CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Air War Picking Up in Northern Iraq
Aired March 25, 2003 - 04:22 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to go from Karl's position further north to northern Iraq, where coalition airstrikes have targeted Iraqi front-line positions near Chamchamal.
CNN's Kevin Sites joins us from there in northern Iraq with more -- Kevin.
KEVIN SITES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, we dropped off with our videophone when we were talking to you a little while ago.
But as far as I can tell you right now, it seems like there's a ground war in full bloom in the south. The air war here is beginning to pick up. Over the last hour, we've heard a little bit more consistent bombing runs here, some explosions in the far off distance.
To remind our viewers, we're about 40 kilometers away from Kirkuk. We're in Chamchamal, which is a border town in Kurdish- controlled territory.
We can't actually see the flashes, but we can hear the sounds of the explosions. They sound to be very powerful at this point. It's kind of like a rolling thunder coming our direction.
There's been a lot of talk about a northern front opening up here. At this point, it looks like it's going to be an air war front. Our colleagues, Ben Wedeman and Brent Sadler, have been talking about heavy bombing near Mosul last night. We've had some bombing here. It has not been as heavy or as consistent as they are reporting right now.
However, on the front lines here in Chamchamal yesterday, our PUK sources, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, their Peshmerga fighters here said they saw eight explosions on the hilltop just over my shoulder. Now, there are a few dozen Iraqi soldiers up there, some anti-aircraft weapons, some heavy machine guns. And the Peshmerga said that they saw these Iraqi soldiers take hits and actually come down the hillside and take cover. They saw them moving their wounded down the hillside out of the range of these fighter jets or whatever was dropping bombs on them.
But we came back about 45 minutes later. We had been in Sulaimaniya. And we looked on the ridge line, and they were back up there walking around fairly nonchalant like no bombing run had happened.
It's going to be strategically important to roll these defense back as far forward as they are if there is going to be any kind of coalition advance onto Kirkuk from this direction. We're west of Kirkuk, and if there is going to be movement, they're going to have to move past these Iraqi defenses. Even though they're fairly lightly defended at this point right in front of us, there is said to be an Iraqi division behind those hills, the Al Mufana (ph) Division, which is heavily armed and is in between Kirkuk and our position at this point.
Also, there's another military compound northwest of Kirkuk, the Al Halid (ph) military compound. There's also an air base there. It's said that that is a military target as well.
So there's a lot of work to be done in an air war before there's any kind of ground action here. We've yet to see really any special forces or any type of U.S. ground troops here yet. And I talked to our colleagues, Ben Wedeman and Brent Sadler, earlier this morning, and they have not seen very many in their portion of the country as well. They're in Al Kalak.
However, they did say yesterday, and of course there were television reports, about the Marine general that came there to announce the U.S. presence in northern Iraq for the first time -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Kevin Sites, we have some other stuff going on elsewhere in the country, so we're going to cut away from there. I appreciate you joining us. We'll probably check in with you a little bit later on.
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