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Iraq Claims 23 Dead in U.S./British Air Raids

Aired June 20, 2001 - 09:07   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we want to just advise you folks of some news that we're just now getting in here at the CNN Center. CNN has confirmed there is a report floating right now by the Iraqi News Agency. Mind you, this is being reported by the Iraqi News Agency that U.S. and British planes have raided an area near the city of Mosul in northern Iraq and that has resulted in the deaths of 23 people and 11 others have been wounded in this air raid by Western forces.

We've also heard that the British forces have said that they have not sent any of their planes, so Britain is denying that they've been involved in this raid being reported by Iraqi News Agency.

We're trying to trace down our reporter James Martone who's in Baghdad right now. We'll try to see if he can get some more information for us. We're also checking to see at the Pentagon whether or not the U.S. was actually involved in this attack.

We will get you updated on this story as we receive the information here at the CNN Center.

We apologize for the interruption of that report, but we want to get back to the story that we just broke moments ago. CNN confirming that there is a report now being filed by the Iraqi News Agency that a bombing raid by British and U.S. planes resulted in the death of 23 people and wounding 11 others.

Joining us now to help us clarify this story is James Martone. He's our reporter in Baghdad. He is now on the phone.

James, what have you learned about this?

JAMES MARTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, as you said, Iraq is reporting that 23 people -- Iraqi civilians -- they're saying were killed on a football/soccer field. It's not saying when they were killed, but it's saying that today they were buried. This is not the first time people have been killed in the no-fly zones. Iraq reports hundreds of people killed.

The U.S. and Britain maintain the no-fly zones. Those are zones that make up most of Iraq's north and south that were imposed after the Gulf War -- after the 1990 invasion of Iraq of Kuwait and those zones are patrolled by U.S. and British pilots -- planes. They're there, the U.S. and Britain says, to protect Iraqi Curds in the north and Shiites in the south.

Today's events have been denied by U.S. and British authorities. They say that they did not -- do not know of any deaths. In fact, they have so far not even said they had hit those areas. There are daily -- almost daily occurrences of violence in the no-fly zones. The U.S. says it's Iraqi's anti-aircraft hooking onto their planes with radar and that U.S. military is firing back in defense.

Interesting, in the northern no-fly zones, the U.S. has recently said they will be decreasing the amount of sorties, the number of flights they do there, because of increased danger to their pilots. The president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, has offered rewards to Iraqi defense military men who are able to shoot down a plane. I -- it's difficult to know exactly what did happen and when in terms of these men that Iraq is saying were killed or these football players.

As we know, we will let you know -- Leon.

HARRIS: We understand.

And we also want to make sure we have one other point clear, the Iraqi News Agency is controlled by the Iraqi government, correct?

MARTONE: Yes, as are all the newspapers in Iraq, it is controlled by the government. In the past, they have said that there have been clashes and those clashes have been confirmed by the U.S. There's also been instances where the clashes have been mentioned and not been confirmed.

So, as I mentioned earlier, it's difficult to say at this point what exactly did happen. But Iraqis saying that 23 people, civilians they're saying, were killed in the north by what Iraq is saying and/or calling aggressive planes, which is their terms for U.S. and British planes, patrolling the no-fly zones -- Leon.

HARRIS: And we have U.S. and British officials denying that any raid was -- did take place in that area.

Thank you much, James Martone. We appreciate you coming on live from us -- for us from Baghdad to clarify that story.

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