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Update from British Embedded Reporter in Basra

Aired April 6, 2003 - 01:47   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. We're going to show you a live picture right now of Baghdad. It is 10:47 am in Baghdad. We heard from Walter Rodgers, who is with the 7th Calvary, just a short time ago. He hearing from U.S. military officials that U.S. infantry or other units of the U.S. military were likely continue to probe, doing recognizance missions into the city of Baghdad, as they did yesterday.
From Baghdad we want to go to Basra. We want to check in now with David Bowden, a British embedded reporter who we have talked to a lot over the last two weeks or so. David, what's the latest where you are?

DAVID BOWDEN: Well Anderson, slowly but surely the British forces that surround Basra are chipping away at the central core. I can tell you that overnight 7th Armored Brigade went into and secured a chunk of what they call Central Basra. We have Royal Marine commanders who encircling certainly the southern parts of the city. I was there with the Queen's Regoon (ph) Guards until late yesterday. We moved to within a couple of miles of the very heart of the city.

Certainly the outskirts look something like a ghost town. There are very, very few people around, and those that are, are heading in the other direction. It looks as if people are getting out of town; it looks as if they've had enough of this particular conflict, and what of course will happen is that you will end up, as in many other places, with just a hard core or rump of Baath Party sympathizers, supporters of the regime who'll be left to fight it out. But more and more it looks as if Basra's fate depends on the fate of Baghdad. And I suspect when and if Baghdad falls, that Basra will not be far behind because the people down here are not by and large regime sympathizers. They are no friends of Saddam Hussein, but they won't rise up against him quite yet because of this ingrained fear of what will happen, being the same as 1991, when of course, the coalition then stopped short of kicking Saddam out, and removing the regime, and of course left him to then take his time to reap terrible, terrible revenge on those people who helped the coalition, who were seen to be acquiescing to the coalition invasion that time. So people here are very guarded. But I think it's only a matter of time now and it might not be a very long time before Basra either implodes the local people rise up and take it for themselves, or in fact, the British troops go in and seize the city in its entirety.

COOPER: Yes, David. No doubt memories are long in Basra, especially given what happened back in 1991. The last time I think I talked to you, or one of the other British reporters in the area of Basra, they were saying that there's sort of at night, this sort tit- for-tat, often the tanks from the city of Basra will come out close to the British lines, maybe exchange of fire, and then sort of will retreat back in to the city. Is that still going on? Are there still Iraqi tanks, armored vehicles around?

BOWDEN: There are, but more and more of the ones you see are burning hulks, bombed out either from the air, by artillery, or by coalition tanks and around Basra that means either the Simisel (ph) light tanks which I was with yesterday, the Queen's Regoon (ph) Guards. These light highly mobile, very effective small tanks, or the huge Challenger-2 tanks. These 75-80 ton bearamufs (ph) that simply blast away the Iraqi T-55s and T-72s, and quite frankly it's a real David and Goliath battle. I was told by a man who knows about these things, that at T-55 could fire eight rounds, straight into the same point on a Challenger-2's armor and it would not leave a dent. That's the difference in firepower. The Challenger-2 will simply roll in, blast away and leave a series of smoldering, smoking hunks of tanks. So fewer and fewer Iraqi tanks around to do their work. There are still one or two. Some of them are dug in, so all you see is a turret, but they of course as soon as they are spotted, are bombed from the air or artillery rounds go in. So there's less and less resistance of any organized form.

I think what's happening more and more is that you'll get one or two people who'll have perhaps a rocket propelled grenade, a Kalishnikov, maybe a few hand grenades, but that's enough to hold up a troop and delay them for a certain amount of time. But I think the sands of time here have now shifted against the regime. And very, very shortly I think Basra will fall to the British coalition troops down here Anderson.

COOPER: All right, David Bowden. Appreciate it. Thanks very much. David Bowden near Basra, just on the outskirts. We are going to go to Matthew Chance now. He is in Germany, where he has been following the story of Private 1st Class, Jessica Lynch. We are anticipating the return or the arrival of her parents any moment now. Matthew, what can you tell us?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, I just want to confirm to you that the parents along with the brother and the sister of Jessica Lynch have been confirmed as arriving at the Ramstein Air Force Base here in Germany. In fact, a short distance from where I'm speaking to you right now. They were met according to U.S. military officials, by a number of officers of the U.S. military including Colonel David Rubenstien (ph), who is the head of the Landstuhl U.S. Army medical facility where Jessica Lynch is recovering and being treated from her numerous wounds. They were taken by van we're told by military officials, to that Landstuhl Army medical facility where they'll be given accommodation on that base. Hopefully there will be some kind of opportunity for us to speak to them later, indeed to have words with Jessica Lynch herself. But nothing at this stage, is scheduled Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Matthew Chance, thanks very much. We'll check in with you again in a little bit. We're going to take a short break, and our coverage continues.


COOPER: You are looking at a live picture of Baghdad, where it is 10:54am. Looks like a hazy day in Baghdad on this Sunday. Who knows what the will bring. We heard from Walter Rodgers just a short time ago, confirming that he has heard from U.S. military officials that units from the coalition, U.S. led coalition will enter and probe through the city of Baghdad again today, as the 3rd Infantry, as the unit from the 3rd Infantry did yesterday. I want to join in with Martin Savidge, go to Martin Savidge now who is with the Marines, on the move southeast I believe he said of Baghdad. Martin, what's the latest?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, we're with the rear element of the 1st Battalion 7th Marines, the main body of fighting force, and that body has been forward a number of miles for about the past 24-36 hours, and they have been engaging enemy forces up there. It's described as sporadic, kind of being supported obviously not by their own armored personnel carriers that have heavily armed infantry and then of course aerial bombardment coming from coalition aircraft and a large amount of marine artillery up there as they clear out whatever the opposition is.

On the way up here, as we've continued to drive forward near their positions, we're heading in to the southeastern suburbs of Baghdad, there are indications that there was fighting along this route at one time. A number of Iraqi soldiers, their bodies lying beside the road. And then we also came across something that we had not seen before, and that was a destroyed American tank. I think we have some pictures we can show you of this. This would be an AM1-A1 Abrams tank. It's about the best and brightest that the United States has militarily when it comes to tanks. It's a very big, rugged, tough vehicle, however it is not completely invulnerable. The marines that went back with our camera that shot this, believe this is what they refer to as a mobility kill. In other words that there was an RPG that was fired and had a lucky strike perhaps on the tank treads, and could have disabled the forward momentum of the vehicle, and they can get pretty much stationary.

Now at that point, if the marines are involved in a fight if a vehicle is damaged and they don't have the ability to repair it, then they're going to destroy it. And that's what appears to have happened. They may have used incendiary devices and that the marines destroyed it at their own will, because they didn't want to leave it to fall into the wrong hands. And you can tell that it was burned severely. In fact, the tracks on which it was riding at one point, had actually melted so a pretty clear indication that was quite a fierce fire. We have no idea about casualties, no idea what happened to the crew. We did hear that the 5th marines have had trouble with at least three tanks that were hit by RPGs.

As for us, we continue to move forward. It's slow, it's cautious, this is a build up area we're moving in to now, and there is still fighting we hear down the road as far as what sounds like air strikes coming in and the occasional sound of artillery. That may be what is holding up our forward progress. No specific action that we have seen just yet. Anderson.

COOPER: Martin, we only have about 30 seconds left. How concerned are the marines you're with about the security where they are right now?

SAVIDGE: Their concerned. We were in another area about two kilometers down the way, you saw there were a lot of people around there. They got nervous. The marines don't like to have a lot of civilians population around them. We can see uniforms everywhere that's got on the side of the road so they're not just innocent civilians, so we moved up to this area, it's always about concern Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Martin Savidge we appreciate you joining us, 1st Battalion Marines, we'll check in with you a little bit later on. Martin Savidge, somewhere south of Baghdad where there is a lot going on today as Walter Rodgers was reporting. There you see the live picture, 10:58am. As Walter Rodgers was telling us, it is likely there will be more probes, more recognizance missions in to the city of Baghdad. That about wraps it up for our coverage tonight. That's about it for me this evening. We're going to go to a short break. Our international coverage continues with CNN International at 2:00am. Don't forget to set your clocks. Bye bye.



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