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Operation 'Iraqi Freedom' Has Begun

Aired March 20, 2003 - 06:04   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go live now to Kuwait, where Bill Hemmer is standing by live.
Air raid sirens have been sounding all morning long. What's the mood like there now, Bill?

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Carol, listen, quite tense at the moment here, a bit frantic at times, but things have settled down in the past 30 minutes or so.

Just to bring you to date. CNN is now being told that military officials do believe an incoming Iraqi missile had been intercepted by three Patriot missiles launched in the northern Kuwait desert. We're told that Iraqi missile did have an impact, but no casualties reported, possibly falling into the Kuwaiti desert. There's a lot of it out here in this tiny country. The all-clear has been given. That word from Ryan Chilcote embedded with the 101st Airborne Division.

Here in Kuwait City, it was about 35 minutes ago, Carol, we heard a loud explosion, a boom going off just to the right of our location in Kuwait City, downtown Kuwait. What it was is still uncertain right now, but immediately after that explosion was heard, we heard yet again those sirens going off, as they have now for the past 90 minutes intermittingly here in Kuwait City. Yet again, though, just to be clear, the all-clear has been sounded for us.

Not the situation, though, in the desert, where we find Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He is embedded with the U.S. Marines at a location known as Camp Iwo Jima.

By telephone, here is Sanjay wearing a gas mask, so at this point we know the all-clear has not been given there.

Sanjay -- what do you know?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Bill, no all- clear here by any means.

We are (AUDIO GAP). We've been here for almost half-an-hour. We do have our gas masks on, our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and our helmets. This is the fourth one in as many hours. The first bunker call, the first real bunker call that these Marines have ever seen, it took place at about 10:30 this morning. We've had three subsequent bunker calls.

At the beginning of this bunker call, we did hear thuds sort of all around us. Because we're in the bunker, it is very hard to tell exactly from where those sounds are coming, although they appeared to be north and south of us. There were also sirens alarming, and they are still intermittingly alarming.

When we first came in, we were not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) our masks. About 15 to 20 minutes into this bunker call we were all told to put our masks on. That is where we stand.

We're literally quite hunkered down and slightly anticipatory of what might happen next -- Bill.

HEMMER: Yes, Sanjay, listen, we've been hearing from you for the past several hours. What are you hearing from the Marines as to why it's been a stop-go, a start-go process out there in the desert?

GUPTA: Well, there does appear to be a lot of confusion and a lot of stopping and going here. The situation seems very fluid, very dynamic right now. We've heard thuds now, loud thuds closer than before for the first time just recently, and that appears to certainly have ratcheted up the tension a little bit in this particular camp.

I can't tell you why it's stop/go. Certainly when we're given the all-clear, we get out of here and the mood seems to lift, but as soon as we hear those sirens go off again, as soon as we hear that "bunker, bunker, bunker," everyone is right back inside -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Sanjay, thank you.

Quickly here before we leave Kuwait City, Daryn Kagan is with me here, and we've been talking a lot about how the Kuwaitis have been reacting throughout this entire affair.

We do know it may come as a surprise to many at home that a number of Kuwaitis and also foreign nationals who work and live here showed up for work today.


HEMMER: But ever since that first siren went off about an hour- and-a-half ago, a lot of those people reversed their decision.

KAGAN: It's very different, and I think it was the last hour that I was here with you telling about my experience. I was going out and trying to follow the story, picking up where Sanjay was, we were going after perhaps a place where perhaps that first rocket or missile was fired. We didn't get very far from our base here for CNN when we did start hearing those sirens go off.

As you go into town, you can hear the sirens a lot more clearly than we can hear where we are.

And I want to show folks what it was like; first of all, if we can go ahead and roll that tape.

This is an area very close to the port here in Kuwait City, the Shuwait Port (ph). Let's listen in to the sirens.

Now, Bill, just like as you were saying, people were out on the street. Now, light traffic for a day like today, but people out and not too concerned. And then once you did start hearing those sirens, the mood did change. And in a second here, the tape will show -- there you go -- some locals definitely trying to get perhaps to a shelter or just to get off the street.

This was I guess about almost two hours ago now. We did then hear the all-clear, and folks back in the States have said, oh, these sirens can somehow sound confusing. When you're here, you learn, don't you...


KAGAN: ... very quickly what it is. Once you heard the all- clear, also down at the port a sight that we saw, people who were already at work being released, perhaps danger, perhaps not. But you know what? Not a day to be at work. Sending people home and going off from there.

And then as we were making our way back here to our base, the traffic increased incredibly, a lot of people trying to get out of Kuwait City today.

HEMMER: Hey, listen, Daryn, while you're here, I just want to show for our viewers that we have a videotape by way of Kuwait television. They have been out to that desert and apparently caught that location where that first missile had impacted again in the Kuwaiti desert. I have not seen these pictures first-hand yet. They have not been described to me just yet, but what we do know is that this missile fell harmlessly, fortunately, into the Kuwaiti desert.

How far from the Iraqi border, not quite clear yet, but as often we talk about, you know, the strategy on many sides among any member of any military on this planet is to fire and recalibrate at a time that when you see how far you've gone, how much more you have to adjust that.

KAGAN: Some of this is an exact science and some of it is not.

HEMMER: Yes, it is. Thank you, Daryn.

KAGAN: Sure.

HEMMER: We'll get back to Daryn...

KAGAN: Carol.

HEMMER: ... Carol at the CNN Center yet again for more.

Hey, guys -- back to you.

COSTELLO: All right, thanks, Bill.


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