CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Scud-Hunting Missions Over Western Iraq; Aircraft Strike Suspected Chemical Weapons Compound in Kurdish-Controlled Northern Iraq
Aired March 22, 2003 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: A campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen, and by the application of overwhelming force.
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: General Tommy Franks, the man leading the military campaign against Iraq, his first comments since the fighting began.
Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Kuwait City.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. And I'm Paula Zahn in New York.
Welcome to another hour of CNN special coverage of the strike on Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Paula.
We're going to go right away to Baghdad. There are fresh explosions, additional bombs within the past few hours. Indeed, throughout the day, the first time, in fact, there have been bombing strikes in daytime. Now it's nighttime, obviously, here in the Persian Gulf, here in the region, certainly over Baghdad. Bombs continuing to drop on selected targets in and around Baghdad, presumably elsewhere around the country.
We're going to continue to show you these pictures of what's going on in Baghdad, get there, and try to describe precisely what's happening, try to go throughout the country, where the U.S.-led military campaign is taking advantage of the apparent, apparent Iraqi confusion, some disarray. in the Iraqi leadership.
Let's go where the action is right now, though, on the front lines. U.S. Marines with the 1st Battalion, 7th Division, are back on the move after coming under fire outside the Iraqi city of Basra. At the time, they had stopped to destroy about a dozen abandoned Iraqi tanks.
Our Martin Savidge is with them.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, on the move once more. We're riding with them. This is our vehicle in conjunction with the convoy heading west now, leaving Basra behind us, and the oil field objective that they captured yesterday.
But speaking of oil, take a look out the window as we travel along. There the brilliant orange plume. It seems to be a key indicator of an oil well that was set alight. There are said to be about nine oil wells burning in this part of southern Iraq, nowhere near as bad as the projection some had made about the scorched-earth policy of Saddam Hussein.
And now take a look forward. This is the convoy, mostly made up of Marines of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. That vehicle right there an AAV, an amphibious assault vehicle.
This convoy is heading off west to a new objective. So far, we haven't been told what that is, but eventually the goal is going to be all the way to Baghdad.
For the Marines here, these amphibious vehicles work as well in the desert as they do on water, and they're doing just fine on the highway, a highway that is shared with a lot of military might. All moving up from Northern Kuwait and farther into Iraq.
Martin Savidge, CNN, with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, in Southern Iraq.
BLITZER: Clearly, there impressive U.S.-led military gains as forces move towards Baghdad, but there are also significant dangers. Let's go immediately to the Pentagon, our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, for an update -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a lot of details beginning to emerge from here. There are reports emerging that A-10 aircraft, U.S. Air Force A-10 aircraft, have been now on Scud-hunting missions, looking for those Scud missiles and launchers in Iraq. The last word we had was that most of these Scud-hunting missions were going to take place over Western Iraq, where the U.S. had always believed that Saddam had hit, had hid about two dozen Scud missiles and some launchers.
So early word that the A-10 aircraft have now been on Scud- hunting missions and were awaiting some results. There is the possibility that they have engaged some targets, but no confirmation of that.
We also have some new statistics to tell you. Since 4:00 Eastern time here in the United States on Friday, yesterday, when Shock and Awe officially began, 2,000 coalition sorties, air missions, 1,000 of those were strike missions, essentially combat missions. Sources telling us virtually all U.S. Air Force fighter and bomber assets being used in those missions.
Now, there is also a lot of activity over Northern Iraq, as we understand it. Aircraft have now struck a suspected chemical weapons compound in Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq. That was under the control of a radical Kurdish group called Ansar al-Islam, and there have been allegations by the Bush administration that this compound was also tied to al Qaeda elements.
In addition, the 4th Infantry Division now will move its combat equipment from 36 ships in the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal, around into Kuwait, the 4th Infantry Division now really out of the opening hours of the fight. It will become a follow-on force in the days and weeks ahead.
U.S. is also watching Turkish military movements very closely at this hour. They do know that Turkish armor infantry lined up along the border with Iraq. The suspicion, the assessment here is that those Turkish military units are lined up to prevent a flow of Kurdish refugees from Northern Iraq into Turkey.
Now, Tommy Franks earlier today saying that the campaign is going well, saying that he had no idea whether Saddam Hussein is dead or alive. But even if he knew, that would not change the campaign at all, that they are really going against the leadership of Iraq, and they plan to continue that.
Sources telling us that there are many leadership targets in Baghdad still to be struck, Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara, the extensive Iraqi opposition, resistance to the U.S.-led military campaign, General Franks said about 1,000 or 2,000 POWs already. We heard one Iraqi division has surrendered. What are you hearing about the extent of the Iraqi resistance?
STARR: Well, they are seeing some as ground forces begin to move north, as they get closer to Baghdad. That had been expected. There is some sporadic resistance. It's important to note the official surrenders that have happened so far are simply with the regular Iraqi army units. These are the conscript units that had been in the south. It had always been expected they would not put up much of a fight.
The key question will be, when does the first Republican Guard division officially surrender? That would be much more representative of some sort of crack in the Iraqi military, in the leadership, the Republican Guard, of course, being the units most loyal to the regime of Saddam Hussein. So far, that hasn't happened.
There -- you know, it is the fog of war right now. There are also reports that the Republican Guard commander known as Chemical Ali, the man who is the most high to the potential use of chemical weapons, that he may have been killed in one of these opening attacks. No absolute confirmation, but those rumors continue.
So it will really unfold in the hours and days ahead as the attack continues whether there will be stiff opposition or not, but the reports, for example, earlier today, four U.S. soldiers killed in some sort of rocket attack, that's what worries the Pentagon a great deal, that their soldiers may come under this relatively small intermittent fire. That's going to be very tough to deal with.
If it was force on force, large unit against large unit, that they know they can deal with. They're very concerned about these small, random attacks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And Barbara, before I let you go, Chemical Ali, for our viewers who may not be familiar, Ali al-Magid (ph), he's the Iraqi military leader who's believed to have ordered chemical attacks against the Kurds of Halabja (ph) in 1988.
Right now, I want to put on the screen these pictures of what's happening in Baghdad. From everything you're hearing, this new wave of daytime and now nighttime U.S. bombing strikes against targets in Baghdad, in Baghdad, more of the same, or are they different than what we saw yesterday?
STARR: From what -- sources we have spoken to, so far, Wolf, more of the same. Sources telling us there is still a long target list to be gotten through, a target list of leadership facilities around Baghdad. There's no indication here so far that there would be any lull, any pause in the bombing. They say they have a long target list to get through. The fact that we may not be seeing anything in these camera pictures of Baghdad at this time may not be indicative of what is going on across the country.
There's -- it is our understanding that air strikes are continuing across the country, air defense, command and control, communications, all of that. Certainly a lot left on the target list.
BLITZER: Any briefings expected at the Pentagon this afternoon?
STARR: Indeed, Wolf, there is talk, very tentative at the moment, but talk in the hallways of some sort of operational update late this afternoon Washington time, possibly 4:00, 5:00, Washington time here. They haven't really settled, you know, on a routine briefing schedule, with this eight-hour time difference between Washington and the Persian Gulf. We may begin to see two briefings a day, one in Qatar to start the day, and one to wrap it up here.
But that will also depend on how events unfold.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. We'll be getting back to you 24 hours from now. I'll be having a special interview with the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, Sunday noon Eastern on a special "LATE EDITION." Barbara Starr, thanks very much.
In this military campaign, Turkey has been a source of frustration for the United States, first over the use of its air space, now over whether Turkish troops should go into Kurdish- controlled Northern Iraq.
For his country's perspective, we turn now to Farouk Logoglu. He's Turkey's ambassador to the United States.
Mr. Ambassador, thanks so much for joining us.
Let's get to some specific issues on the agenda right now. Have Turkish forces moved into Northern Iraq?
FAROUK LOGOGLU, TURKISH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: The short and definitive answer is no. Both the Turkish foreign minister and the Turkish general staff have stated that these reports are not true. What is true is that Turkey has troop concentrations along the Iraqi border. There has been for some years some presence, Turkish presence in Northern Iraq in the context of our fight against terrorism.
And finally, this is a subject under discussion with the United States authorities.
BLITZER: Do you plan on moving Turkish troops into Northern Iraq anytime soon, and if you do, what would be the purpose?
LOGOGLU: The exclusive purpose would be to invest in humanitarian crisis that is fast emerging there. And this, on the basis of our past experience with the Gulf War, we want to make sure that the Iraqi refugees are taken care of inside Iraqi territory. That's our primary purpose.
BLITZER: But as so far, has there been a flood of Iraqi refugees trying to get into neighboring Turkey?
LOGOGLU: No. But there has been a lot of movement from different parts of Iraq into Northern Iraq. And that's where we want to be, to be prepared for the eventuality, so that it stays there.
BLITZER: Are U.S. war planes now flying over Turkish air space to go after selected targets in Iraq?
LOGOGLU: I cannot confirm that. But the entire infrastructure for overflights is there. Whether actual flights have taken place as of this moment, I just don't know.
BLITZER: As you know, for almost a dozen years, U.S. planes have been patrolling the northern no-fly zone, planes that take off and land at the Incirlik air base in Turkey. Are U.S. war planes still taking off from that air base to go after targets in the so-called northern no-fly zone of Iraq?
LOGOGLU: No, they're not. With the onset of military action against Iraq, that operation, Operation Provide Comfort, has legally come to an end.
BLITZER: As you know, the U.S. military, the U.S. government has given up on the notion of getting U.S. ground forces into Turkey to move against targets in northern Iraq. Originally, they wanted some 62,000 U.S. troops to be based in Turkey. They're now moving supplies away, ships away.
This could potentially represent a serious problem in the overall relationship between the United States and Turkey, the way this situation has unfolded. How concerned are you about the overall relationship?
LOGOGLU: We are concerned. We have gone through some difficult moments, periods. But I think, again, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this difficult process, we have acted as friends and as partners. We have granted overflight rights. We are a member of the coalition.
And therefore, I'm very hopeful that we will get over this, put this behind us, and enhance and do what we must do in the context of this very, very important partnership, not just over Iraq, but over many other issues.
BLITZER: And finally, Mr. Ambassador, before I let you go, the issue of U.S. aid, financial assistance to Turkey. The U.S. government, the Bush administration now says that's off the table, the $6 billion in grants, perhaps as much as $20 billion in loans and loan guarantees. Is that your understanding as well, that that money is not going to be going to Turkey now?
LOGOGLU: That's certainly our understanding. But we are still very (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the fact that the U.S. is prepared to provide general support for the Turkish economy through the World Bank and the IMF, and could possibly do more on a bilateral basis as events develop in Iraq.
BLITZER: Ambassador Farouk Logoglu, thanks very much for spending some time with us once again. I'll see you, obviously, when I get back to Washington -- Paula.
ZAHN: Thanks so much, Wolf.
Back to what we're learning about some of the naval action that has happened so far. We have learned that dozens of U.S. F-14 Tomcats and F-18 Hornet war planes launched attacks against Iraq from aircraft carriers, the U.S.S. "The Theodore Roosevelt" and U.S.S. "Harry S Truman." Those were the first strikes the crew of the "Roosevelt" has launched in the campaign against Iraq.
Gary Strieker is one of our correspondents embedded with the U.S.S. "Theodore Roosevelt." He joins us now. What is the latest from there, Gary?
GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, the information we have is that those air attacks from the two carriers here in the Eastern Mediterranean will continue. They're taking place on a 24- hour basis. The "Truman" is launching air attacks during the day, the "Roosevelt," the ship that I'm on, is launching during the night.
And the attacks that took place earlier today, it was about a -- it was a six-hour mission. The pilots returned after six hours. Everybody returned safely. The planes returned safely.
And we had a briefing with pilots afterwards. And they told us that the first attack was a mission targeted at two specific targets. One, an AM radio station in Central Iraq. And a second one was a presidential palace compound west of Baghdad. Two presidential palaces in a compound called the Al Ramadi (ph) complex. Both pilots say their aircraft carried J-DAMs, precision-guided bombs, which they say performed as advertised. And they say both targets were destroyed, Paula.
ZAHN: Can you tell us more about why they would be targeting this AM radio station?
STRIEKER: The pilots had no information on that. It is likely a broadcast facility run by the government. It could be an AM broadcast station that is used for military purposes as well. They didn't know anything about that. They did know, however, that the palace that they attacked had two individual -- the palace complex they attacked had two individual palaces in there. And they suspected they were used for the military purposes.
They -- what surprised the pilots, they told us, was that they met absolutely no resistance at all. And there was no antiaircraft fire from the ground, no aircraft that flew up to try to intercept them. And that really surprised them, considering the nature of the targets they were directed at, Paula.
ZAHN: OK. Gary, one last question for you. You talked about the these pilots being on six-hour missions, both these ships operating on a 24-hour basis. Have you been given any indication how many days this could go on like this?
STRIEKER: We've been down into the magazine of this aircraft carrier, Paula, and I can tell you that there are thousands of bombs down there. And the command on this ship says they can continue this activity indefinitely, and they're prepared to do so, Paula.
ZAHN: Gary Strieker, thanks so much. It is so interesting how much we are learning from our embeds. Tommy Franks, the general (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Tom -- general who held a conference at 9:00 told us what he knew. But as we have found once again, the information we're getting directly from the embeds is often in advance of what we're hearing from the military leaders.
Right now, we check in with Art Harris, who is with the 3rd Battalion, Second Marines. We have not heard from him in two days. We understand, we were -- can report, you're someplace in Southern Iraq. What else can you tell us, Art?
ART HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, right now I'm standing at a major intersection in Southern Iraq, two highways. And there are nothing but lights, a traffic jam of U.S. Army vehicles supplying the forces that I'm told are spread out in a line across Southern Iraq and moving north together.
The unit I'm with is a reconnaissance unit outside a significant town. Right now, it is not totally secured. And they have Marine recon scouts out checking it out.
So we've taken some small arms fire today. They returned that with artillery, and the firing stopped. They spotted two Iraqi T-62 tanks. And a lot of -- as Cobra helicopters went overhead in pursuit of them. We don't know what happened there. They also found, interestingly enough, Paula, bunkers, where they believe Iraqi troops were laying in wait to ambush U.S. troops. And interviewed the locals with translators, who told them that a company of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) soldiers had left two days ago. Behind, they found their version of 50-caliber machine guns, mortars they thought were capable of chemical rounds. They were analyzed and found that they were not.
And right now, they are processing POWs. They've found a ragtag bunch of Iraqi soldiers marching from Basra, they say they've lost some of them over 100 miles, barefoot, some of them, mismatched uniforms, hungry, thirsty. The Marines have fed them and are processing them now, sending them further south. Civilians with them have said they just want to go home. They've been searched and sent on their way as well, Paula.
ZAHN: Tell us a little bit more about what the villagers told you about these bunkers that your group stumbled upon, where Iraqis were laying in wait to ambush. Where do they think they went? Just simply fanned out into the desert?
HARRIS: No, this is the south, so they believe they moved further north, and that they heard that a minimal force was coming. And as I am looking out here, I'm seeing nothing. Night has fallen. The sky is -- it's a beautiful, clear night beneath the Big Dipper. And beneath that is a line of trucks with their lights on that go as far as the eye can see.
But, you know, so if they heard that the force was near, they believe they fled. And they don't know exactly where they went, Paula.
ZAHN: Art, you reported that the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines encountered some small arms fire and it was returned with artillery. What other pockets of resistance are expected along the way?
HARRIS: I've got to correct, the 3-2 didn't exactly -- it may not have been them. I know it was there in the area. I'm not allowed to speak about specific units that I may be traveling with, Paula, but under Pentagon rules for embedded media. But what I am told is that there were pockets of resistance, even some incoming artillery, at some of the units nearby here. And that was returned by Marine artillery gunners.
And earlier today, I could just feel the ground shake, heard about 12 rounds go off, and the -- there was silence after that. So they don't believe they will hear from them again.
But the town nearby is not yet secured. And that's why they sent out (UNINTELLIGIBLE) recon units. A little while ago, we had a gas alert. Everyone scrambled to put on masks. And that was prompted by one of the POWs apparently going into convulsions, and the immediate thought was that he had suffered -- he was suffering from a nerve agent.
And then the all-clear was given. I did not hear what the diagnosis was finally made about him, Paula.
ZAHN: All right. Art Harris, good to have you back on the air after not seeing you for two days.
Art Harris making the distinction there that is very important. We want all of you to know that our embedded correspondents are being incredibly judicious in the amount of information they share with us. We at no time want to provide any information that could be of any help to the enemy. That's something we're very mindful of.
Back to Wolf now in Kuwait City -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point. Thanks very much, Paula.
Bob Franken is another one of our embedded journalists. He's at an air base here in the Persian Gulf. He's following the situation, obviously, very closely. Bob, what's the latest?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's an air base near the border with Iraq, and it's a major United States air base, although it shares facilities with the British Royal Air Force (UNINTELLIGIBLE) some Harriers here.
And it's also a very busy air base these days. There have been -- we're right at the flight line. And there is a constant parade of jets streaming into the sky, and a constant parade of many coming back. You're going to see in a couple of moments some of the returning ones. As a matter of fact, Jerry, if you can show some of those that are just returning now.
It has been like this, just the constant activity. Even as this one comes in, you can see another one taking off. And it's -- and this...
BLITZER: I think we may have lost Bob Franken. Unfortunately, we may have lost Bob Franken. We're going to fix that, we're going to try to get back to him.
In the meantime, Paula, back to you.
ZAHN: We're -- one person we knew we can get on the air, Wolf, thanks so much, is Suzanne Malveaux, who is standing by at the White House. Some headlines coming out of General Tommy Franks' news conference this morning.
Also, some new information from President Bush in his weekly radio address, which focused on the U.S. military campaign in Iraq. He warned Americans against thinking this war will be an easy one.
Apparently we don't have that tape loaded up. So why don't we go straight to -- Oh, do we have it now? Let's listen to the president right now.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Could be longer and more difficult than some have predicted. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable, and free country will require our sustained commitment. Yet whatever is required of us, we will carry out all the duties we have accepted.
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ZAHN: Now we get to go to the White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, who joins us now live with more on the commander in chief's weekend. I want to talk about that, as well as some headlines that came out of Tommy Franks' briefing.
I guess for starters, I'd like to talk to you about what the White House is saying about the status of Saddam Hussein. Tommy Franks saying he simply does not know, and he said even if he is dead, this campaign will continue. What is the White House saying about that today, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, it's a very familiar argument. We've heard it before of the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. We heard General Franks saying that it's not about the personality or the man, that they will continue on with their mission of disarming Iraq, disarming Saddam Hussein, whether or not he is dead or alive.
But senior administration officials are telling us that the Iraqi officials are it -- that their government is in complete disarray, that there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein or his two sons are in control of Iraq at this time. They are quite hopeful that they have disrupted the communications, as well as the organization.
But as you know, Paula, really, the key question here is, what is going to happen in Baghdad, whether or not those Iraqi forces, the Republican Guard so loyal to Saddam Hussein, will put up a fight, or whether or not they're going to lay down their arms, Paula.
ZAHN: The other thing that I think was of interest to folks watching that news conference earlier this morning from Tommy Franks was the question of these ongoing so-called secret talks between Iraqi defectors, coalition leaders, with leading members of the political leadership, the military leadership with Iraq today. Now, Tommy Franks wouldn't say much more than acknowledging that those are ongoing. Is the White House adding to that today?
MALVEAUX: Well, senior administration officials are simply acknowledging that those discussions are continuing. We heard from Secretary Powell, who also said the same thing. What they're talking about here is that you have Iraqi dissidents as well as Kurds who are speaking with some of those forces, even those in the Republican Guard, about actually turning over their weapons.
And they're communicating through that group to the CIA as well as to special operations on the ground. The big question, Paula, is whether or not that is actually going to happen. We heard General Franks, he said a couple thousand who have actually surrendered so far, that they even showed us an aerial photo of 700 soldiers they said that were lined up in a certain formation, a pattern, showing that they too wanted to lay down their arms.
But, of course, that is the key question here, whether or not Saddam's most loyal soldiers, the Republican Guard, the elite, will actually give up this fight.
ZAHN: Finally this morning, can you tell us exactly what the president's schedule is for today?
MALVEAUX: Well, the president earlier today met with his national security council, a full meeting at Camp David, we are told, from 8:00, 8:15 in the morning to about 10:15, or rather 8:45 to 10:15, a 90-minute meeting. Among those there, the vice president, as well, Secretary Powell, Secretary Rumsfeld, the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, among many others who were actually there. The focus, of course, finding out, trying to assess the situation on the ground, whether or not there will be forces that will continue to surrender.
We have also been told the president is expected to go for a run. He's at Camp David because, of course, he has all the facilities there to communicate with anyone around the world, security, video conference facilities. But also, it's a good chance for the president to get out of what he calls the bubble. He likes to go running, he likes to get away from the White House, really, to get away, to think, to focus, but also, of course, to keep his finger on the pulse of what is happening in Iraq, Paula.
ZAHN: Thanks so much, Suzanne Malveaux. We'll be checking in with you throughout the afternoon.
Just a quick footnote, the president might be a little heartened by some of the public opinion polls came out today. One citing that the support for military action has increased since we started the campaign, but then an interesting distinction between the way Republicans and Democrats view all of this. And we'll go back to Suzanne with that a little bit later on this morning -- or this afternoon, actually, we're into the noon hour now.
Still to come, this hour of CNN's live continuing coverage of the strike on Iraq, retired Brigadier General David Grange is here with an in-depth look at the U.S. military's march towards Baghdad. Learn why this trek north is so important.
Plus, Nic Robertson and our CNN crew expelled from Baghdad. Their experience, in their own words. We will witness on videotape their reunion with their colleagues as they crossed the border from Iraq into Jordan. Quite a reunion.
And we are keeping a close watch on this live scene in Baghdad. We are back in 60 seconds.
ZAHN: Welcome back.
Leon Harris just mentioned the number of protests cropping up all over the country. Americans opposed to military action in Iraq try once again to get out their message Of peace. For our protest coverage, we have Brian Cabell in Atlanta and Maria Hinojosa in New York City, where it's believed tens of thousands of people will join in this march.
Let's start with Maria this afternoon. Good afternoon, Maria.
MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula. Well, you would know that the second that we go live, people would start screaming. Now, of course, these are all New Yorkers and many of the people from the surrounding areas who have come out, they say, to take over the streets of Broadway and midtown Manhattan, trying to say again, to get their message out that they are against this war.
Now, even though they say that they have not been able to stop this war, what they're asking for is for a halt for this bombing now, and they want to bring the U.S. troops home.
Now, the demonstrations start off being led by a group called September 11 Families for a Peaceful Tomorrow, and they're all people who have lost family members on September 11. Following them was the children's contingent, and then the religious contingent.
But just to give you a sense of some of the people who are here, let's just see, you are from where, and why did you decide to come to this demonstration?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from Connecticut, and I work in New York, and I'm very much opposed to what we're doing.
HINOJOSA: And why are you an old-time activist? Or is this something you would usually do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was very active during the time of the Vietnam War. But since then have not done anything activist.
HINOJOSA: And why now? I mean, the war is underway. What good does it do to come to the streets now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think -- I support the troops. I hope that they're -- we minimize our casualties. But I think this is a horrible error in terms of our diplomacy, our relations around the world. And I think it's important for us to never stop expressing ourselves. That's what America's about.
HINOJOSA: OK, thank you very much.
Let's see, can I just stop you? I'm with CNN. I just want to know why you're here today. Why did you decide to come out?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think this administration is sinister and lawless. I don't see where there's been any proof of weapons of mass destruction. I just think they just want power and control, and the oil fields.
HINOJOSA: And when you, and when -- and when people say that at a moment when American troops are putting their lives on the line, that this is demoralizing...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope the American -- I don't think it's demoralizing. I think the American troops should be safe. But I do not -- the administration is not America. And it wasn't even a legal election. And that they should be able to demoralize and to make the Democrats, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ... if you speak up, you're unpatriotic.
HINOJOSA: Thank you very much for joining us.
Another person now. I wonder if I could just ask you, ma'am, why did you decide to -- I'm with CNN. Why did you decide to come to this demonstration today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I think it's important.
HINOJOSA: But the war is already underway, and people are saying this is unpatriotic to be out here when the troops are putting their lives on the line.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dissent is an American value, and it is patriotic.
HINOJOSA: OK, thank you very much.
So there you see, just a sense. New Yorkers, of course, not afraid to express their opinions. And clearly, not afraid to take to the streets. We hear that this demonstration now stretches 20 blocks long, up from 42nd Street, well beyond 20th Street. They are marching down to Washington Square Park.
There will not be any rallies today. There is simply going to be this march. The last time that the demonstrators were able to gather, there were lots of problems with the police. So far, we have heard that it has been a calm demonstration. The police have set up these barricades.
So we shall see if it remains calm throughout the day, Paula.
ZAHN: You know, Maria, we can get a much better perspective on just how many people are gathered there when we go to that shot that was taken above street level. You say that the march is now 20 blocks long. For any of that live there, we know that that is two miles long, right? A mile to every 10 blocks?
HINOJOSA: That's exactly right, Paula. And there are people here who know the exact number of thousands that would fit into a square block. But, of course, you know that any kind of numbers that we are going to be throwing out will certainly be disputed much later. Organizers said that they expected tens of thousands. It looks, at least from the street level, that that claim is true.
But you probably have a better view, since you're seeing it from the very, very top.
ZAHN: Ah, yes, you get a very good sense from this aerial view there. Maria Hinojosa, thanks so much. We'll be getting back to you throughout the afternoon.
Now, Brian, back to Brian Cabell in Atlanta, who brings us up to date on what is happening there. Brian, good afternoon.
BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Paula. This is the third day in a row that we've had demonstrations here in downtown Atlanta. Last Thursday, a couple days ago, there were several hundred here who marched down to CNN Center, which is about four blocks from here. Yesterday a few hundred, and I'd say today we have probably about 500 and growing by the minute.
Let's take a look around right now, as a matter of fact. We have police out in the streets. There were people who actually sat down in the streets yesterday. A couple were arrested. Today we've asked some people, will there be civil disobedience again? They say very possibly.
Now, the plans at this point call for them to rally here for probably another half hour or so, then march through the streets of downtown Atlanta, go to CNN Center, possibly block the entrance to CNN Center, we've been told. In fact, we talked to one of the CNN merchants a little while ago. He said if there's an unruly disturbance outside of CNN Center, they will close it down, close the restaurants down, ask all the visitors to leave.
One of the problems with the demonstrators here is they have no protest permit. Bullhorns are not allowed. But as you can see, it's very, very loud.
Again, we are expecting probably within the half hour people to try to make it out into the streets. Police at that point, we expect, will try to block them, perhaps arrest them. And this crowd, as I say, is getting louder, noisier, and much larger by the minute. Probably within the half hour, we will have up to a thousand people, because people continue to arrive here. Paula, back to you.
ZAHN: Thanks so much, Brian Cabell. I know you're having trouble hearing me. Let's see if Jeff Flock can hear me from Chicago, who also finds himself in the middle of something. Jeff, can you hear me?
JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Paula, I can hear you, though not tremendously well. I don't know if you just heard the motorcycle, Harley-Davidson riders just came by in support of the U.S. troops. What we've got here are two separate rallies. I don't want to try to get too close to everything. That is the support-the-troops rally off there that you see.
And to the left here is the anti-war rally. And I think if we do a straw poll out here today, it's clear that the support-the-troops numbers are greater. Perhaps you can also see Chicago's finest at the ready here, a team of police that have had a lot of experience with folks causing trouble out on the streets.
But no trouble. I want to talk to one of the men who's here supporting the troops today. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm out here in support of our troops and our president. I think it's important that we all come out and show our support, show that we're out here, we're the majority, and we support everything the president's doing right now.
FLOCK: Now, what we're seeing here in Chicago is kind of extraordinary, in that we're seeing both sides represented. And I know at the outset there was some screaming and hollering and that sort of thing. Some would argue this is what the country is founded on, is the ability for folks to demonstrate on both sides of the issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the most part, I agree with that, but I think while we're at war, we should support our president and our troops that are out there risking their lives for our country. I think it's very important.
FLOCK: Do you think in some sense this is unpatriotic, what you see behind you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is. I mean, obviously they have a point that they think they're making. But right now our troops are in danger, and we should be supporting them.
FLOCK: Well, we're going to leave it there. We talked to the other side in the rally in New York. So we're going to leave it there, Paula.
But as you can see, this is America here, and this is the public square. This is the Federal Plaza in Chicago, surrounded by the canyon of tall buildings, and now a place where both sides in this conflict are being heard. Back to you, Paula.
ZAHN: I guess there's probably no more symbolic place than to be standing today, about what democracy is all about, when you're standing in the middle of an anti-war march and prowar march.
Time to talk about some of the polls that have surfaced, to give you an idea of how the public at large views this military action.
Let's go to our own political analyst Bill Schneider, who joins us from CNN Center with more.
There were some really revealing statistics in this one, weren't there?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. The "New York Times"-CBS News poll this morning was reported this morning, and it had some utterly remarkable findings. And let's take a look at support for this war, for Bush's handling of this war, by party. Notice, first, you see the support for his father's handling of the Gulf War just after it began, 94 percent of Republicans supported it, 81 percent of Democrats. It was across the board.
Now, look at the figures for this war with Iraq in 2003, 12 years later. You still have 93 percent of Republicans supporting George W. Bush, but support among Democrats is only 50 percent. That is an enormous partisan division that you rarely see at the beginning of a war.
Paula, we didn't see anything like this kind of a partisan split until near the end of the Vietnam War, after years of fighting. This war starts out controversial. Why? Well, I think it's Mr. Bush, President Bush himself. His ratings, not his handling of Iraq, but his ratings. What we can see is that 95 percent of Republicans support President Bush, only 37 percent of Democrats.
Democrats say this is Bush's war. He has everything on the line in this war. And he -- Democrats argue this war isn't justified by a danger to America's national security. It's politically concocted. So it's an unusually divisive, partisan, and controversial issue.
ZAHN: Bill, you mentioned that we probably haven't seen this deep partisan divide since the Vietnam War. Give us a perspective on how these numbers are different from what even the present President Bush has experienced versus his father during Desert Storm.
SCHNEIDER: Well, I mean, that's the figures that we just saw show that in Desert Storm, the reason for that war was apparent to everyone. Iraq had invaded Kuwait. And most of all, the rest of the world was with us. Democrats understood that as well as Republicans. Democrats supported that war, along with Republicans, though clearly not in as large numbers.
Here, I think the difference is Democrats are very dubious. They're not giving the president the benefit of the doubt. They say the rest of the world is not with us.
I think the conclusion from this is, this is Bush's war. His presidency is at stake, his legacy, his agenda, even his reelection. If -- now, no one expects this to happen, but if Saddam Hussein were still in power a year from now, I don't think there's any way George W. Bush could get reelected. It's Saddam or Bush. It's very personal, and George W. Bush is a very -- is seen as a very partisan president.
ZAHN: Bill Schneider, thanks for bringing us (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that, to date on that. CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll also had a poll mirroring some of the findings of that "New York Times" poll.
Back now to Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Paula. Very interesting poll numbers back in the United States.
We have reporters covering all aspects of this story in Southern Iraq. We have reporters on the scene, as well as in Northern Iraq.
And let's go to one of them, Jane Arraf. She's in Dohuk in Northern Iraq right now. Jane, tell us what is happening where you are.
JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've been monitoring a couple of directions. One side, the line of control near Mosul, one of Iraq's biggest cities, the other, the Turkish border. Now, near that line of control, in a village called Barbarash (ph), about 20 kilometers northeast of Mosul, we were seeing Iraqi soldiers maintaining positions along that line with Kurdish forces.
They're up on a ridge with heavy machine guns and rifles. At the call to prayer at midday, they took a break to pray, bowing towards Mecca, and other places towards Mosul. Things seemed relatively normal with Iraqi forces still holding those positions. We saw that Ba'ath Party militia at one point holding what appeared to be a meeting with one of their local commanders.
Now, on the Turkish front, officials here, Kurdish officials, are saying that it's not true that Turkish forces have entered. They say they're in control of their borders, and not a single troop has come in. That's not exactly what we're hearing from U.S. and British defense officials, who say limited numbers of Turkish troops seem to have entered.
But we should note that that is not exactly new. They have been coming in for years, and they appear to be coming in now to make a statement that they can, but without making a huge fuss about it, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jane, as far as you could tell from your vantage point, 24 hours ago, there were bombing strikes against targets in the north and Mosul and Kirkuk, U.S.-led air strikes. Any indication based on what you can see or what you can hear that similar bombing strikes are unfolding today, right now?
ARRAF: We have no indication that they are unfolding right now. We're in the city of Dohuk, which is quite close to Mosul. There's a mountain behind us from where you can actually see explosions. We were seeing them last night. We have no reports so far that bombing has taken place again in Mosul.
But that could obviously continue later during the night. There also are no significant defections of Iraqi soldiers or the waves of refugees that we've been expecting. And that simply is because the Iraqi government is still maintaining control of Mosul and the surrounding areas, and no one has been allowed to head towards Kurdish-controlled territories, Wolf.
BLITZER: At the Pentagon briefing yesterday, Jane, there was -- they confirmed, they said publicly that U.S. special operations forces were now in place in Northern Iraq. Have you seen any evidence of that, of U.S. troops, special operators, anyplace near you?
ARRAF: We've heard lots of reports of them. We talk regularly with Kurdish military officials. At one cap we were in, for instance, yesterday, which is actually part of an airstrip, interestingly, controlled by the Turkish military, it's been controlled by the Turks for years now in their fight against Turkish separatists.
But one side are Kurdish militia, on the other side the Turks. We interviewed the Kurdish militia people, and they were telling us that they are in contact with American special forces, have been for some time. We're hearing that from other people as well.
Now, these Kurdish soldiers were actually asking us for American flags, at the same time telling us that they really wished that the Turkish military presence in Kurdistan would end.
So they're hoping for more American soldiers up here in the north, but it looks as if that running dispute with Turkey, in which ultimately it has resulted only in the U.S. being allowed to use Turkish air space, means that there will not be a significant northern front using Northern Iraq, Wolf.
BLITZER: We know, Jane, that U.S. forces have taken command of two strategic air bases in Western Iraq, an area from which the Iraqis launched Scud missiles against Israel a dozen years ago. The Kurds have told me, Talabani and others, that they are ready to let U.S troops take over air bases in Northern Iraq under Kurdish control.
Any sign that U.S. personnel are getting ready to take over some of those air bases, perhaps launch flights from those air bases in Northern Iraq?
ARRAF: Well, at the air base that we were at, there are two main air bases in this part of Northern Iraq that's controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Party. The one that we were at has, as I said, also been controlled by Turkish forces. And it could potentially be used by the Americans. It has a 2.5-kilometer-long landing strip which could accommodate big cargo planes.
However, there are no preparations there, there were no lights, it doesn't appear to be well maintained. And the Kurdish forces there said American military people, special forces, had come, and they have been talking about such a prospect. But that doesn't appear to be the likely place that the troops will land.
It's more likely that the Americans would take over an air base near -- closer to Erbil, called Harir (ph), and that one has been better maintained, and American forces are believed to be discussing the possibility of using that with Kurdish forces, as they have been for some time, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jane Arraf, she's in Northern Iraq in Dohuk.
Let's go back to Paula. Paula, I think all of us are going to become quite familiar with all these towns, cities throughout Iraq, whether Dohuk or Mosul or Kirkuk or Erbil. We're going to become geographic experts on Iraq pretty soon, and I think a lot of our viewers will as well. ZAHN: Well, when you look at the pathetic scores of fourth- graders in the country in this knowledge of geography, I guess we all could use the lesson. Wolf Blitzer, thanks so much.
Coming up next, night flights, CNN's Frank Buckley takes us aboard the USS Constellation as pilots return from bombing missions over Iraq.
And American troops encountering trouble on the ground. We're going to talk with CNN military analysts about some of the trouble spots in the battle.
And paying the ultimate price. We're going to hear from some of the families of Marines killed in this conflict so far.
We'll be right back.
ZAHN: some good news for our team today. The CNN team that was expelled from Baghdad is now safely in Jordan. And I spoke with our own Nic Robertson, Rym Brahimi, and Ingrid Formanek a little bit earlier, just as they had crossed into the border of Jordan for the first time.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Late yesterday afternoon, Iraqi officials told us that they were going to close the CNN office. They said that they were going to tell the CNN team to leave. They told us to leave. And it was late in the day.
We said that we wanted to stay. It wasn't safe to leave because it was getting dark. They didn't really acquiesce on that issue. They was -- they just allowed that to happen. We stayed in the hotel overnight and left early this morning.
Let me bring in for a moment, if I can, our executive producer here, Ingrid Formanek. Ingrid was more involved than all of us with the Iraqi officials over the last few days.
Ingrid, just talk us through what happened. Why did they expel us? And how did it -- and how did that progress over the last few days?
INGRID FORMANEK, CNN EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Well, obviously the situation had grown more tense in Iraq in recent days due to the bombing, and the officials were feeling the pressure. It's been a great propaganda campaign. I mean, all sides want to control the media as much as possible, and that goes for the Iraqis as well as the Americans.
And their concern was that they were getting their message out. They were increasingly tense as the bombing went on, and it just got very much more difficult to work in the days during the bombing. We were not allowed to use our satellite phones from the rooms in our hotel, which made it more difficult to be able to report.
But these two guys did a great job of doing that nevertheless. And we're very limited in being able to transmit pictures. All the satellite dishes remained at the ministry of information, which was in an area that was bombed heavily in the last few days.
ZAHN: Once again, that was Ingrid Formanek describing why the CNN crew, which was among the last of the American network crews to be expelled out of Baghdad, lest you think they took unnecessary chances. They did not. Ingrid and Nic are both veterans of Desert Storm. They know exactly how to deal with these ongoing negotiations.
But we personally are very happy that they made it to the border. What you didn't hear her talk about was their journey back south from Iraq into Jordan. And they some lots of interesting things to say about what they encountered along the way.
Marching to Baghdad, a difficult and sometimes perilous journey for coalition forces. For the bigger picture now on how it is going and what the troops are encountering, I turn it over to my colleague Renay San Miguel at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Renay, good afternoon.
RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Paula.
Yes, a lot going on with the situation today just in the last 12 hours or so. We wanted to give you the big picture, a status report, if you will, of what the coalition has and doesn't have in Iraq.
Joining us is CNN military analyst David Grange.
Good to have you in the studio here in Atlanta.
GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Thank you.
SAN MIGUEL: Let's start off with the south, Nasiriyah, Basra, have been in the news lately. What do we know about their situation?
GRANGE: Yes, you still have the Naval forces in the Gulf. You still have the Tomahawk and aircraft flying in to hit targets all over Iraq, just like out of the Red Sea.
On the ground, at the Basra area, under the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, we still have the 7th -- the British 7th Armored Brigade, and the 3 Commando, and the 1st Marine Division moving around Basra against the 6th Armored Division, the Iraqi 6th Armored Division, which is a lower priority unit, lot of combat experience. But they didn't perform very well.
SAN MIGUEL: OK. And I understand from what Tommy Franks said, they've surrounded that city. But they're in discussions with the populace. They would rather be welcomed in, just like they were in Umm Qasr.
GRANGE: Exactly. And a heavy Shiite area, of course. So they -- I think they expected that they would capitulate quite rapidly.
SAN MIGUEL: OK.
GRANGE: In Nasiriyah, you have the 3rd Infantry Division near the city. I don't think they're in the city. But there, they're encountering elements of the 11th Infantry Division of the Iraqi army. Again, another low-priority element, a lot of combat experience. But they performed poorly as well in those experiences.
And I think that the 3rd Infantry Division now is focused on either crossing the Euphrates River or continuing to moving on to Baghdad.
SAN MIGUEL: OK, so that's their idea. And, of course, Nasiriyah important because there is a bridge there over the Euphrates, and they wanted to go ahead and have that secured.
GRANGE: Right. There's several bridges, actually, and crossing sites. And which, of course, they're going to use is hard to say at this time.
SAN MIGUEL: Got it.
GRANGE: Then you have the 101st Airborne Division, elements of that, a brigade of that, somewhere in the Iraqi desert. And what they're doing there is preparing for leapfrog, future operations somewhere in Iraq. Don't know where yet. And that's just pre- operations for some follow-on things that we'll see later in a day, I think.
ROBERTSON: OK. Talk about the western part of the country, those important air fields.
GRANGE: Yes, the H2, H3 complexes, not only is that in the area of what's known as the Scud box, to go in to try to keep any missiles from being fired into Israel or Jordan or wherever they might fire them, it's also two significant airfields over 8,000 feet long. They could be used for foreign operating bases. Those can be used to launch operations elsewhere in Iraq. So those are key in the west.
SAN MIGUEL: OK. And then up in the north, these are still -- you know, this is still kind of the iffy part of the country in terms of the coalition, getting some bombing in the Shock and Awe campaign, but that's really about it as far as we know (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
GRANGE: Right. There's -- we know there's special forces up there. What size units, we don't know. What's key up there are some of the air bases, air fields, I should see, though our steer (ph), again, can be used for follow-on operations against Tikrit or other targets once they're taken down.
SAN MIGUEL: OK. We have animation of what an armored formation would, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you know, what makes up an armored formation as it's heading into Baghdad. But a couple of issues. As they are speeding along in the desert, 40, 50 miles an hour, the issue of Iraqi troops surrendering. If you have to sit there and sit -- consider the situation of, you know, suddenly doing the POW business, how does that, how far, how much does that slow you down?
CLARK: Well, it is an issue and it will slow the forces down. These are maneuver forces, armored maneuver forces. They shock and speed is key to their success. And so when they encounter those enemy forces who want to surrender, you have several choices. You take a prisoner, which means you seize them, disarm them, segregate them, question them, but then you are responsible for them. You either have to move them to the rear or feed them or shelter them or protect them.
They don't want to do that. So, what you see probably is a lot of them telling them, hey, put down your weapons, if they have interpreters to do that, or just run over the weapons and crush them and just leave them there and keep moving. So, you'll probably see a lot of that.
SAN MIGUEL: The other issue with the terrain as they get closer to Baghdad, there is a couple of big lakes that we haven't really talked about. A couple of big reservoirs that stand in the way there.
CLARK: Yes, that is key. If you look to the west of Baghdad and you may want to just draw it on there, Renay. Yes. To the west of Baghdad, southwest, you have the two large lake, reservoirs, which are obstacles which again limit the access to Baghdad. The enemy knows this. I am sure our forces know this. I'm sure they have rehearsed it many times, war gaming, and that will be a significant obstacle when they move north.
SAN MIGUEL: For these that are moving north, either go around it or come around that way.
CLARK: Right. Again, we don't know what avenue they will take.
SAN MIGUEL: General, thanks you for your time. And thanks for coming down to Atlanta.
CLARK: My pleasure.
SAN MIGUEL: Good to have you here.
Paula, back on over to you.
ZAHN: It is great to have that graphic assist. Thanks so much, Renay.
We have moved into the next hour. Leon Harris is our man at the CNN center to bring us up to date on the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKS: This will be a campaign unlike any other in history. A campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen and by the application of overwhelming force.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: General Tommy Franks, at his first briefing on the ongoing war in Iraq. Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.
ZAHN: And hello, everyone, I'm Paula Zahn in New York. Welcome to another hour of CNN's special coverage of the "Strike On Iraq." We get started with Wolf now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. It's a relatively quiet night here in Kuwait City, but it's far from quiet throughout Iraq. U.S. air strikes continuing; U.S. ground forces, with British forces, on the move as well. Let's go right to the frontlines. CNN's Lisa Rose Weaver is with a U.S. air defense unit in southern Iraq.
We haven't heard from you in a while, Lisa. Tell us what's going on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The call could not be completed ...
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we're having some troubles getting through with Lisa. Let's try once again. Lisa, can you hear me?
Unfortunately, I don't think we can -- we can get to Lisa, but we will try to fix that technical glitch. We will get to Lisa soon. She's in southern Iraq.
Jason Bellini, one of our other embedded journalists. He's also joining us now.
Jason, tell our viewers where you are and what you're seeing?
JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, first let me explain to you first where I am. We are in what appears to us be an administrative office here at the port of Umm Qasr. Now that the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit has taken over this port.
They're setting themselves up here in the facilities that already available. Of course, there's nobody here at this point. Anyone who was here when they arrived were taken into custody as EPW, enemies prisoners of war. Earlier today, we heard from the colonel of the MEU, and he said that they collected between 400 to 450 enemy prisoners of war.
He said that they experienced more resistance coming in here than they had anticipated and it took a little longer than, as you said, as longer as he would have liked. But at the same time, they have made some progress today.
We were with him earlier when they went into a coast guard building. An Iraqi coast guard building. They went in after some suppression fire and a helicopter had taken out a boat that was right next to it and was on fire all day. So they went in there with machine guns blazing beforehand. And encountered no resistance. And that was after today and yesterday, pot shots coming at them from inside of this port and also from inside the town of Umm Qasr. So things are not completely stable here. But they feel they have complete control over this camp, over this port at this moment -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very significant developments, Jason Bellini on the scene for us Umm Qasr, the is the huge port in the southern part Iraq. So much of Iraq's oil shipment go through there, but also so much of their exports and exports. You can't underestimate how the significant the taking of Umm Qasr has been. Jason Bellini with the troops there.
I think we have reestablished contact with Lisa Rose Weaver. She's with an air defense unit, a U.S. unit in Southern Iraq.
Lisa, first of all, can you hear me? And if you can, go ahead and tell us what is going on.
I don't think Lisa can hear me, let me try one more time.
Lisa Rose Weaver in Southern Iraq, are you there?
Well, it's a technical glitch. We're going to fix that. We will get to Lisa Rose Weaver shortly. In the meantime, let's go to Judy Woodruff in Washington -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Wolf, we know that when we get those connections, we go right to them, but they're not -- these technical -- the technical business is not perfect. And I know we will get back to Lisa in just a minute.
We want to go out to sea now to the USS Constellation aircraft carrier. CNN's Frank Buckley is out there, he's covering the action in more than 5,000 crewmembers on board. We have Frank now with an update from the Persian Gulf.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just hours after the first strikes went into Iraq from the USS Constellation on the flight deck of this aircraft carrier, munitions were once again being wheeled across the deck, taken towards some of the aircraft being loaded up.
We're talking about some of the laser-guided weapons, the GPS- satellite guided weapons. These precise weapons that people have been talking about that were used in the first strikes against Iraq. Now, some of them may be used once again in further strikes. Immediately after the first strike packages went into Iraq and returned the USS Constellation, we were able to talk with some of the naval aviators about their impressions of flying over and into the Baghdad area. Here's what they had to say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We came in and immediately could see the sea/land (ph) impacting downtown Baghdad. And just continuous constant explosions going off all over the place. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing that's real-world like that. That can get you ready for it. And to know that their down there really shooting at you and to be able to see it, and it's pretty staggering.
BUCKLEY: In addition to the aircraft launched attacks into Iraq, there were Tomahawk launches as well. These were the cruise missiles that came from ships and submarines.
Rear Admiral Barry Costello (ph), the Constellation battle group commander telling us, that all of the U.S. Navy warships that were capable of launching Tomahawks, some 30 plus ships and marines all of them launched Tomahawks.
I'm Frank Buckley, CNN, aboard the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf.
ZAHN: And back to the status of Nasiriyah, a very important town, strategically. The US-led coalition has captured the southern Iraqi town a key river crossing point on the road to Baghdad, near Basra, Iraq's second largest city. U.S. Marines met some resistance as they destroyed abandoned Iraqi tanks. An Iraqi propelled grenade whistled past CNN's Martin Savidge who there is with the Marines. Let's listen.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me tell you what is going on. Those are secondary blasts coming. This is the demolition of the tanks, G-55 tanks along the line here. What they are doing is hurriedly setting charges. They are using both C4 and other explosive devices as well as the ammunition that is on board the tank itself. What they have done is they have blown it up, essentially.
Now you are hearing the secondary explosions that would be coming from the rounds inside. They want to make sure they don't leave anything behind that could used, by say, follow-on soldiers, Iraqi soldiers that might be in hiding right now.
The moment they find armor, the moment they find any tank, they are blowing it up and exactly what has taken place in the background here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa!
SAVIDGE: Yes, that was a TOW missile fired in the general area where you saw that tank before that was being blown up, obviously they're seeing stuff down there that they're not too happy about. Not taking any chances. The TOW missile is a very heavy weapon. They will throw the tube off the top. They'll get ready to reload again. They'll try to move positions, too. We're not exactly sure what they are seeing up at this point. I mean, obviously we are still trying to keep our heads up around ourselves.
At the same time, the demolition crews are preparing the other tanks. And we'll try to bring that to you. They seem to be concerned about, obviously, the village itself, not that there is obvious reason to be suspect, it is just that is an area of population. You keep an eye on that.
You want to make sure that any Iraqi soldiers, anyone who might want to do the U.S. military harm is not using the village as shelter, as cover. A place where they can easily melt away into. So that's their concern there.
SAVIDGE: It's getting hot. Let's go!
That looks like an armored personnel carrier. We're going to keep moving back because these also have ammunition inside of them. There goes your tank down the end. And a secondary explosions.
You are all right, Gerard, keep coming back. Let's pull back.
So, the concern obviously, that RPG is that came from the village and now who fired it. And do they have another one, obviously, which is why we're not going to linger too much longer. But there are more tanks to go, so if you miss that one. There will be another one soon enough.
UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Tank due to be released. Set.
SAVIDGE: It is just Saddam's hardware being taken apart piece by piece. And that is something that the U.S. military wants to do and did extensively after the Gulf War.
ZAHN: That was Martin Savidge showing a great calm under duress, in an earlier report. He described us to us the continuing challenge for the Marines as they go into the villages. He said the villagers for the most part are happy to have them there.
The problem is that some of these Iraqi soldiers have civilian clothes on over their Iraq soldier uniforms. He said, at one point, Wolf, in one of these villages, allied forces actually put out a loudspeaker advising people not to come any closer. They would be safe if they stayed away. So, lots of challenges for Marines out there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I don't think anyone, Paula, should underestimate the dangers for U.S. military personnel, British forces, moving towards Baghdad. The dangers are enormous right now. Indeed, U.S. military officials are pointing out, don't be lulled into thinking things will be perfect. Things could get a lot more messy in the immediate hours and days to come.
Let's find out what's happening with one critical part of all of this, Turkey. CNN's Fredericka Whitfield. She is joining us now live.
It looks like the Turkish government is flatly denying, Fredericka, that they have moved forces into northern Iraq. Is that what they're saying officially in Ankara?
FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are indeed. And right now, we here Chisera (ph), Turkey which is about roughly 20 miles from the border. But we know in an interview earlier on CNN with the Turkish ambassador, that indeed, the government is denying that there has been any movement of Turkish troops crossing the border.
However, there are some sources who say they have actually witnessed those Turkish forces crossing the border. But no one has an exact count. Of course, earlier it was reported that somewhere between a 1,000 and 1,500 Turkish troops had already crossed the bored.
And then later the Turkish government said, no, that's not true. And then we heard from General Tommy Franks earlier today, who said that U.S. Special Forces that are working with Kurdish troops in the northern territory did indeed see some couplings of Turkish troops that had crossed the border. Albeit, they hadn't occupied any space in the northern border for very long before popping right back over to Turkey.
However, it is being confirmed by the Turkish government that there are Turkish forces that are gathering at the border. We have been unable to actually see that, because in our journeys trying to make it closer to the border to see if there is any crossing over of the border or buildup, et cetera, we were denied access as are all of the members of the media, here, being denied that kind of access. So we are unable to actually see for ourselves or get those kinds of pictures.
At the same time now, there are still now sights, no sounds, no reports of U.S. military activity taking advantage of the Turkish air space. The Turkish government, of course, said OK, to the air flights to carry out that northern corridor, air strikes of northern Iraq. But the U.S. military hasn't taken advantage of that. And now sources within the Pentagon are saying, it's likely the U.S. will not take advantage of that. That the two aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean are starting to turn away from the Turkish coast. So perhaps those flights just might not be taking place.
Originally, it was expected that any fighter jets coming from those carriers or perhaps even bombers coming from various places in Europe would be taking two various routes, a northern corridor route and a southern corridor route. The southern corridor route would apply to the fighter jets, off the carriers, traveling just slightly north out of the Mediterranean, avoiding the Syrian air space, and then kind of looping around the southern Turkish border and then entering Northern Iraq.
As for the northern corridor, those bombers would be coming from various parts of Europe, heading in and then flying straight in over the northern Iraq. But none of that, as I say, Wolf, has been taking place.
Right now, the emphasis has been -- all of the attention has been on what is taking place on this border between Turkey and Iraq? U.S. officials are warning Turkey against taking any kind of the unilateral action because they're afraid that there just might be some potential conflict between the Turks as well as the Kurds in the northern territory. And potentially, even between the Turks and the Kurdish forces that are working in concert with U.S. Special Forces.
And then, ultimately, even the Americans are painting the picture of perhaps there could be a conflict between the Turks and Iraqi forces that may be making their way into the northern territory to make advantage of any oil rich communities -- Wolf.
BLITZER: CNN's Fredericka Whitfield, she's near the Iraqi border in Turkey. Thanks, Fredericka, very much.
CNN's Gary Strieker is aboard one of the aircraft carriers in the region, five aircraft carriers. He is board the USS Teddy Roosevelt.
Tell us what is happening from the carrier where you are right now, Gary.
GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's now Saturday night here in the Eastern Mediterranean, and most of the crew on the Theodore Roosevelt have just awakened a couple of hours ago. We are on a night schedule. The other carrier in the Med, the Harry S Truman, is on a day time schedule, which allows both aircrafts to work together and launch air sorties against targets in Iraq on a 24- hour basis.
Most of the crew here have had their breakfast and are now starting to prep for another attack launch, which is going to happen later tonight, or early on Sunday morning. Can't give you any times, but we will know more about that after we have a preflight briefing shortly, where we will learn about the objectives of the mission and what targets are going to be hit.
We will not be able to report anything that we learn in that briefing, Wolf, until after those warplanes return to the carrier.
BLITZER: Gary, are you allowed to tell us the flight path, the air space that the F-14s, the F-18s from the Roosevelt or the Truman, the two U.S. aircraft carriers in the Eastern Mediterranean? Which countries they are flying over to approach Iraq and to fire bombs, at certain targets inside Iraq? STRIEKER: No, we're not, Wolf. We can't report that. I can tell you it's not Turkey. The territories that are being overflown are different from Turkey. And we've learned that, you know, according to the pilots, they were not really concerned about whether Turkey gave overflight rights anyway -- for them. Because targets in Iraq are easily within striking distance of the carriers in the Eastern Med. Even away from the Turkish shoreline, and they can get refueled, and they can fly into Iraq, hit targets and get back to the carriers without any delay -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, I take it, there's no further need now, now that there are these airspace privileges that have been worked out with other countries in the region, there's no need for the Truman or the Roosevelt to move through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea to reposition there and say, fly over, let's say, Saudi airspace, to hit targets inside Iraq. So you guys are going to stay in the Eastern Mediterranean, is that right?
STRIEKER: As far as we understand, that's the plan. We've got two aircraft carriers in the Eastern Med. Three in the Persian Gulf. And that's that seems to be working quite well, Wolf.
A big ship pulled up, a supply ship pulled up next to the carrier earlier today and off-loaded a lot of supplies food, ammunition, and fuel. And so far as the commanders here on this carrier are concerned, they're in it for the long haul here in the Eastern Med here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Gary Strieker, he is board the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Gary, we'll be checking back with you. I think the pilots, the aviators, aboard that aircraft carrier are going to be quite busy in the coming hours. Indeed, in the coming days as well.
Let's get back to Judy Woodruff in Washington.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Wolf. From all of our reporters in region, we are beginning to get and having getting a picture that we can piece together of how this war looks from their different perspectives.
Earlier today, General Tommy Franks, who's running this operation said, the U.S. troops are performing magnificently. They are moving across a variety of fronts. Our Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon.
Barbara, they are moving on the ground and in the air. And at the Pentagon, they're having to keep track of all of it.
STARR: Indeed, Judy. And when we asked the question, OK, where do things stand? Here's a bit of a state of play as to where things are at the moment.
Now, officials are telling us that the initial phase of the campaign called for a three to four day initial air campaign against the leadership targets, against some other targets around the country. But a three to four day initial campaign since the attack, the air attack officially began about noon Eastern Time here in Washington yesterday.
Once they get through this phase they will make an assessment. They will assess where they are on striking the leadership targets, the key facilities that they basically wanted to take out.
If they don't have to go back and restrike those, they will, then move on to the next phase, we are told. And that will be focusing on targets of striking operating forces, Iraqi operating forces around the country. Striking targets that will make it impossible for the Iraqi forces to operate and move.
And that may well be what they call emerging targets. As they see the Iraqi forces come up on the net, as they see them begin to move, they will then strike them.
Now, this is not to say that things are over and done with in Baghdad. We are told there are still leadership targets to be struck there. We still will see a lot of activity. But there may now be even more air activity around Iraq in places that we don't readily see.
Now, that has in fact already begun to transpire. We are told, there have been a number of air strikes in northern Iraq. One key facility that was struck was a suspected chemical weapons production compound in Northern Iraq. Under the control of a radical Kurdish group that was said by the Bush administration to have ties with the al Qaeda. Initial strikes against that facility. And it's expected there be more.
Northern Iraq now getting a lot of attention. The Turkish military said to be lined up along the border, basically trying to ensure that there's not a large flow of Kurdish refugees into Turkey.
But not everything is going according to planned. The Pentagon is still investigating what it believes very credible reports that in some of the air strikes, at least two Tomahawk cruise missiles have gone astray and landed inside Iran. That, of course, would have been an accident.
And some final wrap-up statistics as to where we are at this point. Officials saying so far, since yesterday, when the air attack officially began, there have been about 2,000 coalition air missions. About half of those, 1,000, being strike combat missions -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Barbara, just quickly in the first hours of this -- of these battles, we the sense, many of us at the Pentagon believed that there was a good chance they might get to Saddam Hussein regime to completely capitulate, or at least partially capitulate. As it looks as if that is not happening, are they having to reorganize, if you will, their battle plans going forward?
STARR: Well, General Tommy Franks said earlier in a press conference today in the Persian Gulf, that this plan was based on maximum flexibility. He likened it to branches coming off a tree. He is not acknowledging that there has been any change. He says it's flexible, adaptable, and it will continue to change its circumstances warrant.
It's quite interesting, though, he also said he didn't know if Saddam Hussein was dead or alive, but even if he knew, it really wouldn't change the plan. They're gong to continue to focus of going after the leadership. They are going to see if they can get the leadership to capitulate. They haven't, of course, so far. And that's why the next phase of the plan begins to call for pounding away at the Iraqi forces in the field. They want to hit everything they can at once -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, and it's looking that way. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Now to Paula.
ZAHN: Thanks, Judy. Barbara just talking about next phase let's talk about the phase that's happened so far. It has been an eventful first 24 hours of the accelerated air campaign. Missiles and coalition warplanes flying from dozens of bases and aircraft carriers attacked targets in Baghdad, Tikrit, Mosul, and Kirkuk. CNN's Bob Franken is at one of those bases in the Persian Gulf region. He joins us now.
Bob, what's the latest?
FRANKEN: Well, Paula, the latest from this base, which is close to the Iraq border is that there has been an increase in the traffic. The volume of jets that have been screaming from this run way and returning. It has become almost a constant. The lull we're having right now is extremely unusual.
But the jets that have been going here up until this time have been going through all points but Baghdad. We can't report on their destinations today, only after they have come back. But the ones that have gone out have fanned off to places like Basra and the other places where there is significant ground actions, supporting the troops on the ground.
The planes include F-16s, F-18s, which are fighter bombers. There have even been some stealth fighter bomb, here, the 117 stealth fighters who were here just a short time ago. This is not their natural home. The A-10, the so-called Warthog. It's an anti-tank plane that has been going out and trying to track down tanks. It is quite an awesome plane, Paula. It just really rips a tanks to shreds with its Gatling kind of guns. They have something like 6,000 rounds per minute, some unbelievable amount. It is quite an awesome thing to watch.
At any case, this has been, as I said, extremely busy. It is getting busier. They started with 141 missions, the first day of the hostilities, went up to 250 missions here yesterday. We are not being told or not being allowed to release actually, the number that they're planning for the day. But they say it's going to also be a significant increase over the ones that we had yesterday.
They also say that characteristically, the planes could change here -- there goes a plane taking off now. You can hear it. You can probably see it in back of me. The plans constantly change, so when they announce a number -- or an expectation, it is one that changes just about by the minute as the conditions on the ground change. But it is a war that is being fought, a variety of places, this particular base thus far has been a launching pad for areas other than Baghdad.
One other thing, Paula, and that is, yesterday there was a missile attack that was stopped, the Scud missile attack that was stopped by anti-missile missiles. But the planes that run through here to find that missile site were successful. They were able to, quote commander, "take one out" -- Paula.
ZAHN: And is the expectation there, Bob, if you can even hear me, that this could go on for many, many more days?
FRANKEN: Well, it looks that way. They're saying they expect this to increase in intensity with each passing day. This is a major launching pad. What I can tell about this air base is that for the last 10 years or so, it has been the base that enforced the no-fly zone in the southern part of Iraq and now, of course, it switched its venue to the entire country.
ZAHN: Bob Franken, thanks for that live update. Bob making it very clear they have finished missions or they're in the process of continuing missions at all points but Baghdad.
And I think that's an interesting point to make, Wolf, it was at 11:22 Eastern Time that we started witnessing some anti-aircraft fire in Baghdad for about a five, six-minute period and then it went back it a lull. So no one is too clear or certain at this time what exactly contributed to the Iraqi setting off that anti-aircraft fire. Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sometimes, based on past experience, Paula, you never know. They just could get nervous and start firing randomly in the air hoping to get lucky. But there, clearly, is serious disarray among the Iraqi military leadership at this point. U.S. officials insisting they've been rattled, although they anticipate they're still going to be a significant fight.
We're getting some fresh videotape in now. I want to show it to our viewers of an oil fire that's continuing in Southern Iraq. You heard earlier, if you were watching "CNN LIVE" this morning from General Tommy Franks, the commander of this military operation, suggest that there is only a handful of these fires that are continuing in Southern Iraq. There were presumably going to be a lot more and that's why the U.S. military accelerated the invasion. The ground force that moved in earlier than the start of the real air war began in order to deal with the potential of all these oil fires exploding really in Southern Iraq.
Remember, most of Iraq's oil well is in a relatively small area in the Southern part of the country. There is some oil up in Kirkuk in the north but most is down in the south. The U.S. decided together with their British colleagues to go into the southern part of Iraq to deal with these fires. It will take some time.
We're also getting word, by the way, from Kuwaiti authorities here in Kuwait City tonight that some Kuwaiti firefighters -- oil firefighters -- are going to be going into Southern Iraq to help deal with the fires that are continuing. But I have to tell you based on what happened in Kuwait at the end of the Gulf War, a dozen years ago, it could have been a lot worse in Southern Iraq had not those U.S. and British forces moved rapidly into Southern Iraq.
I want to go to CNN's Christiane Amanpour. She's up in Northern Kuwait not far from the Iraqi border. Christiane, tell us what you are seeing right now.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, earlier -- right now, we're back at the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border at the British Divisional Field Headquarters. But earlier we were in Southern Iraq and we were also talking to military commanders about that oil field situation. And just to put it in perspective, you heard Tommy Franks say that nine wells had been on fire out of something like 500.
And all along, we have been being briefed that the oil well fires while they're not -- it's something they don't want to happen -- these are not the kind of catastrophic fires that we saw in Kuwait, as you were mentioning, about 12 years ago. It's not the oil wells that have caused the catastrophe, we're told, it's the oil and gas separation points that do that. And so far, they are intact and that's what the American and British forces have been trying to do this in this southern part of Iraq, to keep intact all of the economic and strategic resources that Iraq has. And of course, rather the Ramallah oil fields in the south produces 60 percent of Iraq's oil.
Now, another strategic target has been the port of Umm Qasr. And they have been doing that, both U.S. Marines under British command in an unusual arrangement, have been trying to pacify Umm Qasr. They have gotten most of it, but there is still slight pockets of resistance and they're still working on completely consolidating and securing Umm Qasr, that important port.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): A helicopter flies over the port of Umm Qasr, reveals the area is relatively quiet. And down below, British soldiers do some war tourism, looking at one of those giant billboards of Saddam Hussein. Taking Umm Qasr was a joint operation. The 15th U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit was under the command of the British Royal Marines Commando Brigade. Now, U.S. Marines rest at the port after more than a day on the move. Some, like 21-year-old Corporal Jeremy Archer, had feared the worst.
CPL. JEREMY ARCHER, U.S. MARINE CORPS.: I expected a big war, I guess, but they're all giving up. So it was easier than I thought.
AMANPOUR: Not all of giving up, though. About three kilometers away from the main port, there are pockets of resistance. The commander of the U.S. Marine unit sent up cobra helicopters and fired artillery to destroy the Iraqi fire.
COL. THOMAS WALDHAUSER, 15TH MARINE EXPEDITIONARY UNIT: They did resist, but once it appeared that they would have to deal with some overwhelming firepower, they have a tendency then to give up.
AMANPOUR: The British commander says the resistance is isolated.
BRIG. GEN. JAMES DUTTON, ROYAL MARINES: It hasn't been a particularly cohesive fighting force. It's been AD-30 gun firing a few rounds prior to its destruction or a group of individuals firing.
AMANPOUR (on camera): It took longer than expected to secure Umm Qasr and the military says it's still mopping up small pockets of resistance in the town. Nonetheless, the military says, it plans to bring in the first elements of humanitarian aid, perhaps within 48 hours.
(voice-over): Umm Qasr is Iraq's main commercial port. It lies at the mouth of the Shatt al Arab waterway, which flow it into Persian Gulf. This was an important strategic target for allied forces and will be the main port of entry for relief and other humanitarian goods.
Just yesterday, Iraqi ministries vowed that Umm Qasr would never fall but hundreds of soldiers have given themselves up and now they are POWs now under U.S. and British control.
AMANPOUR: Now, Umm Qasr was also an important indication for British and U.S. forces here of how a civilian population would take to being liberated, if you like, as the U.S. and British saying they are try to do. They haven't really been able to test that. In fact, when we asked the commanders, they said, well, they didn't see that many people waving at them or welcoming them in Umm Qasr because of these pockets of resistance and because they're having to go very slowly and methodically through -- trying to secure it.
So that bears some impact on what might happen around Basra. That's the other big town in Iraq. It's Iraq's second biggest town. And forces are moving up towards there, but they're not moving in. We're still being told that they don't want to go in; they want to wait and see just how the population is going to receive them. But their main objective is to make sure that the Iraqi army units there are not a threat -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Christiane, what's the current assessment of the Iraqi military capability around Basra, the next major target, as the U.S. and British forces move north towards Baghdad?
AMANPOUR: Well, the assessment is that it has not been very high resistance. It has not been organized. It's not like they have a plan of resistance, according to the commanders here. In the various locations that they've so far taken and secured, the commanders were telling us today that the resistance is sometimes individual, sometimes pockets of people, people who simply feel they want to resist, but no sense that there is an organized plan, at least in this part of the country in Southern Iraq to actually put up any kind of real resistance yet.
And as the forces move up, the Americans are going to start moving up and away from the southeast, moving west to go on and meet the other American forces who are heading towards Baghdad. The British will move in -- and they already are moving in -- to take control of the southeastern part but also to protect the American flank and to protect the rear just in case any kind of resistance is mounted, but they don't expect to see that at this stage.
BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour in Northern Kuwait along the border with Iraq. Christiane, thanks very much. We'll be checking back with you very, very soon. And let's got to Paula now -- Paula.
ZAHN: Thanks so much, Wolf. We've talked a lot today about how much information we got out of the CENTCOM briefing by General Tommy Franks. This is the first time he has met with reporters in a public setting in a press conference situation since the start of this campaign. We're learning a lot now from our embedded reporters all over Iraq, and in the southern part of Kuwait about what kind of military actions we're in the process of looking at. Joining us right now is Michael Ware who writes for "TIME" magazine and he has more for us right now from inside Iraq.
Michael, what do you have?
MICHAEL WARE, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, this afternoon on the front lines with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) terrorists who are backed by al Qaeda in northern Iraq, there was a suicide bombing, which killed a foreign journalist, an international journalist, plus two Kurdish soldiers and wounded eight other soldiers and civilians.
ZAHN: Can you tell us more about the suicide bombing? Do we have any more details on that at all, Michael?
WARE: Yes, we do. This suicide bombing attack came at about 3:15 p.m. in the afternoon local time, which is approximately 15 hours after cruise and tomahawk missiles pounded the terrorists' front lines, so it appeared to be some kind of retaliatory event. The driver approached a checkpoint controlled by Kurdish opposition forces and approached in a taxi.
As he came near the checkpoint, there was a number of journalists. He drew upon the checkpoint and then pulled right up next to a television cameraman where he detonated a car bomb. It was a ferocious attack. The explosion could be seen for miles away, and it absolutely destroyed the checkpoint and littered the area with debris from the vehicle, debris from the local buildings, and obviously some remains of those who were unfortunate enough to be caught in this blast.
ZAHN: That's shocking to hear it let alone having witnessed it like you did. Are there any more details available on this suicide bomber and his motivations? WARE: At this stage, it's still very unclear. It only happened a matter of four or five hours ago, but it's fairly obvious where he has come from. He came from a village in Northern Iraq known as Kumal (ph). This is a stronghold of one of the militant Islamic groups, which had been waging a military campaign against the Kurdish government here in Northern Iraq for over a year. These groups are linked to al Qaeda, which provides them with military and financial support, including, according to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Kurdish intelligence officials, veterans of the Afghan war.
So al Qaeda terrorists who have survived and forged in Afghanistan have now come to join local militants near Northern Iraq. Their stated aim is to destroy the government of the Kurdish rebels here in the north, which has long been opposed to Saddam Hussein, and they are willingly looking for an American invasion. They have stated finally that they are looking to take on American soldiers in combat, and unfortunately, this morning was their first taste with this missile attack and this is how they had immediately responded.
ZAHN: Michael, I want to reflect on something that we all learned earlier today from General Tommy Franks, when he talked about seven or eight reasons for continuing with this Operation Iraqi Freedom and he mentioned capturing and driving out terrorists and collecting information related to terror. Just once again, describe to us the region you're in and why this is such fertile territory for what Tommy Franks is talking about?
WARE: Well, in Northern Iraq, there is the Kurdish Opposition Government, which is a secular government, as we've discussed, opposed to Saddam Hussein. However in a small pocket of northwestern Iraq, which borders with Iran, there is a large area, which is mostly described as fundamentalist Islamic territory. In these villages, in these areas, there are people who are attuned to the Taliban from Afghanistan. They have been enforced strict Islamic lifestyles, imposing Shariah Law on the areas in the villages that they control.
These people are vehemently opposed to the Kurdish government, which is considered secular and to be non-Islamic, and therefore, being infidels as much as from the west are deemed infidels. Their intentions are to destroy the government of the Kurds, and to wreak as much havoc as they can upon western interests. These men are backed by al Qaeda and it is hardly suspected that they have either been developing chemical weapons of some sort or they have been experiencing with them.
ZAHN: Michael, you just described in great detail how a foreign journalist was lost in the suicide bombing. How is that going to affect those of you that remain in that territory and how you approach your jobs?
WARE: Well, obviously, it's very disturbing and disconcerting. However, we have known about a specific threat against western journalists for over a month now. On February 26, there was another suicide bombing by the same groups of Islamic militants in roughly the same area, near the town of Halahjah (ph) where the front line of these terrorists is based. When they sent their last suicide bomber behind the lines to attack civilian and militant targets, we learned at that time, that there were other threats of suicide bombers, which were targeting not only security and intelligence facilities in Northern Iraq, but were also specifically targeting western journalists and the hotel where most of the journalists principally stay known as the Sulaimaniya Palace.
What followed some weeks after this was a security warning from the U.S. government to a number of the news organizations that a direct threat had been picked up, an intelligence material targeting the western journalists. As a result, a number of people pulled out of this region of Northern Iraq, others simply pulled out of the city, and took up residence in the surrounding districts. Apart of doing these things, apart from pulling out all altogether, however, there's not much the journalists can do. One must be completely aware of one's personal security. You have to keep your eyes in the back of your head at all times. It has best to maintain a low profile as you move around and to avoid large groups. There are specific threats against the journalists here.
ZAHN: Well, we wish you safety and thank you for sharing your insights with us. Mike Ware of "TIME" magazine.
Back now to Judy now in Washington. A pretty vivid account of yet another journalist lost in the line of duty, -- their line of duty, which is covering the news -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Vivid indeed, Paula. And every time we hear about one of these casualties, whether it's a soldier, a sailor or whoever or a journalist, it gives us pause. The administration, President Bush, has clearly tried to prepare the American people for that. But still when we hear of it, we reflect on the sacrifice of these very brave individuals.
Even as the president thanks and mourns those who are lost, plans, progress for this war go forward. Today, the president said, "This will not be a campaign of half measures." The president saying this as he watched -- oversaw the administration of this war from Camp David, the retreat in Maryland very close to Washington. Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux joins us now.
Suzanne, we know the president is away at Camp David for the weekend, but very much following what's going on.
MALVEAUX: Absolutely, Judy. And you may hear some choppers overhead, that's because there's an anti-war protest that is taking place across from the White House. What is significance about this is the incredible police presence. We are seeing Secret Service, the U.S. Park Police, D.C. Police. You have law enforcement officials on foot, on horseback, those who are riot gear, but this has been a peaceful demonstration and they would like to keep it that way.
The president is actually at Camp David, as you had mentioned. He met earlier with his full war council. They're at Camp David, including Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice as well as the head of the CIA, chairman of the joints chiefs of staff, among many others to go over the intelligence, to go over the assessment of the military and the diplomatic efforts in this initial phase of the bombing campaign.
One thing that they are focusing on in that meeting, we are told, is really the efforts to try to get those Iraqi soldiers, particularly those from the Republican Guard to give up their weapons, to surrender. It's still a big question whether or not that will happen in Central Baghdad.
And the president also put in a call to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. They spoke for about 30 minutes to talk about the progress on the war as well as the humanitarian effort. And the president again trying to sell this war to the American people in his weekly radio address, saying -- outlining that the United States is not alone in its efforts, that there are more than 40 countries that are involved in this war in some capacity, that the administration is trying to do everything it possibly can to prevent civilian casualties. And also, the president giving a warning, however, that this just the initial phase of this campaign. Americans should not be overoptimistic, that there are days and weeks, tough weeks, ahead -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Confidence and yet reminders it's going to take a while. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House and now back to Paula.
ZAHN: Thanks, Judy.
Anti-war protests continue for a third day around the world. Rallies and demonstrations were held today in major cities from Jakarta to Tokyo to London. In the United States, this first weekend of spring is drawing crowds both against the war and in support of the troops. Let's check in now with our own troops. CNN's Brian Cabell is in Atlanta. Jeff Flock is in downtown Chicago. There's Brian. And Jeff is someplace in the middle of two conflicting marches, one in favor of the war, one against.
And there is Maria Hinojosa smack-dab in the middle of New York's Herald Square. There they are, our trio. And let's start with Maria. She describes what is believed to be what, a two-mile long twist of protesters?
HINOJOSA: Actually, Paula, they have now been marching for well over two hours. We are hearing now that this demonstration is over 100,000 people. We're also hearing that, so far, our last report, no arrests at all, which is pretty extraordinary for a demonstration this large and a city this large that we have had no arrests.
A very diverse group of people. I don't know if you can see right there in front of you. These are some people who used to work at the World Trade Center, who say that they are against this war. Some others were holding their large signs. Many of them very angry, Paula, at the media, actually. Just a lot of people saying how come you haven't been putting our stories on the air?
Now, you are a demonstrator. You are from a religious organization. What's your feeling about this demonstration today here? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Christians, we believe Jesus when he says it's those who show mercy and the peacemakers who will be blessed and will be called the children of God. And my sign here says that children are crying. We believe it's immoral -- as all of the leaders of the major religions have said, it's immoral to drop bombs near women and children and innocent people.
HINOJOSA: OK, let me get a different perspective now. Sir, I stopped you because I just asked you when I first stopped you if you had been to a lot of demonstrations in your time. Have you, in fact, and if this is new for you, why are taking to the streets at this moment in history?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we went to the Washington March on January 13, was it? Yes, and now, we're here. And that's it for us, but we'll continue to do whenever they start to demonstrate again.
HINOJOSA: So you're not an old-time activist?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
HINOJOSA: What brought you out to the streets now at this moment in history?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm 72 years old. I've lived in this country and I've never quite seen anything like this before, and I think it's time to just get out and do something even if it's just being here.
HINOJOSA: But, you know, there are some people who are going to say, "Look, the troops are on the ground right now" and to see people out on the streets may be demoralizing. Some people are saying this is not patriotic. You say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that bringing the troops home would be a very patriotic act. I think that war is an act of murder. I think that peace is an act of love. And I don't really see it as such a tough decision.
HINOJOSA: Thank you very much. So there you have it, a real sense of the broadness of New Yorkers who have come out to the streets. Again, we are hearing over 100,000 people. No arrests. So far calm. The weather is pretty wonderful. But I know that they're making their way down to Washington Square Park and they're being told then to disband there. Whether or not they're going to do that is going to be unclear. It's a very loud and very (UNINTELLIGIBLE), very angry group. Let's go see what's happening in Chicago now with Jeff Flock.
FLOCK: Maria, hi. An extraordinary day in Chicago because we are getting democracy playing out in full of flower here. We've got both sides represented. I am, myself, in the midst a rally in support of the troops. This gentleman here says -- well, you're for the president. I hear you, sir.
On this side is the -- those supporting the war. On the other side, you see some folks anti-war. And I think they've been remarkably respectful to each other, is my read of it thus far. They're supported by -- or they're separated by about 50, 60 feet, as well as some police officers who are doing their best to keep it all together. I want to ask this young lady, why are you here today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here to support troops and God bless America.
FLOCK: I've got to ask you; we're looking over on the other side as well. We've got both sides sort of represented here today. Do you feel these folks are unpatriotic by demonstrating against the war when soldiers are on in the field?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think they are being unpatriotic. I think they're like -- we're here for every right. Everyone has an opinion. And I'm just one person going for the troops with all these people and we're here for democracy.
FLOCK: Right. And are you surprised to see this all playing out? What's it like to be part of this -- both -- you know, both sides out here in the midst of the city and speaking their peace?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm glad to be Americans. This is what we are here for.
FLOCK: I hear you. I hear you on that. Ma'am, I appreciate it so much. We'll let you go back. Thanks so much for your time.
As perhaps you can see what I'm surrounded by. There's some amazing signs here. "I'm so French, I hate myself," says this gentleman here. Spirit of '76. And so, there you go, some flavor of this -- both those supporting military action as well as those off to the other side. And now, we know that Maria's talked to a number of them now.
So that's the latest from Chicago. We want to move now on to the south. Brian Cabell, my colleague, is down there, and if he's -- anything like it is here, Brian, you're almost not going to able to hear me. But to the extent that you can, go ahead and take it away.
CABELL: Jeff, our timing has not been impeccable here. The demonstrators about 100,000 strong were here in front of the CNN Center about four minutes ago. They have disappeared down the streets. You can see perhaps some of police down there. As I say, about 1,000 here today. There were a few hundred yesterday. There were about 600 or 700 the day before. Three days in a row. No problems with police today. They had a parade permit.
They came to CNN for reason in particular. They feel that CNN has been glorifying the war, running around-the-clock coverage. They also, of course, feel they would get some pretty coverage here, which they did. They marched for about a mile down the street over the last hour or so. No problems with police. Police were lining the streets, but again they had a parade permit. They had bullhorns. They were able to use those, which they were not able to use yesterday. And so, it was a peaceful march. It's still continuing in downtown Atlanta, but we expect no problems today.
Judy, Paula, back to you.
ZAHN: Thanks so much, Brian. And once again, it appears as though the largest protest going on right now is that one happening south of me, here in New York City where Maria Hinojosa just confirmed it's believed at least 100,000 people are marching. That's quite a bit more than was expected. The organizers said perhaps over 20,000. If that number is 100,000 that might come it a surprise to some of the law enforcement folks here.
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