PM, rescued POW U.S. soldier Jessica Lynch arrives in Germany for treatment of gunshot wounds and broken bones at an American military hospital. 5:12 PM, the Arab-language news agency Al Jazeera reports it has suspended the work of all its correspondents in Iraq after Iraqi officials banned at least one of its employees from reporting. 6:06 PM, CNN's Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon reporting coalition forces dropped 50 satellite-guided bombs on a heavily secured storage facility in Baghdad.

8:55 PM, Jamie McIntyre reports a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter is down in Iraq. Seven crew members are dead, four have been rescued. The cause of the crash is still being investigated.


COOPER: Well, the Arab-language news agency Al Jazeera has suspended the work of its correspondents in Iraq. This is a story we have been following all morning. For more details, we go live to CNN's Rym Brahimi in Amman, Jordan -- Rym.

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Anderson, the Al Jazeera has announced, actually, that it will not allow its reporters in Baghdad to work until further notice. The reason for that is that one of their correspondent, a local journalist, Diar al Omari, has been banned from reporting, and another one, Tayseer Allouni, has been expelled from Baghdad. Now, in protest, Al Jazeera says it will not allow its correspondents to work. It will just broadcast live pictures from Baghdad, Mosul and Basra. It also says that there was no explanation given by the Iraqi authorities when they decided to take those measures.

Now, as you know, there's been quite a lot of bombing in Baghdad again overnight. People I spoke to in the Iraqi capital said they couldn't sleep from the sound of bombing and the sound of planes hovering over their skies. There's an area in -- a residential area in Baghdad that was hit, a place where the Baghdad international trade fairgrounds are located. And next to that, a maternity and -- a maternity hospital and the Red Crescent have been damaged, but they were not hit directly, And the maternity had been evacuated at the beginning of the war. So the people that were injured in that attack in Baghdad are people who were just passers-by, walking around there. Back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Rym, thanks very much. A lot to talk about. A lot is happening at this hour, Rym, so we've actually got to move on, but thanks very much for joining us live from Amman, Jordan.

Colin Powell, as we mentioned, is at NATO headquarters in Belgium, and after -- but after a visit by Colin Powell, Turkey has agreed to allow overflights of U.S. heavy military equipment into northern Iraq. It also agreed to let the U.S. send food, fuel and medicine to its soldiers in northern Iraq, but no weapons.

We are going to go to CNN's senior European political correspondent, Robin Oakley, who is live from Brussels with the latest. Robin, Colin Powell is in Brussels right now, correct?

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, and he's got a busy, busy day here, Anderson. He's got no fewer than 21 meetings. He's currently in a meeting with the European Union external affairs commissioner, Chris Patton, the international policy chief, Javier Solana, and Georges Papandreou, the Greek foreign minister, with the Greeks currently holding the EU presidency. Then he's got a lunch with all the foreign ministers of the European Union countries, a full NATO council meeting in the afternoon, a meeting this evening with Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister.

And it's something of a fence-mending exercise, obviously, for Colin Powell at the moment, with 9 of the 15 European Union countries having opposed the war in Iraq and NATO also having been badly split on the issue. What they've got to discuss here, above all else -- because of the -- it's the one issue which really unites most of the European countries -- is what happens to Iraq after the conflict.

And that is where the potential tension comes in because the Germans, for example, are saying that the United Nations must remain in the driver's seat. Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, says the U.N. must have a very strong role in what happens in post-conflict Iraq. But Colin Powell has, of course, said to the U.S. Congress that the coalition forces haven't taken on the burden that they have not to have a dominant and significant controlling influence in what happens in the future. And it is a question, really, of how long there is a military occupation of Iraq after the conflict, overseeing the reconstruction and the aid effort -- Anderson.

COOPER: And I suppose that is a question no one can answer, at this point. We will just have to wait and see what happens in the coming days and weeks. Robin Oakley, live from Brussels, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

We are anticipating a press conference around 9:30 AM Eastern time. Colin Powell is supposed to give that. We, of course, will bring that to you as soon as we get it, bring it to you live.

Let's go back to Daryn Kagan now in Kuwait -- Daryn.

KAGAN: OK, Anderson. We're going to focus on the home front now. Some families have their own war plan in effect. Our David Mattingly introduces us to a woman who is marching forward for the sake of her grandchildren.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hazel Taylor had no idea that war in Iraq would fill her life with so much work and so much worry.

HAZEL TAYLOR, MILITARY GRANDMOTHER: Sometime I think, you know, my husband is gone. My daughter is gone. And my son-in-law is gone, you know? And it's just me and the two babies, you know, and I think...

MATTINGLY: Taylor quit her job to care for her two young grandchildren after deployments sent her daughter, her son-in-law and her husband all to Iraq. Familiar with the role of a full-time mom, she still wasn't prepared for all the questions about why Mommy and Daddy can't come home.

TAYLOR: I'm out of words. Sometime I just -- just run out of words. You know, you just don't have anymore words, you know? And so it's at those times I think I get a little bit emotional.

MATTINGLY: To keep her composure, she tries to lose herself in her daily chores, tending to a house and family separated by war. Hazel's daughter and son-in-law are attached to the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, seeing heavy fighting as it presses toward Baghdad. Her husband is attached to the 101st Airborne, which on this day had just completed house-to-house searches in the town of Najaf.

TAYLOR: I got to be strong because somebody else is depending upon me.

MATTINGLY: She carries a sense of duty that comes from being a soldier herself 20 years ago. But now Hazel Taylor is also a minister who just weeks ago started her own church.

TAYLOR: My husband called me this morning. That was great! Amen! Glory to God!

MATTINGLY: She now hopes to minister to other families separated by war at Kentucky's Fort Campbell.

TAYLOR: It's hard. And my heart goes out to all of the men and the women that are -- that have the job that I have right now.

MATTINGLY: But as Hazel Taylor reaches out to others, while the war continues, she finds her own comfort in the embrace of loved ones at home.

TAYLOR: Grandma loves you.

MATTINGLY: David Mattingly, CNN, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.


KAGAN: We can feel Hazel Taylor's strength all the way over here in Kuwait.

Interesting thing is happening in northern Iraq, as U.S. special operations forces work alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga. We'll get a look at how that is going just ahead. Right now, a quick break.


KAGAN: To northern Iraq now, where U.S. forces are forging a working relationship with the Kurdish militia. CNN's Steve Nettleton is with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in northern Iraq.


STEVE NETTLETON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Less than a week after making their dramatic arrival in northern Iraq, U.S. troops welcome their first top-ranking local dignitary. Massoud Barzani, the leader of one of the region's two main Kurdish political parties toured the rapidly developing Harir airfield. His visit represented the first virtual stamp of approval by Kurdish officials of the new U.S. presence in Iraq.

Barzani's own militia army, the Peshmergas, have been working closely with U.S. forces, manning joint checkpoints and providing an outer layer of security for the airbase. For many U.S. troops, this close proximity to Kurdish fighters came as a shock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't expect there to be any friendlies near us. You know, I knew we were linking up with the Kurdish people and working with them, but I figured that'd be mostly on a -- on a higher level. I didn't know that we'd be this close to them, you know, running the checkpoint right alongside of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't really know anything about the Kurds. I knew that they disliked Saddam and the way he ruled his regime and everything. But other than that, I didn't really know a whole lot.

NETTLETON: The Peshmergas have also been schooling U.S. soldiers in the ways of Kurdish culture, swapping language lessons and tasting tea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first word I learned was "bread," and then the second one was each other's names. And just from there, we built. And at first, it was a lot of gestures and pointing to things and everything. And then eventually, it just got easier. They could say something, and I'd understand what they meant.

NETTLETON: In return, the Kurds are getting a close look at U.S. firepower and the changing face of the U.S. military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in United States forces, I saw women and men together. We -- in here, we didn't see man and woman work together in military actions.

NETTLETON: Many Kurdish and U.S. soldiers see their cooperation as a model for a new partnership in northern Iraq, but, they say, it is a delicate relationship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) going further here. I think it'll be good, but as long as -- as long as we don't interfere too much.

NETTLETON: But for now, the U.S. presence is an interference the Kurds clearly welcome. Steve Nettleton, CNN, with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in northern Iraq.


COOPER: Well, coalition forces are pushing closer to Iraq's capital city. CNN's Karl Penhaul has more on the push to Baghdad from the front lines.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. commanders say U.S. troops are now within 15 to 20 miles of the southern outskirts of Baghdad, after a day of rapid advances. Tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles of the 3rd Infantry Division (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by Apache attack helicopters of the 11th Aviation Regiment have been advancing through the city of Karbala, a strategic town that controls river points and major highways, and advanced north across open arable lands and again across the Euphrates River.

Some U.S. commanders have even suggested by the early hours of the morning, U.S. troops could be actually on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. These advances have come much quicker than many commanders expected because of the battles and fighting to date. There has been resistance from Iraqi forces, but U.S. commanders say that that resistance has been lighter than expected. Some Apache attack helicopters were damaged by ground fire, but there was no repeat of the heavy anti-aircraft fire experienced in earlier attacks around the city of Karbala.

This is Karl Penhaul with the 11th Aviation Regiment near An Najaf, Iraq.


COOPER: And as we've been saying all morning, it seems things are moving very quickly on the ground this morning. Let's check in with Daryn Kagan, who's got a look at what the morning papers in Kuwait City have to say.

KAGAN: Yes, that sense that things are moving quickly started, I think, yesterday, and that's reflected in the morning papers. This is the "Kuwait Times," two pictures of interest on the front, "Twin assault begins," talking about the assault on Baghdad. This is a picture here of an Iraqi man who went through a checkpoint, was cleared, and showed his appreciation by giving a kiss to a private. That is, Private Gert Albin (ph) from Palmdale, California. Always, it seems, there's a picture of a child on the front page. This is outside Nasiriyah, a child and her mother waiting for some aid.

And then one more paper here, the "Arab Times" -- "Battle of Baghdad begins." And Anderson, I think you'd appreciate this picture down here. This is a little girl, once again, waiting with the adults to get some aid that's on its way to the people of Iraq.

COOPER: I imagine that other picture -- the first picture you showed us, that private, the American private being kissed by -- by an Iraqi -- I imagine he's going to be kidded quite a lot about that by his -- his fellow comrades.

KAGAN: You know, he might. But you know, as they say, when in Rome. You know, of course, in the Middle East, it's not uncommon for men to greet each other with a double kiss to the cheek.


KAGAN: That's how they do things around here, so a warm moment, a welcomed warm moment.

That's going to do it for me here in Kuwait City. Bill Hemmer's going to step into this chair. Anderson, I'm going to toss it back to you for the rest of this hour.

COOPER: All right, and we'll be back after a short break. Our coverage continues. A lot to talk about, what is coming up in the day ahead. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Live picture of Baghdad, where it is 1:49 PM, 4:49 AM here on the East Coast of the United States.

Want to take you to the front lines in southern Iraq now, where British forces say they have found sobering evidence of Iraqi torture chambers. Clive Myrie (ph) takes us into an Iraqi police station which is now in the hands of British troops.


CLIVE MYRIE, CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside a police station in southern Iraq stands a mural of this country's leader. Saddam Hussein's dreaded internal security police were based here. This cabinet is locked. Saddam's portrait adorned every room. Not anymore. And downstairs, cells, this one barely four feet by eight, with no windows and a filthy pillow and mattress. In other rooms, hooks hang from the ceiling.

This room is bare but for two old tires and an electricity cable. We're later told the torturer might use the tires to stand on while water is poured on the floor and the prisoner electrocuted.

And in this room are the identity cards of scores of Iraqi men aged between 20 and 40. It's a crime here not to have your ID card with you at all times. Why do these men no longer need theirs?

We later found one man who didn't want to be identified, who gave up some of the secrets of the police stations. He tells me there was a tariff system. If you committed a crime but paid enough money, you wouldn't be tortured.

We spent days trying to find more people willing to speak on the record about torture in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. This man would only talk to us within the safety of a Royal Marines commando base. And if he was a prison guard and Saddam walked into his jail? "I'd cut him into 50 pieces," he tells me.

In the distance, the smoke rises from a battlefield. Iraq's tools of repression are being taken away. Clive Myrie in Abu al Kasib (ph), southern Iraq.


COOPER: We have just established contact with our correspondent in northern Iraq, or one of our correspondents in northern Iraq, Ben Wedeman, who is near Kalak. Ben, what's the latest?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm ready in 30 seconds.

COOPER: OK, Ben Wedeman is in -- near the city of Kalak in northern Iraq, in Kurdish-controlled territory. What you're looking at is a shot far from him, on the horizon. We're going to show that to you shortly, as we reestablish contact with him.

When we last talked to Ben about 45 minutes ago, we actually saw an explosion taking place far on the horizon. Let's go back to Ben Wedeman now in northern Iraq -- Ben.

WEDEMAN: Yes, Anderson. Yes, we are here in the village of Nasmiya (ph). What you see behind me is the town of Khazar (ph), the edge of which is coming under bombardment by U.S. aircraft. Now, the situation here on the northern front is really moving fast. This morning, we walked about four kilometers with the Kurdish fighters, the Peshmerga, as they came in this direction. This is, of course, in the direction of Mosul, which is about, I would estimate, maybe 30 kilometers behind us to the west.

Now, what has happened is several hundred Kurdish fighters were walking gradually in the direction of this town of Khazar. When they came to this forward position, they began to be bombarded, shelled by mortars and artillery from the Iraqi positions. What happened is, the U.S. troops who were with the Kurdish fighters started to begin -- began to call in air strikes. And really, for the first -- last 45 minutes to 50 minutes, what has happened is there's been constant overflights by, as far as I can see, four fighter jets -- I think they're F-14s -- flying over this area, bombing the edge of this town of Khazar. Gradually -- every about 10 minutes or so, we've seen multiple explosions coming up from that direction -- Anderson.

COOPER: And those -- is it no one is in those positions that are being bombed? Are they trench positions? Are they artillery positions? Do you know?

WEDEMAN: Well, we assume they're trying to suppress the fire, the fire that is coming from those artillery positions. But honestly, we have really just moved up with the troops this morning, so we're not quite sure what is on the other side. But clearly, the Iraqi forces that had pulled back from the ridgeline, from the front line in what was Kalak, have now redeployed into this area.

Now, we've seen in other areas that the Iraqi forces have repositioned, pulled back to more defensible areas. But what has happened is in less than 24 hours, the Kurdish forces have been able to fill the vacuum left by the Iraqis. They have U.S. air support. There are U.S. troops in this area. So really, they have not allowed the Iraqis to dig into their new positions. They're really pounding them as soon as they make contact -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Ben Wedeman, I appreciate you joining us so quickly. We'll check in with you a little bit later on.

We'll take a short break. Our coverage continues in just a moment.


COOPER: Some of the many images of war from today. A group of journalists missing for a week in Iraq arrived in Jordan and told their story. The four journalists and a peace activist were taken March 25 from their hotel rooms in Baghdad by Iraqi officials. They were released Tuesday. They said they were not physically harmed while in custody, though their captors at times joked about killing them.

Rescued POW Jessica Lynch has arrived in Germany for medical treatment. She's seen there in better days. The 19-year-old Army private was captured during an ambush on March 23 near Nasiriyah. Following that daring nighttime rescue operation we have all heard about, she was airlifted out of Iraq. That's her arriving in Germany. Her family says they've been told she has two broken legs, apparently from gunshot wounds.

And the wait may be over for Lynch's family, but for the families of others who are missing or being held prisoner of war, they are still holding onto hope. Some of them talked with our Ed Lavandera.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hope and war are an emotionally dangerous mixture. For Jessica Lynch's family, hoped turned out to be a powerfully rewarding force.

GREG LYNCH, SOLDIER'S FATHER: That's about all we -- we've got to hold onto is faith and hope. If we lose -- lose faith and hope and quit praying to the Lord, there's no hope, so you got to keep it soaring high.

LAVANDERA: Families of the other soldiers in the 507th Maintenance Company are finding momentary comfort in the excitement of Lynch's rescue. It reinforces the possibility that dreams can come true.

CLAUDE JOHNSON, POW'S FATHER: And I think it is great that she is back, and that gives everybody hope.

LAVANDERA: Claude Johnson can't stop thinking of holding his daughter again. A banner awaits Shoshana Johnson in the family's front yard in El Paso, hopeful preparations for a hero's homecoming.

JOHNSON: As I have said previously, it's not just about Shoshana, it's about all of the prisoners that are over there. And I hope and pray that each and every one of them could come home safe, just like Jessica did.

LAVANDERA: Some families have seen their loved ones on television. That has helped. But the families of those soldiers still missing in action have little to hold onto, at this point. Army counselors know this is a grueling test of emotional strength, especially for young family members.

PEGGY BROWN, FT. BLISS FAMILY ASSIST. CTR.: But a lot of the children are having difficulty in school. They're having difficulty sleeping. Some of them are having problems with their own siblings, fighting and lashing out. Some of them have shown signs of depression. And those are all being addressed.

LAVANDERA (on camera): The military has counselors ready to help all of the families whose loved ones are prisoners of war or still listed as missing in action. Each of these families is anxiously awaiting any kind of word from the battlefield. Until then, hope is every family's best friend. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Fort Bliss, Texas.



Hope in Lynch Rescue>

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