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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Interview With British Military Spokesman in Doha, Qatar

Aired March 30, 2003 - 02:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're looking at a time right now when in about four-and-a-half hours from right now there will be a briefing at CentCom headquarters in Doha, Qatar.
Our Tom Mintier has that as his post, and he gives us this update now in anticipation of that briefing.

Tom -- hello.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Daryn.

We hope to hear of the overnight activities from the U.S.-led coalition, probably an update on the amount of strikes in and around the Baghdad area. There was talk yesterday about a pause in the campaign, but people living around the Baghdad area probably didn't get that message or didn't feel that way. Apparently airstrikes in and around Baghdad the heaviest they had been throughout the entire campaign.

Also, in the city of Basra, British commandos are now in the city and conducting operations. They had been on the outskirts of the city for some time, but now apparently they have moved into the city.

Group Captain Al Lockwood joins us now, a British military spokesman here in Doha.

Tell us about these Marine commando operations that are under way.

CAPTAIN AL LOCKWOOD, BRITISH MILITARY SPOKESMAN: We have a variety of operations under way, Tom. Currently as we talk, Marines are engaging paramilitaries in the southeastern corner of the city and enjoying considerable success. We've taken two fairly high-ranking prisoners, which we're obviously very keen to speak to.

In conjunction with that, we've been doing patrolling, aggressive patrolling. You will have heard of the success we had yesterday in managing to knock over two statues of Saddam Hussein within the town.

MINTIER: The U.S. military took out a Baath Party headquarters with an airstrike that -- an engagement you were in a couple of days ago. How much has that helped destroy the organized effort there was to force civilians to fight, as you put it, in Basra?

LOCKWOOD: We hope very much so that it's put a real damper on it. As you probably are aware, and we can confirm there were up to 250 of these paramilitary activists and Baath Party members in this hall which was successfully attacked. We hope very much.

And we're finding now that the citizens of Basra are prepared to talk to us. They realize now we're there as liberators. We're getting a lot of very useful intelligence and information from them. And part of this campaign is to win the confidence of the people of Basra, and they are assisting us. And we hope as time goes by that more and more information will enable us to liberate more and more parts of the city.

MINTIER: What would you put that parts and parts of the city? What part would you say is under coalition control now, and what is the level of resistance in Basra?

LOCKWOOD: Well, the resistance is really patchy. You know, it's tending to pop up on occasions, and it's not really predictable at this stage, but we're having to deal with each incident as it happens.

As regards to how much of Basra, it's ever-changing. I know certainly that we're aggressively patrolling the outskirts, and certainly part of it will be under our control. But the complete picture we don't have yet, but as soon as we do, I will get it to you.

MINTIER: How about the flow of assistance? There have been reports that supplies getting to the front areas are difficult. What about the humanitarian assistance that's earmarked for the residents of Basra?

LOCKWOOD: Well, it's flowing up towards from the port of Umm Qasr. We're getting it into places as quickly as possible. We have food and aid stations set up on the outskirts, and people from Basra are coming to them if they require the humanitarian assistance.

MINTIER: What about the medical facilities that were existing there? I know earlier they found a hospital that had tanks in it and things like that, and they were struck. Is the military infrastructure and the medical infrastructure both in place in Basra now?

LOCKWOOD: I'm uncertain actually, Tom, but I do know that this regime is more than willing to hide military equipment amongst civilian buildings, and we found they're not only in hospitals, but schools and religious sites. They will do anything to try and hide this equipment. But if necessary, we will have to go in and take it out.

MINTIER: All right, Group Captain Al Lockwood, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

Again, scheduled we think about 3:00 this afternoon a CentCom briefing on the overnight activities, and we should have a better idea of what's going on. Yesterday, of course, we heard that Tomahawk cruise missiles could no longer fly across Saudi Arabia after two of them apparently went off course and landed in Saudi territory, so another one of those adjustments to plans for the coalition.

Daryn -- back to you. KAGAN: Tom Minter at CentCom headquarters in Doha, Qatar -- Tom, thank you.

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