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Strike on Iraq: A Peak at Baghdad Under Siege

Aired March 22, 2003 - 03:33   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Carol, about an hour-and-a- half ago we had a press conference from the Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf. He made various claims. Viewers can interpret them as they will. We're going to check in right now with Alain de Chalvron, with our French TV Channel 2. He is live in Baghdad.
Alain, can you hear me?


COOPER: Very good.

DE CHALVRON: Good morning, good night, I don't know what exactly the time...

COOPER: Well, it's 3:30 A.M. here. I know it's eight hours ahead in Baghdad where you're at. What have you seen today in terms of damage from the missile attacks, the bomb attacks so far?

DE CHALVRON: Yes. You know that it's very difficult to go around and around in the city of Baghdad. We cannot go simply and it's must tougher now even the way they act with us, I mean, in the Ministry of Information. But there is something they can any way not hide is what happened in the center of Baghdad. The first bombing yesterday, as its target, the presidential complex inside Baghdad. And this is, of course, what we can see. It has -- some of the building of this complex.

COOPER: Have you seen how badly it was hit? We are looking at some pictures with an enormous hole in this building. It seems the building is still standing. Have you seen other buildings, how badly they were hit?

DE CHALVRON: Well, some of the buildings have been hit, but we don't see really how they have been hit. We see them from quite far away, that's all.

COOPER: OK. In this press conference which happened about an hour-and-a-half ago, the information minister in Iraq has made a claim that more than 200 civilians have been injured in Baghdad. And he offered to take people to see these civilians. Has that in fact happened? Have you seen any of these alleged 207-odd civilians injured?

DE CHALVRON: No. I didn't see anybody. But this is what the Ministry of Information said, that it's obviously true. I think the bombing was very tough. And now at this moment some journalists are in the hospitals precisely to see the victims of these bombings.

COOPER: I think there are some people who would question whether something that the Ministry of Information said is necessarily and obviously true. He also made the claim that only 19 missiles have actually hit. And he said that they've only hit in a very small area. Does that jibe with what you have seen, what you have witnessed of the bombing thus far?

DE CHALVRON: You know, this is very difficult to see. All I can say is that the bombing was very, very tough. It's the center of Baghdad, but it's also the suburbs of the city. But it was really very difficult to count the bombings.

COOPER: I know it's really tough moving around. And I know you're really not able to move. Have you been able to see anyone on the streets? What is the mood in Baghdad at this hour?

DE CHALVRON: Yes. This is the surrealistic aspect of Baghdad, is that life is almost normal now. It was a very tough night but now you have cars in the street, people working, some shops reopened. They are living quite normally after a nightmare night.

COOPER: Tell us a little bit what the bombing was like for you as you watched it, as you felt it, and I imagine you did feel it, what was it like?

DE CHALVRON: Sorry, I don't hear you.

COOPER: I'm sorry, let me just repeat the question.


COOPER: Do you hear me, Alain?

DE CHALVRON: Yes, now I can hear you.

COOPER: Tell me, I'm interested just from your personal perspective what it was like being in the -- being -- watching that bombing and feeling it? And I would imagine you felt it because the percussions from what I understand could be felt in quite a wide swath. What was it like, personally, your experience?

DE CHALVRON: Oh, it was very, very tough, especially the bombing just on the river side. We are on the other side of the river. But it was maybe 200 meters from the bombings. And it was really very hard, very tough and we heard a lot at that time.

COOPER: Were you actually able to witness it? Were you in a bunker of any kind? Where were you?

DE CHALVRON: We are broadcasting from the roof of the Ministry of Information where all the S&Gs (ph) are.

COOPER: OK. And have -- I'm interested to hear how you would categorize the amount of anti-aircraft weaponry you saw in terms of the resistance that was offered. Is there anything you -- how would you characterize it?

DE CHALVRON: Well, there was a lot of anti-aircraft shootings from the Iraqi forces, but you know, we didn't see even the planes. So they were certainly very high. And any anti-aircraft defense in this case is not efficient.

COOPER: How have things changed in the amount of time that you have been in Baghdad? How was today different than yesterday and the week before? I know you said it is surreal. Surreal in what sense, in what way?

DE CHALVRON: Well, the city is, I could say, quite normal, as it would be, for instance, a Friday. Of course, one week ago it was overcrowded, difficult traffic and things like that. Now the traffic is very easy. But the city is not closed. There is no curfew, you know? The people are living more or less normally after the bombings.

COOPER: All right. Alain de Chalvron with French TV Channel 2, I appreciate you joining us live from Baghdad. Thanks very much.


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