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Strike on Iraq

Aired March 23, 2003 - 12:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Paula Zahn, let me bring it back to you. Obviously, the defense secretary clearly convinced it's only a matter of time before the U.S. and coalition forces get the job done in Iraq. How long, of course, he refuses to speculate.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's interesting you should mention that, because I was taking notes fast and furiously as you were interviewing Secretary Rumsfeld, and I counted over a half dozen references to that very fact.

And it makes you wonder -- and I'm going to share some of what he told you now -- about the secondary audience he may have out there, since this is being broadcast internationally.

He used some clear language: The regime is gone, it's over. It won't be there in a relative period of time. He went on to say, hope it will end soon. On another reference, he said the outcome is certain. The fourth reference I counted, no way to change the outcome.

And then there was a final reference when he talked about the very interesting question you asked him about, the ongoing contacts between American officials and (ph) maybe defectors with individual Iraqi units. And he made it clear that he thinks that is working right now.

So I was really struck by the repeated references to the fact that the regime will be gone. You couldn't miss that point in that interview, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right, Paula. There's no doubt the secretary of defense not only aware of the domestic U.S. audience he was addressing, the international community if you will, but specifically the fact that CNN, CNN International, are seen in Iraq itself, that he was clearly addressing leadership in Iraq, military leadership and political leadership, convincing them, "You could do this the easy way, if you will, or you could do it the hard way. If you do it the easy way, you might survive. If you do it the hard way, you won't survive."

And there was a clear effort on his part to convince the Iraqi military to lay down their weapons, to surrender if you will, and let the U.S., in effect, determine the next course of history for the Iraqi people.

ZAHN: I also thought he had an interesting response to your question when you asked if allied forces or coalition forces were using Turkish airspace. And his answer was that the coalition forces fly all over Iraq.

And I know that was a bit of a sensitivity earlier this morning, as he was walking out of one of the other Sunday morning show appearances, and he made it very clear that obviously they did not want Turkish troops crossing over into Iraq.

BLITZER: There's a clear sense we're getting from our embedded reporters, Gary Strieker, for example, who is aboard the USS Roosevelt in the eastern Mediterranean -- there are two U.S. aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean, the Truman and the Roosevelt.

And he made it clear based on the briefings he's received there, Paula, that U.S. warplanes are not flying over Turkish airspace as they leave those carriers. They're flying over other airspace to go on their bombing missions toward Iraq.

So the whole Turkish issue is obviously a very, very sensitive issue. Great disappointment in the Bush administration that the Turkish government, A, didn't allow 62,000 U.S. ground forces to be staged in Turkey to move into northern Iraq and, B, that it's taken them so long to permit airspace to be used and, C, this concern that the Turkish military might unilaterally go in, a source of concern given the animosity between the Kurds in the northern part of Iraq and the Turks.

These are very, very complex issues, and the secretary clearly wants to stay above that a little bit, at least as much as he can.

ZAHN: Wolf, there was another question I think we learned something new from today. When you asked him about what kind of contact was, indeed, taking place with individual members of Iraqi units, and he said they communicate in a variety of ways.

But it's the first time I've heard -- and maybe you've heard this before, but I have not -- where he said that this was not taking place at the leadership level but on a lower level, unit to unit. And he said it had been successful so far with some of those Iraqi soldiers deciding, in his words, to do the right thing and lay down their arms.

BLITZER: There's been incredible contact, Paula, not only since the actual war started but going back weeks, perhaps months, U.S. special operations forces sometimes working with Iraqi opposition groups. They've had, for example, phone numbers of Iraqi senior officers, their cell phones, their hard lines. And they've communicated directly, not only on the phone but also they've had e- mails.

They basically say to them in Arabic, "Look, the United States is coming. You're going to die unless you give up right now. Is it worth it to die for Saddam Hussein, who himself is going to die himself," if you will. And they've been trying to rattle the Iraqi military leadership with these kinds of contacts which have only intensified, I'm told, in recent days as the U.S. tries to end this relatively quickly. Now, there's no guarantee any of that is going to work. And you heard the defense secretary himself say they fully anticipate as the U.S. and coalition forces move closer toward Baghdad and Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's home town, which is very strongly defended by the special Republican Guard, they anticipate the fighting is going to get a lot more intense than it's been so far.

ZAHN: The other message I heard loud and clear was the message that Secretary Rumsfeld gave you when he said this is not an attack on Iraq, this is an attack on the Iraqi regime.

And he went on to talk about the care that has been taken in the targeting of weapons, and he called it breathtaking.

It's interesting, because we were listening to a briefing by the Royal Air Force this morning, and they actually broke down statistically how in Desert Storm just 10 percent of the weapons used had this level of precision. This time around, they're saying some 90 percent.

Which I might explain, Wolf -- I don't think you've seen some of these accounts in newspapers across the country today -- how calmly some Iraqis were actually watching this barrage of fire the first night of shock and awe because they had confidence in the precision level of these weapons.

BLITZER: But having said that, Paula, we can't forget that occasionally, even as precise as these JDAMs, these satellite-guided bombs, the Tomahawk Cruise missiles, as precise as they are, occasionally some of them do go off course, they go astray, and they could cause significant civilian casualties.

We don't know if that's been the case. There's been no formal bomb-damage assessment that we've seen, and certainly we have not had the access in Baghdad itself, let alone other cities in Iraq, to go out and take a look, see how much of damage there's been to civilian neighborhoods, for example.

But these weapons, the JDAMs, the joint direct attack munitions, and the other sophisticated precision-guided bombs, they're very, very accurate, although they're not perfect. They're still mechanical, and they still can make mistakes.

ZAHN: Before we let you go, Wolf, the other thing that I heard, that I don't think I've heard so far yet today was Secretary Rumsfeld saying that they are moving ahead of plans. Did that strike you?

Because we've really been trying to assess, you know, once you go beyond them saying the campaign so far -- the air and ground campaign is successful, just an actual time line, where he said, indeed, this is moving ahead of plan.

BLITZER: It certainly appears to be the case. They're moving very, very rapidly. Before I did the interview with the defense secretary, I was told by a source here in Kuwait, a reliable source, that U.S. forces may be as close as 100 miles, 100 miles outside of Baghdad. There's about a 300-mile distance between Kuwait and Baghdad, so they're moving pretty quickly. They're moving rapidly.

They're going to be slowed down, presumably, as they get closer to Baghdad and elsewhere where the fortifications are much more intense. But the cavalry is moving, the infantry they're moving, the Marines, the British Marines, they're moving rather rapidly.

They are meeting pockets of resistance, and those pockets could be quite intense and, obviously, quite dangerous.

We don't know the circumstances that surround the capture, for example, of these American POWs now that have been paraded out in front of Iraqi television with Al-Jazeera broadcasting those images. I've seen those images here. I was watching Al-Jazeera when they aired live about an hour or so ago, and I have to tell you they're very haunting, extremely disturbing, not pleasant. And certainly I can understand why the defense secretary doesn't want those pictures to be shown on worldwide television.

ZAHN: In fact, in your interview with him, he said U.S. soldier -- he wasn't sure that the U.S. soldiers unaccounted for were actually the individuals on this tape.

Wolf, I've got a lot more to ask you, but we want to call your attention to the screen in Baghdad. It was just about an hour ago that we covered live about a three- or four-minute barrage of anti- aircraft fire. We didn't hear any siren sound, and we did not hear any explosions. We're going to keep an eye on that.

And also share with you one more thing. Secretary Rumsfeld just told Wolf what I thought was interesting when Wolf asked him about, how do you know you're not going to hit innocent civilians, and he said as he watched that campaign unfold on television -- he wasn't referring to which night, though -- he said you feel your heart break and, you know, sometimes there is unintended loss of life.


BLITZER: You know, there's no doubt that this is the most difficult part, not only for someone like the defense secretary, the president of the United States, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Tommy Franks -- they know, they know very, very well that some of those bombs are going to kill innocent civilians -- men, women and children.

Those aviators, for example, who have to push those buttons and launch those missiles, fire those weapons, they also know that some of those weapons are going to kill innocent civilians. They know some of the targets are relatively close to civilian areas where there are mosques or hospitals or schools or apartment buildings, residential areas.

This is one of the dangers, obviously, going into war. They do this -- I've spoken with some of these aviators over the years, for example, some of these commanders. They're not happy about it. They're very disturbed about it. But they do it anyway because their bottom line conclusion is that if they don't do it, someone else will do that to them.

Paula, I want to go to Gary Tuchman. He's not far away from the Iraqi border at an air base, and he's joining us now. He's one of those embedded journalists who have been so helpful to us in getting information from the front lines.

Gary, tell us what's going on right now?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think you're saying my name, and the reason I can't hear you saying it right now is we do have a war plane passing over us right now taking off on the runway heading in the direction right now of Iraq.

We do come to you from a base where we can't say the exact location (OFF-MIKE). What I've learned from standing here while these planes pass overhead is I better stop talking or you'll never hear me.

We come to you from a base -- we can't say the exact location under Pentagon rules. We can tell you this is one of the busiest bases in the theater. 550 sorties in the last 48 hours total at all the air bases in at least 38 different locations throughout the world, 3,500. That gives you an idea. One-sixth or one-seventh of the total sorties come from this base that we're standing at right now.

And standing with me right now is the wing commander, the man in charge of this base where we're standing, Colonel Tom Jones.

Colonel Jones, thanks for joining us.

COL. TOM JONES, WING COMMANDER: You're welcome, Gary.

TUCHMAN: First of all, you're in charge of all the aircraft here; the A-10s, the F-16s, the Marine aircraft. The Brits, the Australians are here in addition to that. How are things going so far here?

JONES: They're going wonderfully. Everybody's working very well together. It's a very busy airfield. And I won't tell you we haven't had problems, but those that we've had, we've been able to overcome very easily.

TUCHMAN: Which leads me to ask the next question. What kind of problems have you had that you didn't anticipate?

JONES: We've had problems with the massive influx of personnel. The personnel arrived here faster than we could get the base prepared for them. We're catching up, and we've made great strides in that regard.

As the combat operations have started, there's -- as could be expected -- some confusion, but we've worked it out very easily. Weapons are flowing now, fuel is flowing exactly as it should, and operations are good.

TUCHMAN: Did we expect it to be so busy at this point, more than 48 hours after the shock and awe began? JONES: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you.

TUCHMAN: Yes, it's a little loud here as we were saying. Did you expect it to be so, so busy at this point of shock and awe?

JONES: Yes, I did. This is a huge base. We're going to continue to fly a lot of sorties throughout the duration of the operation here, so I'm not surprised by the number of sorties we've flown.

TUCHMAN: Colonel Jones, you've flown on two missions yourself over the last two days, aboard F-16 fighters. Tell me where you went today.

JONES: I did. I flew both of them today. I was south of Baghdad on both sorties...

TUCHMAN: Is that an A-10 or an F-16?

JONES: F-18.

TUCHMAN: It's an F-18, which is a Marine aircraft.

JONES: That's correct.

TUCHMAN: Impressive. Being the wing commander, you can see at a high altitude what kind of plane it is at night time, that's pretty impressive. That you flew.

Right now here comes another aircraft. What's that?


TUCHMAN: You can see we're not kidding you when we say this is a very busy base. What kind of aircraft was that, by the way?

JONES: That's another F-18.

TUCHMAN: They usually fly out in twos, you know, twos and threes. They don't fly out by themselves.

You flew south of Baghdad. What were you doing?

JONES: I did. This morning the sortie was a leaflet drop. That was an IO sortie about 20 to 30 miles south of Baghdad.

TUCHMAN: What did the leaflet say?

JONES: I don't know.

TUCHMAN: And what was the second one?

JONES: The second sortie was a close air support sortie in support of the ground operations ongoing.

TUCHMAN: What did you drop along the way to support those ground operations?

JONES: I dropped bombs.

TUCHMAN: Well, what kind of...

JONES: LGBs, precision-guided bombs.

TUCHMAN: Do you, as the wing commander here, flying on missions, get scared while you're up there?

JONES: No, I don't know that -- there's a nervousness, an anticipation, but I think everybody has trained very well for this mission. From all services.

So I wouldn't call it fear at all. I'd call it a guarded preparation, where we're ready for what goes on up there.

TUCHMAN: Final question I want to ask you. Our correspondent Walter Rodgers is reporting that there have been sightings of Iraqi soldiers taking women and children to be human shields, and that you can see from the air. Have you seen anything like that from the air?

JONES: I have not seen that from the air, no.

TUCHMAN: I want to thank you very much for joining us, Colonel.

JONES: You're welcome, Gary. Thanks for being here.

TUCHMAN: Thanks for talking with us.

We also want to mention to you another aircraft that is here at this particular base. Our helicopters called HH-60s, they're Jollies, that's their nickname, and they're used for search and rescue missions. There were three search and rescue missions earlier this morning Persian Gulf time. However, authorities at this particular base are not releasing information about why those search and rescue missions took place.

We can tell you that at around the same time there was a British Tornado jet that went missing. British defense officials are telling us that British Tornado jet was shot down by a Patriot missile. This is coming from the British defense officials, and that is a tragedy, of course, because Patriot missiles are used to shoot down Iraqi missiles that come in, but apparently this particular Patriot missile accidentally shot down the British Tornado jet. There are two pilots who are missing.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Gary Tuchman, he's at an air base not far from Iraq, here in the Persian Gulf. Thanks very much for that report.

Walter Rodgers is standing by. He's one of our other embedded journalists. He's now in Iraq with the 7th Cavalry, a U.S. Army division.

Walter, what are you seeing, what are you hearing?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we're seeing with the 7th Cavalry is fires along the horizon in the distance. The 7th Cavalry has pulled back somewhat from our original line. The reason being that earlier this afternoon, we took a very tight pattern of artillery from the Iraqi units ahead of us.

That was a brigade-size unit, at one point, and some of the units pulled back. The rest of us went forward. Now, we've pulled back.

After that incoming artillery barrage, the Air Force came in and dropped bombs, they made run after run on the suspected Iraqi artillery positions. We could see the sky illuminating with these big fireballs about dusk, but it's questionable how effective these A-10s were. The Iraqis were firing shoulder-fired missiles at them, heat- seeking missiles, and the A-10s could not come down as low as they would like to in an optimum bombing run, and they had to stay high and release flares behind themselves to deflect any heat-seeking missiles.

So a bit of a stalemate here at this point. The 7th probably should have been further up the road tonight, but it appears to the commanders here that the Iraqis are trying to draw them into a trap, so at this point the 7th is standing off.


BLITZER: Walter, you reported a little while ago, earlier today about these human shields. There's evidence that the Iraqis are placing so-called "human shields" at various sensitive sites. What can you tell our viewers about that now?

RODGERS: Senior U.S. military officials, senior officers with the 7th Cavalry had called in a bombing run on an area where the Iraqis had entrenched themselves, not too far out in front of us, perhaps less than a mile.

At the last minute, they canceled that bombing run because their forward observers, that is, the Army's forward observers, saw the Iraqis herding women and children, according to the senior Army official here, a senior officer, said they saw the Iraqis herding women and children into the military emplacements that the Iraqis had been holding for some time.

Now, we're given to believe this is not the Iraqi Army, the regular soldiers out in front of us. We're told they would like to surrender, or that's the word getting back to the senior officials of the 7th Cavalry.

The problem is that there are Fedayeen units who've taken over the command. Fedayeen are the elite of the elite of Saddam's soldiers, higher than even the Republican Guard, and they apparently are running the defense of this particular city in south-central Iraq.

They are the ones who have given the orders to take human shields, and they are the ones who are, who have been ordering artillery out on these U.S. positions to the south. Wolf?

BLITZER: I assume, Walter, that seeing those human shields, those innocent Iraqi men, women and children being brought to that location, gave the 7th Cavalry commanders some pause and they decided not to launch munitions against those targets?

RODGERS: That's true, Wolf. What happened, of course, was they had a close air cover support called in. That is, Air Force planes were about to make a bombing run upon the Iraqi positions when the forward observers said, "No, scrub this mission. Don't bring those bombs in because we can see them herding women and children into the lines where the Iraqi soldiers are."

So that mission was scrubbed, and later in the afternoon, to try to decapitate the Iraqi command in the town ahead of us, they called in yet another air strike, and that particular air strike was led by a Kiowa helicopter.

It fired a Hellfire missile at the Ba'ath Party headquarters, which is also the intelligence headquarters in the areas out in front of us where we could see this big illumination.

The Hellfire roared in, it hit a four-story building, again the Ba'ath Party, the Iraqi Ba'ath Party headquarters which, as I say, serves, doubles as an intelligence headquarters here.

And then when the Air Force jet saw where the Hellfire missiles landed, they roared in and put in at least one precision-guided bomb. We can't tell you the state of the damage to that building, but there was a heck of an illumination in the sky. Wolf?

BLITZER: Walter Rodgers, he's with the 7th Cavalry in south- central Iraq, we can't be more precise than that, doing some excellent reporting for us.

Walter, thank you very much.

This important note for our viewers around the world, in about 90 minutes or so from now, a little bit more than 90 minutes from now, 2:00 p.m. on the East Coast of the United States, there will be a briefing at the Central Command.

General Tommy Franks' headquarters outside of Doha in Qatar, the Central Command will have a daily briefing on what's going on in the war. CNN, of course, will have live coverage, as will CNN International. Paula?

ZAHN: Lots of news, Wolf, coming out of your interview with Secretary Rumsfeld that you started about 45 minutes ago. He confirmed the fact that American soldiers are now being held as prisoners of war in Iraq.

The Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera has been running footage from Iraqi TV apparently with some interviews with the captured Americans, including a female soldier. Now, when Wolf asked the secretary about this tape, he said it is against, or it is a violation, of the Geneva Convention not only to take pictures of the prisoners, but to humiliate them. And he said it would be unfortunate if television networks aired them.

Let's check in with Barbara Starr, who has the very latest on the grim process of letting these soldiers' families know that some of their own have either been captured or, in some cases, killed.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Paula, let's walk through what we do know from here at the Pentagon. Apparently, earlier today, an Army maintenance unit was moving through south central Iraq. Somehow they strayed from their position and encountered Iraqi military forces. A fire-fight ensued. We can tell you that some U.S. soldiers were killed. Some, indeed, captured -- now being held by the Iraqis.

Now, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has expressed some concern, as you said, about this tape, this Iraqi tape, which is being broadcast by the Arab channel Al Jazeera. Here's some of what the Secretary had to say about it.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There have been prisoners taken in every war since the beginning of mankind. We treat our prisoners well. We have over 2,000 Iraqi prisoners of war at the present time. They're in POW camps that have been brought along. They're being fed. They're being provided medicine, where it's appropriate and needed.


STARR: Now, Paula, let's talk a little bit about what's on that tape, which has been seen here at the Pentagon, but which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has expressed so much concern about.

It shows four American soldiers, the Iraqis interrogating them. The first soldier appears to be confused, unable to respond to the questions. The second soldier is asked his name. He responds that his name is Edgar. He is asked his hometown. He says it is Texas.

There is a third soldier. He is wearing a helmet. He is -- gives his name in full. We will only tell you his first name. It is James. He is asked his hometown. He says it's New Jersey.

And then there is a woman. She is asked, she says her name is Shawna. She says her hometown is Texas. The camera pans down to her feet. They appear to be wounded. There are some bandages down there. Now, officials here say, based on the identifications, they believe they are able to make, of these four soldiers, they are beginning urgently to try and notify their families. Paula?

ZAHN: Tell us a little bit more of their reaction that you heard when the knowledge of this tape and the taking of these prisoners of war became public.

STARR: The Pentagon is very sensitive to this issue. The question of POWs, of course -- first and foremost, a humanitarian issue for the families who may be seeing this on television -- very much immediate concern about American television networks broadcasting the identities of any of these people before the military can get to them through family assistance programs and notify the families about what they do know about the status of their loved ones.

There are also soldiers that were killed in this encounter, perhaps, and they want to try to figure out who these people are -- also notify their families.

So first and foremost, a humanitarian issue at this time. That is what they are dealing with here at the moment.

Whether or not it develops into a political issue for the Bush administration remains to be seen in the hours ahead. Paula?

ZAHN: Barbara Starr, thank you so much. Back to Wolf now.

Wolf, I thought it was really interesting when you were talking to Secretary Rumsfeld about what we watched unfold on live television this morning when we saw Iraqi troops shooting into the Tigris River when they claimed to be looking for downed American pilots.

Secretary Rumsfeld told you, basically, that he didn't know anything about that river, and yet, in an earlier morning appearance, he said it had been suggested to him by some that perhaps this whole thing was staged.

So I don't know what kind of information you're getting from that, but that's a shot that we spent a lot of time trying to analyze this morning.

Of course, as you have mentioned, American and British officials said that every one of their planes is accounted for.

BLITZER: I've heard that now repeatedly over the past couple hours, Paula -- not only directly from the defense secretary in the interview, but earlier, from other military commanders here on the scene. They say all U.S. and coalition aircraft are accounted for.

There was that tragic incident, the RAF Tornado that apparently was shot down by a Patriot air defense missile in northern Kuwait. There have been these helicopter crashes that we've reported on over the past 48 hours.

But as far as all U.S. and British warplanes returning safely to their bases, the defense secretary and other senior military officers insist that has been the case.

We have another embedded journalist, CNN's Alessio Vinci. He is up with U.S. troops, not far away from An Nasiriyah.

Alessio, tell us what's happening in the effort to secure that key town on the road to Baghdad.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you, first of all, following up on the report that just -- Barbara Starr had just delivered from the Pentagon. Well, this morning, when we arrived in the southern bridges of An Nasiriyah, we did indeed see the aftermath of that ambush involving a military convoy bringing up supplies up to the fighting forces in the northern part of the country.

And, indeed, the aftermath of that attack appeared to be one of a violent battle between those U.S. military forces inside the convoy and Iraqi forces attacking them.

We saw the truck with bullet holes in all the windows, most of the tires were flattened by bullets. And we saw, again, the aftermath of a very intense battle.

As our convoy progressed into An Nasiriyah, we had first encountered small-armed fire resistance, which the U.S. military forces that I am embedded with answered back using heavy machine guns and grenades.

But then one of the units came under direct attack by Iraqi forces, and at least one amphibious vehicle, some sort of armored personnel carrier that the Marines are using here to transport their infantry troops, well, that Amtrak (ph), as they call it here, came under direct fire and took a direct hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, setting it on fire and unfortunately killing all the people who were on board.

I am still unable to confirm the exact number of casualties. Commanders here are even trying to still go through the list of their own Marines here to make sure that everybody is accounted for and those who are missing, still trying to figure out who is missing and their names and stuff like that.

This happened several hours ago, but it is now dark here, and the various units are trying to regroup. Eyewitnesses, however, reports from journalists who were at the time of the attack at the scene embedded with a specific unit are telling me that at least 10 Marines have been killed, could have been killed, in that attack.


BLITZER: Alessio, is it your understanding that those U.S. soldiers who were seen on Al-Jazeera, on Iraqi television, and Al- Jazeera rebroadcasted Iraqi television video, that they were taken captive in a battle near Nasiriyah where you are?

VINCI: It is my understanding, Wolf, because what happened earlier this morning before this latest firefight took place when the Marines were killed in their Amtrak (ph), we came across the aftermath of an ambush of a supply convoy. It was clear that it was a supply convoy because we did not see any military type of vehicle in terms of no tanks or no ATCs. These were (inaudible). They're carrying heavy boxes, fuel, water, all the logistical support for the U.S. forces fighting with the U.S. infantry up in the north. And we were asked, as a matter of fact, by our commander here to withhold information that there were some U.S. military personnel held captive early this morning until the Pentagon could confirm the information.

Now, as you can imagine communication out here on the ground is very difficult, and I've just heard Barbara Starr reporting, indeed, the Pentagon confirmation that that attack has taken place. So it is quite easy for me to put the two together because, indeed, that appears to be the attack Barbara is referring to. And as a matter of fact, it appears that those captive soldiers or members of the U.S. military could have been taken, captured just on the southern bridge of An Nasiriyah.

BLITZER: Very briefly, before I let you go, Allesio, what's the status of Nasiriyah right now? It seems a little bit confusing whether the U.S. and coalition forces have control, have entered the city, have not. What's the status?

VINCI: Well, Wolf, I cannot go into the specifics about the military operation at this time in An Nasiriyah. I can tell you it is still ongoing. But at this time I cannot go into the details about what the plans of the U.S. military are for the next 24 to 36 hours, nor I can tell you whether there are still U.S. forces in An Nasiriyah at this time.

These are all part of operational security, and we do have very strict rules here under which we have to abide for, and therefore, I cannot give you that information right now.

BLITZER: All right. That's fair enough. Alessio Vinci, our correspondent, one of our embedded journalists with U.S. forces moving into south central Iraq. Alessio, thanks very much. Please be careful. We'll be checking back with you very often.

Paula, as you know, and as our viewers I think now know, there are certain ground rules these embedded journalists have to adhere to. There are some 500 of them from international news organizations, not just U.S. news organizations.

They're bringing us frontline reports, very amazing reporting going on. They're only getting what they can actually see but there are also serious restrictions on what they can report and we have to honor those guidelines.


ZAHN: Thanks so much, Wolf. And I don't know whether I heard this clearly, but I think I did when Alessio Vinci reported to you that it is his belief potentially some of those American troops that have gone missing came possibly from a bridge not far from Nasiriyah.

So I want to quickly bring you up to date on the fact that the president was informed of this earlier today. Although he has remained out of sight at Camp David, he had two briefings -- one with Cabinet members, we are told, one with the CIA, and he was made aware of this fact.

Let's go to CNN Center, where Renay San Miguel is standing by to give us better insights as to what stage this rolling campaign may hit next.


RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Paula. One of our CNN military analysts, retired Army General David Grange, has some unique experience with the POW situation.

General, you were in charge of a division where three soldiers were taken captive during the Kosovo campaign in the spring of 1999. Talk a little bit about that. What was that situation?

GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Three of our soldiers were taken prisoner in Macedonia during the Kosovo campaign and taken into Serbia, and were held for a while until eventually they were released.

SAN MIGUEL: And so tell me, what kind of contact did you have with the Serbian army, reminding them about the Geneva Convention rules that have been mentioned by Secretary Rumsfeld?

GRANGE: No direct contact. I believe the government had contact, and of course, you go through the International Red Cross, a third-party representative, in a situation like this. And then later on, I think, through the negotiations with members of the United States, then the three soldiers were released.

SAN MIGUEL: We have a graphic here. Secretary Rumsfeld was talking about the Geneva Convention, his objection to Al-Jazeera showing the pictures of this or to the Iraqi officials showing this.

General protection of prisoners of war, Article 13 of the Convention: "Prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity."

Do you believe that Secretary Rumsfeld's objections fit in with this particular article?

GRANGE: Absolutely. If you look at the difference between -- this is what, over 2,000 prisoners of war, Iraqis, taken by the coalition forces -- one they're captured, searched to make sure they don't have weapons, they are moved immediately to a rear area and a protective status, where they are sheltered, fed and given medical aid.

They are not put in a situation where microphones are shoved in their face, flaunted on worldwide television. Totally different approaches to how you're supposed to take care of prisoners of war. And this was, I think, a violation, like the secretary said.

SAN MIGUEL: We have a map of southern Iraq, which is the area where supposedly these captures took place.

But while we are showing that, I want to ask you, what is the training like for soldiers in the event they are taken prisoner?

GRANGE: The training for soldiers in case they are taken prisoner is different levels. And some soldiers get more extensive training than others, and I probably should just leave it at that.

SAN MIGUEL: OK. But, you know, the soldiers are prepared for this event. I have to ask you, though, about the morale once word of this gets out. You combine this, the POW situation, with what happened at Camp Pennsylvania also, with one American soldier accused of turning on his own unit and possibly killing one of his own, what does that do? What could that do to the morale of the soldiers?

GRANGE: I think the morale issue, when it has to do with prisoners of war, I think right now -- and I just go back to how I felt and my chain of command felt -- is that this will actually strengthen the resolve of the coalition forces to complete their mission, even with more dedication than it has been the last three or four days.

SAN MIGUEL: Our Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr reported that apparently these troops were away from -- somehow managed to stray into an area where, as it was said, they should not have been. How could that happen in this particular situation, do you think?

GRANGE: Very confusing battlefield. You have combat troops, you have support troops. You have troops in between. They're moving back and forth with fuel, with ammunition, with repair parts, moving prisoners, taking care of displaced people, civilians on the battlefield. It may be nighttime. It gets very confusing. It's hard to navigate in a lot of this terrain.

SAN MIGUEL: Where do you think the pace of the war goes from here, now that we have this situation with prisoners of war on both sides of the conflict?

GRANGE: Two things, I believe. One is that the pace, I think, may pick up a bit. And I say that because extraordinary measures have been taken to regulate the amount of damage, hoping that the majority of the Iraqi forces will surrender or just turn down and put down their arms and move back to their garrisons or their home. And I think it's very important now that if that doesn't work, you'll see an increase in pressure to do so.

SAN MIGUEL: We have heard reports about the human shields, about Alessio Vinci and Walter Rodgers, actually -- he is one of the embedded journalists -- with the 7th Cavalry. Apparently there are human shields being involved here.

Let's talk about the Fedayeen Saddam, the men of sacrifice, here. We have a graphic showing exactly what that's about.

Keeping the regular Iraqi army from, what we understand from surrendering, which is what, apparently, they want to do and also gathering women and children near them.

GRANGE: Yeah, it just goes to show the different types of forces here. I think there's some Iraqi military organizations in the Iraqi army that want to fight as soldiers. And then I think you have the extreme, the thugs that, you know, violate the rule of land warfare and force others to do certain things.

And it really is -- it goes back also to the treatment of prisoners. It disturbed me that in a situation that these prisoners were shown on television.

However, what the positive aspect of this is that the world has seen American prisoners in a certain condition on worldwide television, and expects that they would be treated according to the Geneva Convention and returned in that same condition or better than we saw on television already today.

SAN MIGUEL: General David Grange, thank you for your insight.

Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: And we have more on that story, Rene, from the Pentagon. Earlier today, the Pentagon said that fewer than 10 of its troops were missing.

Shortly after that, CNN received the first pictures of American soldiers killed and captured in action in Iraq. The pictures were transmitted by Al-Jazeera, the Arab-language satellite network, the video was shot by state-run Iraq TV.

We want to let the audience know that the pictures and interviews are disturbing. CNN has made a decision not to show the video of those killed and will instead use this single image with no identifiable features.

In other images it was apparent some soldiers had been shot, some of them in their forehead. We do not know their identities.

Five other soldiers were also interviewed, and each gave their name and home town in the United States. The Pentagon tells CNN that it is notifying the families of those captured and those who were killed.

U.S. Central Command or CENTCOM in Qatar, or Qatar, that is, has announced a briefing at 2:00 p.m. Eastern today. We will carry that live. Again, that's coming up at 2:00 Eastern, 10:00 p.m. in Qatar and Baghdad, their time.

Still to some on this special edition of Late Edition, "War in Iraq," a growing number of families are fleeing their homes in northern Iraq. We will go live to the area where they are taking refuge. Plus, more Americans take to the streets today to make their voices heard about the war in Iraq. We're live from New York City, and we've got continuous live pictures in Baghdad.

When we come to that picture you will see there it appears to be quiet. At about 11:10 a.m. Eastern time we saw a three- or four- minute barrage of anti-aircraft fire. No sirens went off. No signs of explosions. It has been quiet since then.

We're back in 60 seconds.


ZAHN: Welcome back.

The U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is still encamped in Kuwait where today it endured a bizarre and deadly attack apparently by one of its own.

An Army engineer is in custody today after allegedly throwing two or more hand grenades into his comrades' tents. One GI was killed, a dozen others wounded, some of them seriously. The suspect was later found hiding in a bunker, and by one account now is answering interrogators' questions. Any motive remains a mystery at this hour. Now that attack is the last sort of threat the 101st Airborne's spouses and parents and children and friends had been worrying about back at Fort Campbell.

Let's check in with David Mattingly, who is there. David, what has the reaction been to this?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, this is the first Sunday since the war began and pastors all over this area, all around Fort Campbell, are offering special messages to the families of the 101st, and by all accounts, it looks like they need it today. Everyone I've talked to says they're dealing with all sorts of emotions today after the shock of what happened last night, particularly the emotion of betrayal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that's what a lot of people are feeling right now, is that sense of betrayal, and just a total sense of shock. You just don't expect someone who is suppose to be your battle buddy or your comrade and just to do something like that. You don't expect it ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just believe that the Lord God is around and about him and protects him from all harm, that no bad can come to him.


MATTINGLY: Very little information actually coming out of Fort Campbell today. Public information officers say they will hold a news briefing at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time today. At that time they expect to tell us the name of the suspect that is in custody and more details about him. We hope to also learn more about the information, as well as how the 101st is responding to last night's incident.

But for now, at this hour, it is a time of prayer for so many people around Fort Campbell. Here at the First Assembly of God people are coming in. So many military families here, very patriotic. The soldiers -- the families affected in last night's incident, very prominent in everyone's prayers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Lord, we ask you for all of our troops, who just guard them this morning, protect them. Lord, we don't know exactly where they're at. We don't know the battles that they might be involved in this morning, and Lord, we ask you to guard them, God. Lord, we ask you to encamp your angels of protection around them. Lord, would you just help them, God.


MATTINGLY: God Bless America and the Pledge of Allegiance, a very prominent part of the congregation's sermon here today. Today, after all that's happened, there is no separation of church and state here at Fort Campbell.


ZAHN: David, I know how seriously these families take their sense of patriotism and the commitment of their family members to the service. But, obviously, these families are under tremendous strain. You've had a chance to talk with a number of them. What else did they have to say?

MATTINGLY: Well, part of the claim to fame for the 101st is they are in a constant state of readiness, so they are constantly ready to go to war. Their spouses are constantly, in the back of their mind, preparing for all the bad things that might happen to their husbands. Something like this, this act of betrayal as they're calling it, is something they just cannot prepare for, and that's especially hard for them to deal with right now.

ZAHAN: David Mattingly, thanks so much.

George Heith (ph), who is a civilian spokesman for Fort Campbell, Kentucky, had this to say in one of the newspapers today: "Death is a tragic incident regardless of how it comes. But when it comes from a fellow comrade, it does even more to hurt morale.

Back to Wolf now in Kuwait City.


BLITZER: Thanks very much, Paula.

I want to go right back to Nasiriyah, that key town in south central Iraq where U.S. forces are approaching. We have another embedded journalist who's on the phone with us now, Sharon Schmickle, who's a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Sharon, tell our viewers what you're seeing, what you're doing. What can you tell us? SHARON SCHMICKLE, MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE: I can tell you that I'm with a shock trauma platoon that has taken in some casualties today from Nasiriyah. Two Marines were brought to the tent hospital here and they told us that they were riding in Nasiriyah in a light armored vehicle when they were hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. They said that one of the Marines in the vehicle died and that two were severely burned and were taken to a British burn unit.

The two who we saw had shrapnel wounds and facial burns. One had his eyebrows, eyelashes burned off, and face blistered.

The hospital here tells me now that they're expecting more patients to arrive from a different shock trauma platoon in the region that's been overwhelmed with serious casualties.

They also are expecting at least one Iraqi prisoner of war to come here for treatment tonight. It is night time here.

BLITZER: Sharon, are the casualties you're talking about U.S. casualties, coalition casualties...


BLITZER: ... and Iraqi casualties? Or are they all together?

SCHMICKLE: The first group that I was talking about are U.S. Marines, who were riding in a light armored vehicle. There is at least one Iraqi prisoner of war who is expected here for treatment tonight. And the other casualties that are at the neighboring shock trauma platoon, I have not seen yet, but I don't believe that they are U.S.

BLITZER: Sharon, do you know the circumstances the injuries, the casualties to the U.S. Marines, what the nature of the firefight, if you will, was?

SCHMICKLE: The Marines who came into the hospital today told me that they had been riding in their vehicle, that they were suddenly surprised by -- their vehicle had broken down somehow, and they were waiting for a tow vehicle to arrive. They were suddenly surprised by this hit from a rocket-propelled grenade.

They said there were Iraqi citizens, civilians in the vicinity who did not seem to be engaged in this battle. When they got out of their vehicle, they said that someone opened small arms fire on them, and they -- other Marines in the area returned fire with heavy machine guns.

BLITZER: One more question, Sharon, before I let you go, what can you tell us about the atmosphere, the sense of the danger, if you will, that's unfolding in Nasiriyah right now?

SCHMICKLE: I think that it was a bit of a surprise to the people who are here, because, when we came through the border into Iraq about, oh, 30 hours ago, there was little resistance along the way, and it was fairly peaceful. We weren't hearing gunfire here. We weren't hearing any signs of war, really.

And it was only about midday today that we began to pick up reports that there was this intense fight going on in An Nasiriyah.

BLITZER: Sharon Schmickle with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, one of the embedded journalists covering this war, be careful over there. Thanks very much for joining us.

We have reporters covering all aspects of this war, including of course in northern Iraq. That's where we find CNN's Ben Wedeman, he's joining us now live.

Ben, you're not that far away from key areas in the north. Mosul, in particular. Kirkuk. Tell us what's happening up in the north.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, we're about 28 miles to the east of Mosul, and it's been another evening of bombing in that northern city. bout an hour ago, we were watching some fairly intense anti-aircraft coming up from the city, from the north of the city as well, and apparently, according to Al Jazeera, there's more bombing under way, sirens going off just a little while ago.

Now, some interesting developments here on the front line, which is basically a kilometer and a half behind me, the front line between Kurdish and Iraqi forces is, throughout the day we've been seeing them digging mines, deepening their entrenches, also working on calibrating their mortars, their heavy machine guns, their anti-aircraft guns, as well.

One other development apparently, the United States has finally received the approval from the Turks for overflights into northern Iraq, and apparently U.S. forces have already begun to arrive in this area.


BLITZER: And the basic nature, more pummeling going on, more air strikes. Can you hear those as you have over these past several nights?

WEDEMAN: Yes, we did hear it, very loud thumps from the distance.

Unfortunately, when you're 28 miles away from the targets, it's very hard to tell exactly what's going on. All basically you can see are these flashes on the horizon, and just seconds later you hear the thumps of the impact, but it looks like another night, however, of pounding of that northern city.


BLITZER: All right, Ben Wedeman up in the north. Ben has been doing an outstanding job for us. Thanks, Ben, very much.

We now have a guest here in Kuwait City, Tamara Alrefi (ph) with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Tamara, thanks so much for joining us.

We're concerned, we're talking about POWs, which, of course, is a major issue of concern for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

What can you tell us about what you've seen about these U.S. POWs who've now been paraded out on Iraqi television, Al-Jazeera rebroadcasting that videotape?

TAMARA ALREFI, INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS: What we have seen is obviously what everybody else has seen. Now, as being an organization that works in situations of conflict and that is concerned about the fate of the victims, all of them, so be it wounded people, prisoners of war or civilians, yes, we are as concerned as everybody else is, particularly that the laws are clear under International Humanitarian Law, the Law of Armed Conflict or the Geneva Conventions and particularly the third Geneva Convention related to the treatment of the prisoners of war.

BLITZER: Now, I just interviewed the defense secretary of the United States, Donald Rumsfeld, who said that what Iraqi TV did was a violation of the Geneva Conventions, parading POWs before television cameras. Is that your understanding of the Geneva Conventions?

ALREFI: Well, our understanding of the Geneva Conventions is about reading the articles of the Geneva Conventions, and obviously Article 13 refers specifically to such a situation. Because it says that POWs must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity. And any activity, any act that contradicts any article of the Geneva Convention is a violation.

BLITZER: What you saw on Al-Jazeera, the videotape of Iraqi television, was that a violation, in your opinion, of the Geneva Conventions governing prisoners of war?

ALREFI: What I saw, what we saw on Al-Jazeera is actually something we often referred back to journalists about. It is up to the journalists to have the ethics or not to show what happened.

Now, if we go back to the article I just told you about, then anything against this article is a violation.

BLITZER: Because the article, and I'll read it specifically. It says "You cannot have outrages against personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."

Was what we saw on Iraqi television, these American prisoners of war, these soldiers, including one female, was that in your opinion degrading treatment of these POWs?

ALREFI: Well, our concern is the concern of the ICRC and this article in particular, when it comes to publicly displaying prisoners of war, is a concern for their safety and the safety of their families. I mean, we do know that showing publicly prisoners could be detrimental to the safety of their family.

BLITZER: Are you in touch with the Iraqi government now in connection with these American POWs?

ALREFI: We are in constant contact with both parties, actually, and the fact that we -- the ICRC has sent out a memorandum at the outbreak of the (inaudible), reminding all the parties to the conflict of their obligations under the Geneva Conventions. All of them are signatory of the Geneva Conventions.

Now, in this aspect, these are POWs. This is a category of victims that falls under the mandate of the ICRC. So the answer is we are going to activate our mandate. We are going to get in touch with the authorities concerned, yes.

BLITZER: The Reuters News Agency is reporting even as we speak right now that there is a statement coming out of the Iraqi government, they will treat these American soldiers, these prisoners of war according to the Geneva Conventions, which, if that's going to happen that would obviously be encouraging to the ICRC.

ALREFI: Well, this is exactly what the ICRC hopes for anyway. But this, again, is what we hope for from all parties detaining people, detaining people who are taken as part of the conflict. Yes, this is exactly what we hope for.

BLITZER: As you know, the Iraqi government, when it comes to prisoners of war, doesn't necessarily have the best track record and I am specifically referring to the 500 or 600 Kuwaiti prisoners who are still missing in Iraq, the Kuwaiti government -- we're in Kuwait right now -- still says the Iraqis are refusing to notify them, refusing to tell them whether they have them, refusing to provide any information.

I assume the International Committee of the Red Cross has been in touch with the Iraqi government involving the Kuwaiti POWs from the first Gulf War.

ALREFI: Absolutely. But, again, let's not mix all the cases. This is a totally different case. This is a case that the ICRC will work on specifically and, as you just mentioned, we did have a kind of a commitment to treat those people as per the Geneva Convention, so I don't think we should mix everything together.

BLITZER: All right. Tamara, thank you very much. Good luck to you and the Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross.

ALREFI: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Good luck to all your fellow workers. You're doing important work.

Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Wolf. We want to talk with Lieutenant Colonel Dale Storr, who was shot down over Kuwait during Desert Storm, was taken to Baghdad, where he was held prisoner for 33 days. He is flying with the Washington State National Guard. He joins us from Spokane, Washington.

Thank you very much for joining us.

First of all, when you heard the news, the government had confirmed that Americans had been taken prisoners of war, what went through your mind?

LT. COL. DALE STORR, HELD PRISONER FOR 33 DAYS: Oh, it put me right back in the prison again. It is a terrible, terrible thing. I feel so sorry for those guys. My heart goes out to them and their families. I just -- I hope Baghdad treats them a lot better than they treated us.

ZAHN: You heard Wolf Blitzer has read some kind of bulletin saying the Iraqis now say they will treat -- they will not violate the Geneva Convention here, but that wasn't the case when you were held prisoner, was it?

STORR: No, no. They never (inaudible) for us during Desert Storm. They never admitted to, or even tried to obey the Geneva Convention. They had gross violations when they treated us.

But, yeah, they'd better treat those guys according to the Geneva Convention. I will hold them 100 percent responsible for any mistreatment that they might receive.

ZAHN: Do you have any reason to believe that they really would honor the Geneva Convention this time?

STORR: Personally? No. I don't -- I don't believe in that. They treated us so horribly. But, I will still -- I expect them to. I will demand them to. And like I said, I will hold them 100 percent responsible for any mistreatment that they might receive.

ZAHN: Dale, if you wouldn't mind standing by, we'd love to get back to you in a couple of minutes. I need to go straight to CNN Center, where Leon Harris is standing by, and we'll rejoin this conversation.

Leon, what's going on?

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Paula, this is Leon Harris at CNN Center. We're going to get back to Paula and Wolf Blitzer in just a minute. But first, here is what's happening this hour.

The Pentagon says fewer than 10 U.S. soldiers have been captured on killed in Iraq. Officials have begun notifying their families. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says Iraqi TV footage of what it says are captured soldiers violates the Geneva Convention.

Iraqi forces scoured the Tigris River in Baghdad today, purportedly looking for pilots from a coalition plane. However, neither the U.S. or Britain says that any planes are missing in that area.

U.S. Marines are attacked as they push toward Baghdad. A rocket- propelled grenade hit a troop carrier in the southern city Al Nasiriyah. It is not known how many Americans were hurt, or if any were killed in that incident. An Nasiriyah is a key crossing point over the Euphrates River.

The 37th Cavalry Unit came under fire earlier today in south central Iraq. One soldier was hurt. U.S. warplanes swooped in and then bombed the Iraqi sites in response, quelling that action.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says a couple thousand Iraqis are in U.S. custody right now. It is not known whether they were captured in battle, or if they were just among those who surrendered to the United States.

President Bush is keeping abreast of the developments at Camp David. This morning he met with Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and his other advisers, and he is expected to return to the White House later on today.

I'm Leon Harris in Atlanta. Now, let's go back to Paula in New York. Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Leon.

And we go back to our interview with Lieutenant Colonel Dale Storr, whose plane was shot down during Desert Storm over Kuwait. He was later taken to Baghdad and treated very badly when he was held prisoner there for some 33 days. He now flies with the Washington State National Guard.

Dale, are you still on the phone with us?

STORR: Yes, I am. I'm here, Paula.

ZAHN: I know that we had reported -- the Iraqis, at least, are saying they will not violate the Geneva Convention. You have no faith that they really will abide by those rules. Help our audience understand what it is that you endured when you were a prisoner.

STORR: Well, it was mostly interrogations, that was the hardest part. There was a lot of physical abuse. They dislocated my right shoulder, broke my -- banged up my left knee pretty good -- got all swollen up and couldn't move it much any more.

ZAHN: And at one point, you said it just seemed they liked doing it.

STORR: Hello?

ZAHN: And you said they seemed to derive some sort of enjoyment from it?

STORR: You know, yes, some of the guards did. They were just jerks. They just liked -- they'd handcuff you and blindfold you and walk you into a concrete wall. And they'd think that would be funny.

There was just all kinds of stuff like that they'd do. ZAHN: Your memories of this obviously remain vivid to the point where you can even remember the smells of the dank cell you were held in.

ZAHN: Describe to us the living conditions.

STORR: For the most part, I was living in a small cell by myself. Cold, bare concrete floor, one to two small, ratty wool blankets. It was very cold.

In one cell, after I had gotten Giardia, which is a very bad (inaudible), vomiting and diarrhea, the Iraqis wouldn't let me use the bathroom. I had to use a corner of my cell as a bathroom for three days and live in my own sewer type of thing. Pretty miserable.

ZAHN: How did you get through it?

STORR: You know, it's just -- you don't have any other choice. You know, you can't just give up. It's your belief in God, belief in my country. Knowing that the United States wasn't going to let me sit in that cell and just rot. I knew the United States was going to get me home. And it kind of sustains you.

ZAHN: I know the training is supposed to prepare you for those kinds of situations. How did the training kick in at all?

STORR: Well, the training we received at Fairchild Air Force base, our survival school there, did a lot for you. You can get through these times. The resistance training they teach us allows us to help us battle the (inaudible), try to defeat them that way. I wouldn't have made it through without it.

ZAHN: Can you give us some insight into what some of these prisoners currently being held by the Iraqis might be going through? You described the physical violence you endured. What else might they be subjected to?

STORR: Yes, the first few days are usually the worst. They were definitely the worst for me, (inaudible) physical beatings, most of them were in the first few days. Not all of them, by any means, but most of them.

Now, they're being processed, hopefully they're finding them a safe prison to put them in and not using them as human shields. And I hope they're getting some medical treatment.

ZAHN: Did you get enough food when you were a prisoner?

STORR: No. Actually, after I got Giardia, I begged the guards for some medication, just (inaudible) though they kept saying it was, that they were going to get a doctor to me, they never did.

ZAHN: And did you have any other contact with other prisoners?

STORR: Yes. On the night of the 23rd of February -- I was shot down on 2nd -- the four F-117 Stealth fighters came in and bombed our prison, and for that (inaudible)

ZAHN: Are you still there?

STORR: Yes, I'm still here, Paula. Can you hear me now?

ZAHN: You're cutting in and out.

A final question for you. We just heard our General David Grange talk about the impact this might have on the morale of troops, and he said in an odd way it might even increase the resolve to get the job done. What do you think?

STORR: I do. I think so. It does tend to, it would inspire me. I know when I saw those guys on TV when I was still flying and fighting in the war, it made me work that much harder to get those guys back and win that war and get those guys home.

ZAHN: Well, Lieutenant Colonel Dale Storr (ph), thanks for your patience as we divided your interview into two separate parts. And we wish you the best of luck. Thanks again for your time today.

As I go back to Wolf, Wolf, I know you've said that you viewed this Al Jazeera tape which shows some of these American prisoners being interviewed.

All I have seen is the single image, the print image. And that alone made me absolutely sick to my stomach.

BLITZER: Well, if you actually see the videotape, and millions of people around the world already have, it is a very, very depressing sight to see these U.S. soldiers.

Obviously, some of them in pain, some have been wounded, and they're still, they still, you can see the wounds in them, some of them have been bandaged, others are being forced to talk.

And the picture of the young woman who was seen in this videotape, a U.S. Army soldier from Texas, she is clearly terrified by the notion of the questions being asked of her. It's a heart- wrenching sight to see.

Certainly, I can understand why the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked all of us not to air these images. It's a very, very depressing notion.

At the same time, the family members might be encouraged, at least see their loved ones alive on television. So there's always a delicate balance that has to be made in going forward with a decision whether or not to air these kinds of pictures.

Let me recap precisely what happened for our viewers -- yes, go ahead, Paula.

ZAHN: Oh, I'm sorry. I just wanted, you, in your interview with the representative, I believe it was from the Red Cross, had been handed a bulletin talking about Iraq claiming it will abide by the Geneva Convention.

You just heard Lieutenant Colonel Dale Storr (ph), who was held for 33 days during Desert Storm, saying that's an absolute joke. That will never happen.

BLITZER: Well, that's the accounts that I remember getting from a lot of the POWs after the first Gulf War, that they were mistreated. They certainly weren't treated according to the rules governing the Geneva Conventions. And let's hope this time it changes. Obviously, let's hope the Geneva Conventions are adhered to.

The initial step, parading them before TV cameras and making them answer these questions, obviously is not encouraging, but we'll see what happens in the hours and days to come. And let me just recap, Paula, for our viewers, what exactly has happened on this specific issue for viewers, who may just be tuning in right now.

Earlier today, the Pentagon said fewer than 10 of its troops were missing. Shortly after that, CNN received the first pictures of soldiers killed and captured in Iraq. The pictures were transmitted by the Al Jazeera Arabic-language satellite network. The video was shot by state-run Iraq television.

We want to let the audience know that these pictures and the interviewers were disturbing. CNN has made a decision not to show the video of those killed and instead will use this single image with no identifiable features. In other images, it was apparent some soldiers had been shot, some of them in the forehead.

We don't know their identities. Five other soldiers were interviewed, and each gave their name and home state in the United States. The Pentagon tells CNN that it's notifying the families of those captured and those who were killed.

We're standing by now for some videotape that we're about to get, I think it's going to be getting -- we're going to be getting it very, very soon. I don't know how much longer we're going to be getting it. The president of the United States spoke, I believe at Camp David. Here he is.




BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, we're going to have to wait and get that videotape. The president now back, I believe, from Camp David at the White House, speaking to reporters, just a short while ago. The president making the point, as we'll see how the war is going. We'll get that tape ready.

Meantime, let's go to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Barbara, the videotape, the Al Jazeera, Iraq television videotape obviously very disturbing. What are officials over at the Pentagon saying behind the scenes?

STARR: Wolf, officials here at the Pentagon are taking a very sensitive approach to this matter. Right now, it is largely a humanitarian issue, trying to get ahold of the families, trying to notify them so they know the fate of their loved ones.

It's also very clear today, after all the action in Iraq, there are a number of U.S. fatalities. They are trying to sort all of that out and notify those families as well.

In terms of the war, it's not at all clear there would be any immediate impact. This is an administration which is determined to proceed with the campaign, as they have laid it out. And there's really no indication that this would change the war plan of General Tommy Franks.

There had been an expectation, as U.S. forces moved closer -- moved further into Iraq, I should say, that they would run into more confrontations with better-equipped Iraqi forces as they got closer to Baghdad. So perhaps some of this very unfortunate action today in Iraq not a huge surprise.

It is also the case, as people have commented on our air earlier today, before U.S. forces are ever sent into some sort of hostile action, they get a number of briefings, especially air crews, but they all get a number of briefings on the possibility of being taken prisoner of war and what they might expect.

But clearly from the tape, which so many people around the world have now seen, these young people are just terrified of their situation. Wolf.

BLITZER: And it seems, based on what the defense secretary said, Barbara, and what you're hearing, that all expectations are that the fighting probably will get much more intense as U.S. and coalition forces move close toward Baghdad, move closer toward Tikrit, which is the ancestral home town of Saddam Hussein, the Tikriti clan, so many of whom have come to dominate the Iraqi leadership over all of these decades.

I want to alert our viewers, Barbara, and I want you to be patient with us, the president spoke only a little while ago, and we have this videotape. We want to show our viewers what the president said just a few seconds ago.


BUSH: I am pleased with the progress that we're making in the early stages of the war to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and to free the Iraqi people from the clutches of a brutal dictatorship.

Today, in our church service, Laura and I prayed for the coalition forces, those in the coalition forces who lost their lives. We pray for their families. We ask God's comfort for those who mourn today. And we thank all the coalition forces for their bravery and courage in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It is evident that it's going to take a while to achieve our objective, but we're on course. We're determined. And we're making good progress.

I'll answer a few questions.


One at a time, please. One at a time, please. Scott?

Thank you.


BUSH: I've been briefed. I'm constantly briefed by the Pentagon, through the National Security Office. I don't know all the details yet. I do know that we expect them to be treated humanely, just like we'll treat any prisoners of theirs that we capture humanely.

I think it's an interesting contrast that a lot of their soldiers welcome American troops. They're surrendering gleefully and happily, and they'll be treated well. And I ask you to ask the Defense Department for other details.


BUSH: I know that Saddam Hussein is losing control of his country, that we're slowly but surely achieving our objective.

BUSH: It's important for the American people to realize that this war has just begun, that it may seem like a long time because of all the action on TV, but in terms of the overall strategy, we're just in the beginning phases, and that we're executing a plan which will make it easier to achieve objectives and, at the same time, spare innocent life.

And I am most proud of our troops, and coalition troops, for showing their bravery and skill.


BUSH: Yes, it is. It is. And I -- the air campaign is achieving its objective, and the ground campaign is also achieving objectives.

We're slowly but surely taking control of that country, so that we free the people of Iraq and eventually clear that country of weapons of mass destruction. We've made good progress.

One of the big concerns early on was the southern oil fields. As you all remember, we had discussions about that. There was a lot of speculation about whether or not coalition forces would be able to get to the southern oil fields in time, so that Saddam Hussein wouldn't destroy them.

As a matter of fact, I had frequently talked about the southern oil fields, or oil fields in general, in my declaratory policy.

BUSH: Tommy Franks put a plan in place that moved on those oil fields quickly. And at least in the south, they are secure. And that is positive news for all of us.

Most of the south is now in coalition hands. Obviously, there's pockets of resistance in a place like Basra. We're making great progress. In the west we're making great progress. The area of the launch sites for the Scuds, while certainly not 100 percent secure, but we've made good progress.

And so, I can assure the American people that we're making good progress, and also can assure them that this is just the beginning of a tough fight.



BUSH: I have not been told that. I have been told that we have a problem with potential capture. I'm waiting -- when I get back upstairs, I'll talk back to the Pentagon again. I was told early this morning that perhaps our troops were captured. Maybe, you know, between the time I left Camp David and here, I'll learn more.

But I am concerned about our troops. Obviously, any time one of our soldiers loses a life, I grieve with their parents and their loved ones. And if there is somebody captured -- and it looks like there may be -- I expect those people to be treated humanly.

QUESTION: Sir, what is your level of confident that the Iraqi regime will surrender or collapse before U.S. forces need to engage in fights (ph) in Baghdad (ph)?

BUSH: All I know is that we've got a game plan, a strategy, to free the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein and rid his country of weapons of mass destruction, and we're on plan.

BUSH: Bill, and then Mike.

QUESTION: Iraqi TV has shown what appear to be American POWs, and also what appear to be American dead.

BUSH: I expect them to be treated -- the POWs I expect to be treated humanely, and -- just like we're treating the prisoners that we have captured humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals.


QUESTION: Mr. President, do you retain hope that Saddam Hussein will go into exile? And are there any active negotiations? BUSH: You know, Mike, I -- he had his chance to go into exile. I gave him a 48-hour ultimatum to leave the country so that we could disarm Iraq peacefully. He chose not to go into exile.

QUESTION: Mr. President, how concerned are you about the situation in the north and Turkey saying that they will send troops in there and the Americans might get caught in some kind of crossfire?

BUSH: We have got more troops up north, and we're making it very clear to the Turks that we expect them not to come into northern Iraq.

We're in constant touch with the Turkish military, as well as Turkish politicians. They know our policy, and it's a firm policy. And we've made it very clear to them we expect them not to go into northern Iraq, as well as -- and they know we're working with the Kurds to make sure there's not an incident that would cause there to be an excuse to go into northern Iraq.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what do you say to the families (OFF- MIKE) killed or captured and are paraded on television for the world...

BUSH: I say to the families, I thank them for the sacrifice they make, and we pray with them. I pray for God's comfort and God's healing powers to anybody, coalition force, American, Brit, anybody who loses a life in our efforts to make the world more peaceful and more free.


QUESTION: Mr. President, are you surprised the enemy has not used any weapons of mass destruction?

BUSH: I am thankful the enemy has not used any weapons of mass destruction.

BUSH: And we will continue employing a strategy to make it difficult for the enemy to use weapons of mass destruction.

A couple more, and then I got to go.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what will you be telling the congressional leaders tomorrow about the cost...

BUSH: Wait until I talk to them. Probably best they hear it directly from me.


BUSH: What?


BUSH: Of course.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) BUSH: Yes, good question. I appreciate you asking that question. The question is on humanitarian aid.

In the south of Iraq, our coalition forces have worked hard to make the port area secure, to make the transit of humanitarian aid as safe as possible.

As I was told this morning in my briefings, that humanitarian aid should begin moving, massive amounts of humanitarian aid should begin moving within the next 36 hours. And that's going to be very positive news for a lot of people who've suffered a long time under Saddam Hussein.

We've got a massive ground assault going on, and right behind it will be a massive movement of humanitarian aid to help the people of Iraq. We have made that promise to the people of this country that we will do everything we can to protect innocent life, and we're doing that, and we'll do everything we can to help the Iraqi people.

First thing, of course, that will help the Iraqi people is to rid them from a brutal dictator, somebody who has stayed in power through mutilation and rape and torture, somebody who's starved his own people so he could build palaces. When free from that dictatorship, life will be a lot better. But we also understand we have an obligation -- and this is just not America, it's coalition forces -- have an obligation to put food and medicine in places so the Iraqi people can live, you know, a normal life and have hope. And that's exactly what's going to happen shortly when the area is completely safe enough to move the equipment forward.

Listen, thank you all.

QUESTION: How are you holding up, sir?

BUSH: I feel just fine.


BLITZER: President Bush speaking to reporters, answering questions as he returns to the South Lawn of the White House only a few minutes ago. That was videotape coming back from Camp David, his presidential retreat in the mountains of nearby Maryland.

The president insisting he's pleased with the progress of the war. He says it will take a while, his words, to achieve the objectives.

"I know Saddam Hussein is losing control of his country," the president says. "Slowly but surely, we are achieving our objectives," he goes on to say. "This war has just begun."

And the president also announcing that humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people will shortly begin.

Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is at the White House. She was listening to this, as we were listening to it, as well. The president deciding to answer questions that, he really hasn't done this since the start of the war, has he?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he hasn't. But Wolf, we expected this, because at a time like this, of course, he acts in the role as commander in chief, but also someone who needs to comfort the nation -- particularly in a time of turmoil and crisis.

The president, of course, emphasizing the positive, saying there was progress in the war, but also warning Americans that this will take some time, that it is slow in going.

But he did recognize, he said he was briefed about the potential of American hostages. And he said very clearly, a message to those Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi officials, saying that he expects that the POWs will be treated humanely, just as the United States treats its own prisoners of war.

He also said if they will not be treated humanely, then they will be treated, those Iraqi soldiers, those Iraqi officials, as war criminals.

He was also asked, is there any chance, now, of getting those American soldiers back? He said, "Of course."

And then, also, when asked about, what do you say to the families of those, perhaps even those overseas who have seen that tape on Al Jazeera, those soldiers either who have been killed or captured, he simply said, "I say to the families that I thank them for their service, and I pray for their comfort." Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, also, the president said good progress being made in the western part of Iraq, from which Scud missiles were launched at Israel a dozen years ago. He says progress is being made in the north, but he had a stiff warning to the government of Turkey and NATO ally: Don't go into northern Iraq; don't cross that line. He was very firm, perhaps a bit firmer than I had heard from other top Bush administration officials.

MALVEAUX: Well, absolutely, Wolf. That is a concern of the administration. If those Turkish troops go in significant numbers, that will disrupt things with the Kurds. The Turkish officials, of course, are worried that the Kurds in their own country will unify with those Kurds in Iraq and cause quite disarray.

But the administration really trying to discourage that from happening. They feel that this would complicate matters on the ground. And, of course, the president giving a stern warning.

He also said as well, in terms of Saddam Hussein, that he does not have control of the country. He said slowly, but surely, we're achieving our objective.

And he also said that Saddam Hussein had his chance to go into exile. He was given 48 hours. Certainly sounds like, Wolf, that there are no chances at all -- that Saddam Hussein would be -- would come out of this, and certainly no chances that he would still have that offer on the table. The president making it very, very clear. This is going to be, what he called, a tough fight. Wolf.

BLITZER: It sounds like the president was saying to Saddam Hussein he had a one-shot, almost fire, sale -- you could get one pass, you could leave. But within that 48-hour period, Saddam Hussein rejected it.

As a result, no more exile opportunities for Saddam Hussein.

Suzanne Malveaux at the White House.

This important note for our viewers: We're standing by at the top of the hour. In about a half an hour or so from now, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, another briefing from the Central Command.

General Tommy Franks, the general in charge of this war, the central commander, he'll be briefing reporters in Doha, Qatar, at the An Nasiriyah air base, that's just outside of Doha, in Qatar, the temporary headquarters of the Central Command.

CNN, of course, will have live coverage. Paula.

ZAHN: And thanks, Wolf. Of course, we continue to get very good information from our own reporters embedded with various forces in between those news conferences.

Aircraft carrier USS Lincoln is part of the coalition force against Iraq. CNN's Kyra Phillips is on board, and she reports live now by videophone. Kyra?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, every morning, Admiral John Kelly (ph) comes across the ship's speaker and updates and encourages the sailors here who are carrying out Operation Iraqi Freedom.

And today, he talked about cockpit discipline. He mentioned that so far, every bomb dropped has been with absolute certainty and accuracy. And you know, it's been 10 days since the shock-and-awe campaign, that massive aerial bombardment on Baghdad.

And we've had a rare chance to sit in on some briefings. This is unprecedented. The Navy has never allowed this before, for journalists to sit in on these briefings before an actual wartime scenario.

And we got to meet some of the pilots who are the first to go into Baghdad on this massive strike. We put the elements together so you would be able to see how exactly this all went down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep the G's on the jet; keep your air speed (ph).

PHILLIPS: Here on the USS Abraham Lincoln, it's the night they've been training and preparing for for months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our mission objectives, we heard that, hit the target. Kill migs (ph).

PHILLIPS: VF-31, the F-14 Tomcatter Squadron, is about to take part in a massive aerial bombardment against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of lights, a lot of explosion. Don't get mesmerized by that. Focus on what you need to do.

PHILLIPS: Lieutenant Steve Eeries (ph) doesn't know it now, but he will take on a very crucial role.

The Tomcatters will join more than 100 coalition aircraft that are expected to unleash more than 1500 bombs and missiles in the next couple of days, converging on Iraq in the campaign that's being called "shock and awe."

Armed with satellite and laser-guided bombs and numerous types of missiles, these F-14 and F-18 strike fighters are about to make history.

Back in the Tomcatters' ready room, fellow pilots wait and watch the news. They know what's about to happen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little "shock and awe".

PHILLIPS: Military sites, Saddam's Republican Palace, and offices of the foreign ministry, all hit.

The initial strike takes only seven minutes. Life changes quickly, not only for Iraq, but Lieutenant Steve Eeries (ph).

A chain of events puts him in the lead position of his F-14 division, to and from Iraq. The end of the night debrief is emotional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looked like something right out of "Star Wars." It was very intense. A lot of adrenaline, and just pretty much when you're flying in there and you see all this, and there's so many moving parts to obviously what all happened, you try and absorb it all, and it kind of feels like you're almost coming out of your skin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the feelings and emotions started coming back after we were already headed home, Alevania (ph), threat areas, just kind, wow, you feel the weight of what you just did and everything, this all really hits you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just hoping that, you know, whatever we're doing out there makes it easier for the ground troops that are forcing in that actually have -- you know, we're lucky, because we get to go in there, do our 20, 30 minutes, and get out and come back here. Those guys have to be on the ground the whole time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the first time I've ever been shot at with missiles that looked like they were guiding on us. It was nice that the training and tactics and stuff that we practiced actually worked, and we were able to defeat those shots, and get in to the target, get our bombs off. They all found their way to the appropriate target, and we brought everybody back.


PHILLIPS: Now, the question is, how much longer will these pilots be in the fight?

Now, you heard Lieutenant Dale Gregory (ph), one of the strike fighter pilots, say that one of their biggest concerns are the troops on the ground. And just thinking about the news that's come out today, about these soldiers, possible American POWs, I have to tell you, these strike fighter pilots, that's constantly on their mind, and why they're out there, and why they're dropping bombs, they're trying to shape the battlefield, they're trying to protect the troops on the ground and take away that threat, so when the troops do come in, they will be protected and won't have any types of surprises.

A number of missions still being carried out. A number of bombing campaigns. Recent targets leadership compounds, runways, air defense systems, command and control sites, tanks, and other facilities, such as Republican Guard special operations warehouses, a number of those taken out in the past day.

Now, something else has been taking place very important today, this also sort of binds a bit with what's taking place with these POWs. And that is forward air control, fact missions, these strike fighter pilots taking off into Iraq, and basically looking down and making sure that the troops are safe, and conducting surveillance in a way, and if indeed they have communication with the troops, and the troops are concerned about an area ahead, the strike fighters can check that out. And if they do see a threat, they can communicate to other strike fighters to put together the coordinates to drop a bomb.

So, as you can imagine, since "shock and awe" began, it's slowed down a little bit, but the consistency has not slowed down, Paula. The missions continue all through the day and all through the night.

ZAHN: Well, your access was amazing. I don't think I ever remember seeing a debriefing in that great a detail. Kyra Phillips, thanks so much.

Back to Wolf now, in Kuwait City.

Wolf, I don't know if you were able to hear that piece. But it was really very interesting.

BLITZER: I heard every word, and our viewers of course heard every word. Thanks to Kyra Phillips. She's doing an excellent job for all of us. Let's go to Christiane Amanpour now. She's in northern Kuwait, not far from the Iraqi border. She's covering the story, obviously, very thoroughly.

Christiane, what's the latest from your vantage point? CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for the last couple of days, we've been in and out of southern Iraq, first at Umm Qasr, which we've seen has gone much slower than people expected, that vital port for humanitarian aid, which officials in the military want to get in as soon as possible for the people. That is going slower than expected.

And a note on prisoners of war. We've been talking a lot about that during your show just now. And what we have noticed here is as there are hundreds of Iraqi prisoners of war, we the press are under very strict rules about how we can show them. We're not allowed to show them up close, we can't show their faces. We're being told that they're being given all the food and water and shelter that they require.

So very strict controls over the prisoner of war issue. And that, we saw more of them today at the Ramallah oil fields in the south. We took a trip there. The allied forces here, the British wanted to show us how this was a very strategic and important target that had been taken early, almost from the outset of the ground offensive.


AMANPOUR: At war, would the Iraqi regime resort to a scorched- earth policy? Would it torch its own oil fields as U.S. and British officials insisted? That was the big question. And to be sure, close up, any oil well fire looks catastrophic. But in fact, only seven of about 500 wells in the Ramallah Oil Field, Iraq's biggest, have been set ablaze.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the end, there was effectively nothing at all, which was for us, very reassuring but we actually obviously have to work on the worst case.

AMANPOUR: So just hours after the ground invasion began, U.S. marines raced to secure these fields in southern Iraq, followed closely by British royal engineers and explosive experts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This wasn't a little sideshow in the operation. This was a critical part of the coalition, of the coalition operation. Whatever the future form that Iraq takes, I mean, pervasive in that is its oil and its oil income.

AMANPOUR: Indeed, this field in the south produces 60 percent of Iraq's oil, and everyone remembers the ecological and environmental havoc Iraq caused by setting Kuwait's oil fields ablaze 12 years ago. In a futile attempt to obscure the vision of invading U.S. and British forces, the Iraqis did fill some trenches with oil around key installations. Some of those trenches they set on fire. And now, there is a fairly strong smell of oil in the air.

But according to British royal engineers here, there is no evidence yet of any attempts by the Iraquis to booby-trap or cause serious sabotage. Army engineers discovered that by picking carefully through the gas and oil separation plants, shutting down valves and the big taps called manifolds. They are all off now awaiting private contractors to restart the oil production.

The Iraqi army put up some resistance and U.S. marines took some combat casualties. But here, as in elsewhere in Iraq, many soldiers surrendered. The British say they have 500 POWs and that number could grow to 1,000.

And as they begin to secure large parts of the south, more troops and materiel pour in, pushing ever deeper up country.


AMANPOUR: And a final note on those POWs, you saw them going into a collection center. All the POWs that are being -- who have surrendered and are being collected down in the southern area are gradually being brought to one big collection area, and this will be under the control of the British troops in the southern Iraqi area. Wolf.

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour in northern Kuwait, along the border with Iraq. Christiane, thanks very much.


ZAHN: Wolf, I guess the best insights we've been given today came from Lieutenant Colonel Dale Storr, who was held by the Iraqis some 33 days as prisoner when his plane was shot down over Kuwait.

He later ended up in Baghdad, where he was held, and he told us just about an hour ago how he was routinely beaten, not given the food he needed, and he said the first three days were the hardest of his imprisonment.

Heavy traffic continues at some air bases. In addition to some of the air support missions that we've heard described by our embeds, U.S. planes have been attacking targets in Iraq.

And with troops missing and a British plane down, several search and rescue missions have been flown. CNN's Gary Tuchman joins us from an air base near Iraq. Gary, what's the latest you've learned?

TUCHMAN: Well, Paula, hello to you. The A-10 attack craft behind me are at a base right near the border of Iraq. This is a very busy base, and because of that the 8,000-plus service men and women here know that they are a military target.

As a matter of fact, one Iraqi missile fell 25 miles away from here. So there has been some tension on this base. Most of the days this week they've had sirens, they've had to put on their gas masks, they have been required up until now to have their chemical suits on at all times except when they're in bed and in the shower, but today is the first day we haven't had an alert warning siren and they have been allowed to take the chemical suits off, although they're carrying them with them wherever they go.

With us right now is the man in charge of operations of this base. It is Colonel Julio Rodriguez (ph), he's the operations group commander.

I want to ask you, Colonel, thank you for joining us, and tell us how things are going? Are you in charge of all these planes, the facilities here? How have things been going so far in this war for you?

RODRIGUEZ (ph): The operations tempo for the men and women of the 332nd has been phenomenal. Everything that we've expected has been exactly what we've been able to produce.

The sorties that we've been able to generate out of here and the support that we've been able to provide for the air war has been on track.

TUCHMAN: We've been talking about Americans who are missing, Americans who may be POWs. Let me ask you, this is one of the largest air bases in the theater. Have all your pilots come back safely?

RODRIGUEZ (ph): That's affirmative. I've been able to keep 100 percent accountability of all the crews. And that's one of the tasks at hand to make sure everything is going the way it's supposed to.

TUCHMAN: Can you tell me how many aircraft you have here?

RODRIGUEZ (ph): I can't tell you specifically what kind I have or how many of each, but roughly about over 180 different types of airplanes here on our patch.

TUCHMAN: You may not be able to be specific, but we do know these are A-10s. Tell us about these A-10s back here. What do they do?

RODRIGUEZ (ph): Well, the A-10, as you can see behind us, that's a tank killer. It's primarily a close air support asset, has the capability of delivering the 30 millimeter Very Precise Gun, also the Maverick and also a variety of other weapons in support of the ground forces.

TUCHMAN: We see on the front of those planes the teeth of the tiger, right?

RODRIGUEZ (ph): Yes. The Flying Tigers have a great history. The history goes back to World War II, and the performance of the men and women of the Flying Tigers here has met up to the match of their history.

TUCHMAN: Final question for you. Any unanticipated problems at this base?

RODRIGUEZ (ph): No. We've drilled down most of the issues. There's a lot of combat experience on this base. All the men and women have performed admirably, and we continue the pace that is being tasked of us.

As you can see here, 24-7 our job is to be ready, and no one has shorted that one bit.

TUCHMAN: Colonel, I want to thank you for talking with us. I appreciate it.

RODRIGUEZ: Have a great evening.

TUCHMAN: OK, you too. Five hundred fifty-roughly sorties over the last 48 hours. In the total theater at at least 38 different locations throughout the world, we're talking 3,500 sorties, you're talking about 12 to 15 percent of the total sorties of this air campaign coming from this one particular base. Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: Gary Tuchman, thanks so much. It's their job to be ready, Wolfe, 24-7. A very big job, indeed.

BLITZER: An incredible job. I want to go right now to Iraqi television. They're airing this news conference with the Iraqi defense minister. Let's listen in.

SULTAN HASHIM AHMAD, IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): Which were left burning in place. This was before the eyes of the tribes people. They all witnessed that because it was close to the city.

In the other sector of Basra, in Zubair (ph), the enemy tried to take a passage to cross to Zubair (ph) toward Basra. The units confronted and stopped them on the bridges, and they today demolished three tanks.

Even in Zubair, the militia of the party and the tribesmen also inflicted damages to two tanks. The tanks retreated, and this is the situation in Zubair (ph) and at the bridge of Zaiza (ph) that the minister of information talked to a few hours ago.

The sixth division, the brave sixth division, also downed an unmanned airplane. Our situation in Basra, when I say Basra I mean the city of Basra, our situation is very good, thank God.

And we are in our positions, and we are in all our land. And the directions that the enemy's coming from, all directions are very well known, and our fighting is something that will be pleasing, pleasing to our friends and will not be pleasing to the enemies, the zionists and the likes.

The morale of the people is high. The tribesman are using propeller grenades to attack the tanks. This is the standard. In the (inaudible) province, the Nasiriyah, we said that the last place that the enemy was at the outskirts of Nasiriyah.

The enemy tried at Nasiriyah from more than one direction. They tried to (inaudible) towards the city. More than three attempts. Lost 17 armored vehicles. And they were not able to make any scrimmages with any of our fighters in the city. In the (inaudible) sector, the enemy, the criminal enemy attacked our third battalion of the 47th brigade. And that battalion were attacked three times and each time we destroyed the enemy two tanks, three times and then two in the last attempt. And that battalion is still holding fast in their position with high morale. And they retreated two kilometers, the enemy retreated two kilometers from there.

They were not able to achieve anything from these two directions. They went behind the city towards the desert, towards Samara (ph), passing through Ali (ph) base, air base, and they continued advancing towards the north, the Samawa (ph) and they hit the -- they came to a stop at the city.

They tried to get into the city but the militia and the tribesmen confronted them. On the outskirts of the city, they stopped and they destroyed many armored vehicles. Then, they diverted again towards the desert and they passed -- they actually passed the city towards (inaudible).

The other activity in the Nasiriyah last night, they managed to get the precision helicopters towards this and several armored units were dropped.

The tribesmen and the militia party -- the party militia went out to fight, and they fought in this area. The regular army unit and the Jerusalem army unit and the tribesmen.

BLITZER: All right. That's the defense minister of Iraq, the General Sultan Hashim Ahmad, talking about the military campaign, insisting that the Iraqis are doing well, holding on to Nasiriyah, insisting that that U.S. and British forces moving on that key town in the south central portion of Iraq are meeting not only with resistance, but he claims that heavy U.S. casualties and British casualties have been encountered.

We're going to continue to monitor this briefing by the Iraq defense minister as well as the information minister, get back there as news warrants.

But in the meantime, let's bring in the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who has been watching all of these dramatic developments with us, listening very patiently.

First of all, Senator Lugar, how disturbed are you at this notion that U.S. soldiers have been captured, taken POW by the Iraqi government?

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: Well, I'm disturbed that the prisoners have been taken. I'm disturbed by the fact that 23 coalition forces, nine Americans, 14 British have been killed. And the sympathy of all Americans is with them and with their families.

BLITZER: Senator Lugar, we're going to get a lot more information on that at the top of the hour. We're standing by for a briefing from the U.S. Central Command, the Central Command in charge of conducting this for the U.S. military. We'll go there live when that happens right at the top of the hour, to Qatar, the temporary headquarters.

What, if anything, can the U.S. government do to try to make sure that these POWs are treated according to the Geneva Conventions?

LUGAR: The president of the United States has responded to that question in a very, most succinct way that he could have. And that is, we expect the Iraqis to treat our prisoners according to Geneva code.

In the event that they are mistreated, those who mistreat them will be treated as war criminals. And you cannot say it any more directly. And that is precisely the view that I have.

BLITZER: What kind of track record does Iraq have, from the first Gulf War, in treating American POWs?

LUGAR: Their track record is abysmal. And the testimony we've had on your program today from an American POW indicates how brutal that treatment has been.

BLITZER: From your standpoint, Senator Lugar, how is this war going?

LUGAR: It appears to me that a great attempt was made by our country, in the so-called decapitation strike, that is the cruise missiles that hit in the area that we felt Saddam Hussein and his leaders were, that might have been a decisive blow.

It appears that it was not, in the sense that some chain of command clearly is there. And resistance in the Nasiriyah area, that has been demonstrated on both the Iraqi briefing and ours, shows that some troops probably came down to the aid of that situation.

And clearly, if Basra has some activity still, it was because it was bypassed, that is, block-to-block fighting did not occur.

Having said that, it is clear, just watching the film, that American troops are moving toward Baghdad, that airstrikes have been precise and very effective.

And the president of the United States, as he came back from Camp David, indicated clearly that we are winning the war, we are going to persist with the war, Saddam will vanquished, the weapons of mass destruction will be found.

The basic issue on the Iraqi side is how many Iraqis will be killed, how much of their own country will be hurt, because of continued resistance at this point? And I think that's the basic question. We're debating this in a way internationally, through your network.

If Iraqis have any impression that there is any weakening on the American side, that there is any lack of solid resolve expressed by the Senate 99-0, on behalf of the commander in chief and our troops, they're wrong. They need to know that.

And to the extent that they cease and desist rapidly, lives will be saved.

BLITZER: Based on the briefing, Senator Lugar, that you've received -- and I know you receive high-level briefings all the time in your capacity as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee -- what can you tell us about the status of Saddam Hussein?

LUGAR: I can tell you nothing more than you have reported, namely that there were initial intelligence reports from various sources that he was carried from his building where he was on a stretcher, apparently injured.

Certainly dispute as to whether the Saddam who appeared on television hours later was Saddam or a double. A preponderance of information is that probably it was Saddam. What condition he's in, what his mood in, very hard to tell, because we frankly don't know.

BLITZER: When you say he was carried out on a stretcher, has that been confirmed officially to you?

LUGAR: No. It simply is an intelligence report, among many others, but obviously very interesting, because it concerns Saddam, the chain of command, the hope that somehow that could be truncated and the war materially shortened.

BLITZER: Do you have any information on his two sons, Uday and Qusay, who are also powerful figures in that Iraqi regime?

LUGAR: No. I have no more information than you've reported.

BLITZER: When you take a look at the diplomatic fallout from this war -- let's go through a couple of examples very briefly.

Turkey. There seems to be a serious strain in U.S.-Turkish relations now, as a result of the back-and-forth that's been going on over these weeks on what the Turkish government might or might not allow.

How concerned are you about the long-term fallout involving this key strategic relationship between these two NATO allies?

LUGAR: I don't believe there will be a long-term fallout. As a matter of fact, I believe the United States will continue to be the strongest friend of Turkey, as Turkey seeks admission to the European Union and general incorporation into European affairs. The United States is vital to those Turkish aspirations.

But for the moment, there is a very new government in Turkey, an inexperienced government and one that has a population that is always inflamed by any issues dealing with Kurds. And we are into that sort of predicament presently.

The president of the United States, when he came back from Camp David today, was very clear in asking Turkey not to send troops into northern Iraq. That is very important.

We are now getting overflights of American troops into northern Iraq. And those Americans need to be there in some numbers to guarantee that there is peace in that area, that there is movement by Kurds toward their own self-government and their own destiny without interference from Turkey or Saddam or anybody else.

BLITZER: Do you have any doubts, Senator Lugar, that when all is said and done, the U.S. will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

LUGAR: No, I have no doubt that we will find those weapons. I have all the problems that those inspectors have, as to how we will go about that.

Having had some experience trying to hunt down weapons in Russia, I know, without Russians at my side, detailing what had occurred for 20 years, and various biological and chemical situations, I wouldn't have had a clue, and neither will the U.N. inspectors.

However, my guess is, at the end of the day, we will hear from Iraqis who will tell us where they are, and we will destroy them. And it's important that we find them and that we destroy them.

BLITZER: Senator Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, thanks so much for being with us. Thanks for your patience. I will see you when I get back to Washington.

BLITZER: Let's get back to Paula in New York right now. Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Wolf. It's been a pleasure working with you over the last several hours.

That wraps it up for me here. I will be back in place 7 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow morning. Thank you all for being with us.

Back to Leon Harris now at CNN Center as he brings you up to date at the top of the hour.

HARRIS: Hello, I'm Leon Harris at the CNN Center here in Atlanta. Here's a check on what's happening this hour.

The key town of An Nasiriyah in south central Iraq is proving to be the latest flashpoint in the war. The Pentagon confirms that a handful of American soldiers were captured or killed near that city.

CNN's Alessio Vinci, traveling with troops in the area, says heavy fighting continued into the night there.

Meanwhile, stateside, President Bush urged Iraq to treat captured U.S. and Allied troops humanely. Upon returning to the White House today from Camp David, the president also had a warning for Turkey, urging them to not send troops into northern Iraq.

Iraqi TV footage of those U.S. soldiers captured in Iraq is creating quite an uproar. Those pictures were shown on the Arab language network Al Jazeera, and the video shows the bodies of soldiers who were shot dead.

Now, as you may have heard broadcast on CNN just moments ago, Iraqi officials, speaking on Al Arabia (ph) TV, said that Iraq will respect Geneva Conventions in treatment of POWs.

A new wave of explosions lit up the skies over Baghdad for a fourth day. A battery of anti-aircraft fire was visible earlier. Air strikes resumed after night fell in the northern city of Mosul. That city has been targeted for the past three nights now.

British television agency ITN says reporter Terry Lloyd (ph) and two others missing since yesterday were killed in a friendly-fire incident in southern Iraq. ITN says they were driving outside Basra accompanied by Iraqi vehicles when they were fired upon.

We've got pictures this hour of a coalition airdrop onto Al Faw peninsula. That's Iraq's only gateway to the Persian Gulf. That area was taken early on by the British troops and U.S. Marines as well, although scattered fighting does continue in the port city of Umm Qasr in that region.

An Iraqi official is accusing Israel of getting involved in the war. Foreign Minister Naji Sabri says an Israeli missile was found in Baghdad, but he offered no proof of that. An Israeli spokesman denied the charge of Israeli involvement, but he says Iraqis could have found an Israeli decoy rocket sold to the U.S. military.

We are bringing you live coverage of the war in Iraq, right here on CNN, 24 hours a day. And when you're away from a television, there's always Go there -- you'll find our war tracker. Just click on "Interactive Maps," and keep track of the action on the front lines. You can also read field reports from our reporters who are out there in the war zones. Again, all of that exclusively at

And now, CNN's coverage of the war in Iraq continues.

BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the war in Iraq. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Kuwait City.

Earlier today, the Pentagon said that fewer than 10 of its troops were missing. Shortly after that, CNN received the first pictures of American soldiers killed and captured in action in Iraq.

The pictures were transmitted by the Al Jazeera Arab language satellite channel. The video was originally shot, though, by Iraqi state-run television.

We want to let the audience know, our viewers know, that these pictures and the interviews are extremely disturbing. CNN has made a decision not to show the video of those killed and will instead use this single image with no identifiable features.

In other images, it was apparent some soldiers had been shot, some of them in the forehead. We don't know their identities. Five other soldiers were also interviewed and each gave his or her name and home state in the United States. The Pentagon tells CNN that it's notifying the families of those captured and those who were killed.

We're standing by now for a briefing, should be beginning momentarily at the Central Command, the military headquarters in Qatar, the temporary military headquarters for the U.S. military. We'll go there live as soon as that briefing begins.

In the meantime, let's go to CNN's Miles O'Brien. Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. Thank you very much, Wolf.

While we're waiting for that CENTCOM briefing, which we will, of course, bring to you live and in its entirety, let's talk a little bit about this prisoner of war issue with a couple of people who know a lot about it.

Major General Don Shepperd, retired U.S. Air Force, good to have you with us.

Also joining us from Washington, Kelly McCann, security analyst for us, former Marine Corps officer. Kelly, are you there with us?


O'BRIEN: I am well. Hope you're doing well. Let's start with you, Kelly, because you spent a lot of time putting boots into sand in the course of your career.

Tell us, first of all, how this maintenance crew might have become lost. I assume it's fairly easy, but we do live in a world where a lot of troops have these GPS receivers and have the ability to see where they are fairly easily.

MCCANN: Sure, but remember that mechanized doctrines is pretty much a blow-through and go to the bigger objective. In other words, we bypass a lot of smaller objectives in order to get to the meat of the matter. And what that creates is kind of a tenuous security situation with smaller pockets that we choose not to engage, kind of Fabian tactics where you just choose not to engage them and blow through.

This maintenance unit is out there. They're moving, moving navigation when you're in a vehicle, it's 35, 45 miles an hour. Even though you have a GPS, you still have to orient on the map, and it's easy to see how they could not have maybe up-to-date and current information on a small unit.

O'BRIEN: Kelly McCann, CENTCOM briefing is about to start. Let's go to it. We'll check in on this subject later.


BLITZER: We're going to break away from this briefing at the Central Command in Doha, Qatar, at the Camp Al-Saliyah (ph) to show you these explosions, these bombings, that have just occurred in Baghdad. You are looking at live pictures, the aftermath of what was a huge explosion that rocked this city only a few seconds ago. You can see the aftermath, the cloud, the aftermath of this huge explosion.

We have no idea of what the nature of it was. We have no idea where it was. We are obviously going to watch it. But it looks like the shock and awe bombing campaign, as promised by the U.S. military, is obviously continuing in and around the Iraqi capital. No letup tonight for the 5 million residents of Baghdad, as they experience, once again, a huge, huge explosion. We have to assume it was another bombing campaign that is continuing in the Iraqi capital tonight.

There have been several other loud explosions heard in Baghdad in the past many hours today, but this was by far the largest single explosion that we have seen and we have heard.

And I want to, of course, alert our viewers to understand that what we're seeing in Baghdad is only a small piece of this air campaign, this air war similar explosions we're told are unfolding in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's ancestral home town, as well as Mosul and Kirkuk in the north, and other cities as well.

And as we watch these live pictures from Baghdad and hear the sounds -- maybe these are some of the sounds of the anti-aircraft and sirens that are going off in the aftermath of this latest apparent U.S. bombing explosion -- there's no doubt that the ground war continues elsewhere, facing some stiff resistance, we're told by the U.S. military commanders, stiff resistance in the south-central portion of Iraq, at one town in particular, Nasiriyah. Some serious U.S. casualties inflicted in the past several hours as this day has unfolded.

Let's bring in General Don Shepperd, the CNN military analyst, retired U.S. Air Force.

General, this has to be another, another either Tomahawk cruise missile or a 2,000-pound precision-guided bomb. The explosion was quite intense.

GEN. DONALD SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, like you, Wolf, I'm guessing, because all I can see is the smoke drifting across the sky. But I heard the explosion. It sounded very loud. That could mean a big bomb or very close to the microphones there.

It would be logical to me that in the good weather that we've had in the past day that Central Command has done bomb-damage assessment to see what needs to be restruck. It's also apparent that the U.S. military be listening for emerging targets which would be leadership, communications leading to leadership, underground bunkers.

It also could be a couple of other things: secondary explosions set off by fires, set off by the other strikes. And then we've also heard reports of loud explosions on the outskirts, probably attributed to the oil in the trenches being set off to obscure visibility.

But it very much sounded to me like a weapon, and it sounded like it was a large weapon.

BLITZER: And this is presumably going to continue for some time. What they have a tendency to do is hit a target and then come back and hit it again and again and again until they're convinced they've destroyed it. Is that a fair assessment?

SHEPPERD: It is a fair assessment. I'll offer you a couple of other interesting things. It's amazing how intelligent people are, and how, no matter how the press is controlled in countries like this, word gets out.

You notice that the lights are still on in downtown Baghdad, and you notice during the daytime pictures that people seem to be out and about and driving as normal.

It's apparent that the word is out to the population that the U.S. forces and strikes are not out to get the people, and I think the people probably feel as long as they're away from military targets they're OK, because it looks almost like life going on normal in Baghdad.

BLITZER: Let me bring in Kelly McCann, our CNN security analyst, himself a retired Marine officer.

Kelly, as we watch these pictures, these live pictures from Baghdad, we have to absorb what the deputy commander of Central Command, Lieutenant General John Abizaid, just told us at this briefing in Qatar, at the temporary headquarters for Central Command, that the fighting at Nasiriyah is the most serious fighting to date. U.S. Marines, U.S. Army personnel coming under some extensive military action, some extensive resistance from regular and irregular Iraqi troops.

Tell our viewers what he means when he talks about irregular Iraqi forces.

MCCANN: Well, basically, Wolf, those irregular forces are not going to appear to be in the Iraqi military, and they may have elements of the uniform items on and may present themselves as civilians.

It was interesting, Walt Rodgers earlier on the artillery raid on the 7th Cavalry suggested that forward observers were dressed as these kinds of irregular forces, in civilian clothes, and were actually forward observers for the Iraqi artillery units.

But they can't be engaged, they can't be stopped and, in fact, the U.S. forces, of course, have been cautioned to have a limited footprint in order to humanely treat the civilians.

But I think it goes back to the MEC (ph) kind of philosophy, which is to blow through smaller objectives and take serious objectives. Well, obviously, that creates a tenuous security situation in the rear area, because you've not been able to mop up. There's pockets of these irregular forces, pockets of regular forces that can stay concealed, that come out at night or come out at disadvantageous times and make themselves known.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by for a second, Kelly.

General Shepperd, I want to play the videotape of what just happened in Baghdad within the past few minutes. This huge explosion. Let's listen and let's watch.

All right, General Shepperd, on second look at this explosion, what was it?

SHEPPERD: Well, again, on the replay there, all I saw was the smoke, Wolf. But on the other hand, I saw a couple of other things on the earlier shot. And on the earlier shot I noticed anti-aircraft artillery, a burst going off in the sky, so it's apparent to me that they had some warning there was an air attack.

It is most likely that this was either a Tomahawk missile or a conventional air-launch cruise missile from B-52s rather than airplanes, but there was a single explosion, so very likely it was a cruise missile of some type, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelly McCann, when you saw that go off, what does it say to you of the nature of this air war as it's unfolding right now?

MCCANN: Well, I obviously agree with General Shepperd. It goes to targeting, and remember, as we have converging forces on Baghdad, which is the objective, the forces that would withdraw or ring the city or obstacles, barriers, oil trenches, other armament, positions of guns, gun positions, battery lays that are getting ready to engage. They're going to be engaged with more and more intensity.

As far as the ordnance that was used, General Shepperd would be more expert in that. But I, from a targeting standpoint, would suggest that this is all a continuing softening of that environment so that we can shape the battle space.

BLITZER: All right. I think what we should do is I think we'll keep this live picture of Baghdad up on the screen, but let's go back to the Central Command to that briefing that's under way, the U.S. military leadership answering reporters' questions on what's unfolding in the war.


BLITZER: All right. That's Lieutenant General John Abizaid, the deputy commander of the Central Command, who is General Tommy Franks' top deputy, briefing reporters together with another U.S. Army officer and a British Army officer, answering questions about the course of this war, suggesting that today has been the fiercest fighting yet that the U.S. and British forces have encountered in Nasiriyah, an important town on the road in the south central part of Iraq on the road to Baghdad.

Speaking of Baghdad, within the past few minutes there was a huge explosion. We're told there were three explosions that rocked various parts of Baghdad, including the southeastern portion of the city. I want to show our viewers who may have missed it this latest U.S. air strike against a target in Baghdad.

Let's bring in retired U.S. Air Force Major General Don Shepperd, CNN military analyst.

General Shepperd, you've had a chance to try to absorb a little bit, not only the briefing that was unfolding at Central Command, but also this videotape of this explosion, this bombing, this latest bombardment of the Iraqi capital.

What's going through your mind as you try to understand what's happening on day four of the war?

SHEPPERD: Yes, a couple of things, Wolf. It's fairly apparent to me that we're not going back and hitting the same Republican Palace complex that we were the other day. Although I can't tell where this soda-straw is looking and I see the smoke drifting across the screen.

The reports of three explosions, one of them in southeast Baghdad, lead me to believe that we're probably beginning to hit deployed Republican Guard defensive positions in the vicinity of Baghdad as they emerge, but I'm only guessing.

The other thing that hit me about the piece, re-looking at the piece that you just showed, was that the amount of anti-aircraft fire going off in the air is much less than we saw on the first two days, leading me to believe that perhaps, perhaps the air defense system is being degraded or running low on ammunition in some areas, Wolf.

BLITZER: In that particular case, I don't believe I heard sirens in Baghdad before the actual bomb exploded, which would indicate the Iraqis may have been surprised in this latest bombing run. Is that your assessment, as well, General?

SHEPPERD: That's my assessment, but on the other hand, when I saw the anti-aircraft fire going off in the sky, you know, assuming that that was taken just before these bomb explosions hit, it would indicate to me that at least the air defense system knew and had some warning, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Kelly McCann, our CNN security analyst, a retired Marine officer, is with us, as well.

Kelly, there was some disturbing video that we received earlier today. The Iraqis claim that an American pilot had bailed out of a plane over Baghdad and had landed in the Tigris River, which runs right through the city of Baghdad.

And you can see the Iraqi military sort of just shooting into the water, trying to shoot a downed U.S. pilot or two. I have to tell our viewers that the U.S. military says there were no pilots that bailed out over Baghdad, no planes went down. This is all in the imagination of the Iraqis who have gathered along the banks of the Tigris River.

But what does it say to you when you see this very disturbing video, Kelly? MCCANN: Well, it is in no way a tactic, technique or procedure that's taught to U.S. pilots or special operations forces, to pick or choose a hide site that would be near domesticated animals that might alert the population to you unwittingly or right in the middle of a populated area, especially with a running river, Wolf, where a pilot who is not critically injured could be able to maintain a low buoyancy rate, float right through the center of the city and come out the bottom end.

Remember, the whole purpose of a hide site is to be picked up eventually, so I would think that this is more for propaganda value than anything else.

BLITZER: And you heard General John Abizaid, the deputy commander of the Central Command, say that their search and rescue operations leave a lot to be desired, if, in fact, they were trying to rescue that American pilot or two, which apparently didn't exist since the U.S. military is claiming that no planes went down, no pilots bailed out, no one is missing, as far as that is concerned.

General Shepperd, there was a very disturbing development not far from where I am in Kuwait, in the northern part of Kuwait. A British Royal Air Force Tornado was flying back and was shot down by a Patriot air defense missile as it crossed into airspace into Kuwait. Clearly, some sort of friendly-fire incident. Two British pilots are missing.

How is that possible? How can that happen with all the identification codes, friend and foe, that are on these kinds of places? How is it possible that a Patriot air defense missile goes ahead and shoots down a friendly British Tornado?

SHEPPERD: Wolf, your assessment is right, is that this is a friendly-fire incident and it happens in every war. In fact, most of the casualties in the Gulf War were from friendly-fire accidents rather than military action.

There are well-established procedures, both on the air side and on the Patriot side, for the identification and approval for fire. On the identification side, the aircraft are supposed to squawk discreet codes that are briefed. They also follow certain routes. They adhere to certain altitudes. And then there are procedures if you know that your identification mechanisms are malfunctioning or if you have radio failure, you follow other procedures. These are well-known and briefed to both the pilots and also to the Patriot batteries.

On the Patriot side, they go through very well-calculated procedures to make sure they've identified a target.

Now, everybody's sitting on hair trigger there, worried about missiles coming in with weapons of mass destruction, including airplanes coming in. At some point, someone made a decision to fire that Patriot. I'm assuming that there was not a mechanical malfunction that led to its firing.

It's most likely that someone misjudged. And you normally have if only a couple minutes to a few seconds to make these decisions. They train for it regularly. It should not have happened, it needs to be investigated, and we need to find out what happened, Wolf.

BLITZER: And these Patriot missiles, they're fired -- a human being actually has to push a button. It's not as if they just go off automatically when they sense an incoming missile or enemy warplane?

SHEPPERD: That's correct. There are various modes of this system, but basically you can think of it as a person having to push a button to fire or give a command to fire the missile, and again, well- established procedures on both sides.

And, remember, although we talk about the Patriot intercepting Scuds, this is an anti-aircraft defense system as well as a missile defense system. It's an air defense system, so it's good for both airplanes and missiles, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Kelly McCann, I want you and our viewers to take a look at some disturbing video that was shot earlier by ITN, the British television news station. It includes some British Marines who were fighting to capture the Al Faw peninsula near Umm Qasr, the southern port of Iraq, a key strategic hold-out.

I want our viewers to watch and listen to this videotape.

All right. That was the British Marines in a fight to capture the Al Faw peninsula, which was successful in the end.

Kelly McCann, as you looked at that videotape, it looked pretty intense.

MCCANN: Absolutely, Wolf. I mean, that's a good example of close-quarter battle. In other words, first we see a base of fire element that either was opening up on a position -- you saw the small unit leader give the cease-fire, cease-fire to his men. A couple of reloads. They walked away from the line. Then some overhead coverage with the helicopters.

And then you saw a good example of close-quarter battle, where they moved inside an objective. They're using a munition colloquially call a stun grenade, not concussion grenade, that has a brilliant flash and also about three to five pounds of over-pressure that stuns everybody inside the building so that target discrimination can be conducted. You can sort through combatants and noncombatants.

Then you heard some gunfire. So evidently they did identify some combatants and fired on those targets.

Any fire that was caused inside that building was unlikely done by those Marines unless it was meant to destroy the building for tactical value. Sometimes those flash devices can catch, you know, carpets on fire, they can catch bedding on fire, they can catch draperies on fire.

And then you saw the stack come outside so that they could come to a collection point and basically account for each other.

But that is what close-quarter battle amounts to. That's a very enthralling video.

BLITZER: All right. Kelly McCann, General Shepperd, they're going to both stick around with us. Our continuing coverage is nonstop here on CNN. We're going to have all the latest developments. Much more coming up in the war on Iraq.


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