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Iraqi Information Minister Holds Press Conference

Aired April 1, 2003 - 06:03   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: You're taking a live look at Baghdad, where a press conference is under way by Iraq's information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf. Let's go to that now.

MOHAMMED SAEED AL-SAHAF, IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER: ... stations, electricity, generation stations and so on. You know them. You have met many of them.

So the brave Americans start shooting the Americans. They shooted (ph) at those two buses of Europeans, of different nationalities -- I am waiting for the details -- and among them some Americans. Many of them injured because of this aerial attack, and they were carried to the hospital in Rotbah (ph). We send our people there, and we are waiting for the details.

This is only the gist of the issue, and I will -- we are waiting for the details and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will later on. Whenever we get the details, we will supply it to you.

The main information in regard to the bombardment of different Iraqi cities and towns during last night and this morning, the casualties are the follows: Because of this criminal bombardment in the capital, Baghdad, there are more than 100 injured and 19 martyred. In Padasea (ph), there were 18 injured and 3 martyred. In Umbar (ph), five injured and two martyred. In Babylon (ph), there is more than 100 injured and 18 martyred.

And this morning, this morning, the villains had bombarded a civilian quarter in Hillah (ph) City, which is the center of Babylon (ph). This quarter named Nadil (ph) -- Nadil (ph) Quarter. It is in the southern part of the city, and nine Iraqi children martyred. Nine Iraqi children of two adjacent houses, neighbors. We got this information this morning. Nine Iraqi children martyred; among them, one infant, in Nadil (ph) Quarter in the southern part of Hillah (ph) City.

In Tehmin (ph) (UNINTELLIGIBLE), there are only 17 injured. In Salahideen (UNINTELLIGIBLE), there are three injured. This is up until this morning.

As for Baghdad this morning, the bombardment of this morning, 25 injured and 5 martyred.

The bombardment of those crooks targeted civilian quarters in different Iraqi cities, like what I have mentioned in Baghdad, Babylon, Padasea (ph), Salahideen (ph) Umbar (ph) and other cities, they targeted also the buildings of the telephone systems, the telephone exchanges. And they targeted a number of farms. And in more than three cities they targeted the TV and radio transmitters.

As for the battle fronts, we gathered the following information, and I think they are useful to you. I hope so.

In Basra yesterday, fierce battles had taken place in Abal Kaseed (ph) district with the British troops of where not only the regiments of the Iraqi army, but with Fedayeen Saddam and the combatants of the Arab Baath Socialist Party and the militias of our people. They inflicted high casualties in the British troops there, and some of the corpses of the enemy still there in the battleground.

A column of American troops in Al Zubayr district confronted by Iraqi fighters, because that column was moving, trying to move towards Basra. And it has been confronted by Iraqi fighters, fighters of the Iraqi tribes and some of the units of Iraqi army. They inflicted also heavy damages and the column was stopped, then retreated.

There is a district in the outskirts of Basra called Talha (ph) district. Also, an American military column approached that district. And it had been confronted by the mechanized Iraq unit and a battle took place there. Then the American column retreated. The Iraqi side had shooted down one Apache helicopter.

In general, in regard to the Basra sector, the southern sector, the situation still the same. The Iraqi troops and the Iraqi fighters are in control of all the places as we have witnessed that during the last 11, 12 days. No big change in that. We are fighting against them. They are nailed in their places and we are using the war of attrition against them, against the columns here and there, against their gathering here and there. And we are conflicting damages in them and casualties.

In Nasiriya, again, a very fierce battle is still taking place up to this moment when I'm talking to you. And they have approached the city again. They are thrusting towards the city and fierce battles are taking place now while we are talking here in this press conference.

In Najaf last night, they tried also to attack the southern outskirts of Najaf. Also, a fierce battle took place again in south of Najaf. We destroyed seven tanks to those villains. Fedayeen Saddam participated in that battle, and Fedayeen Saddam had destroyed seven personnel carriers. And because of fierce battle in south of Najaf, again they withdrawal to we call it Baha Najaf (ph), that's the Sea of Najaf, which is the desert, and they withdrawal again to that desert 30 kilometers.

In the north, I think Al Jazeera had shown some footage, some films about there the Americans had to drop their forces in a place near molsig (ph) city called Baaj (ph). In Baaj, the American -- the British force, which had been dropped there, had been eliminated (ph) mostly on the fuel (ph) managed to flow -- to fled (ph) with -- by helicopters. And the Iraqi side, the army, the Fedayeen Saddam and the other fighters had taken most of their equipment, their weapons, their armed guards and the ecoms (ph). And I think longer shots will be provided. I mean cleanly (ph) shots will be provided because it is a complete defeat for the first military drop in the north.

And amazingly, the Americans have pushed the British to do that. They pushed them in ahead in order, as if it's an experiment to be implemented on the British, to see -- British troops, to see what are the results. So the results were very tragic to the British.

These are the main information I got. And I'm ready to answer any of your questions.

Yes, please.


AL-SAHAF (through translator): The American politicians, starting with President Bush, are being trained how to ignore the facts every time they can, every time they had -- they do it every time they can. He admits, or actually he tries to say that he is happy, but when he is not, when he says exactly you're Mexican but not Iraqi and he doesn't -- he doesn't -- and he doesn't actually feel ashamed. And we congratulate him on his happiness. We, who are (ph) satisfied. If he is happy with the corpses of the American forces, then let him be happy.



AL-SAHAF: They bombarded a civilian quarter, unfortunately, because I told you that they are racist and they are day after day they are becoming more tense and hysteric, really. They are achieving nothing. They are suffering from casualties. Those casualties in an increase, not decrease.

We decided to make them, to keep them on the move. We decided not to let them even have a rest, and we are doing that. So they are becoming more and more, more desperate, more hysteric and they started killing the Iraqis because inside really the real fact they are racist. They are racists. So they are indiscriminately killing people. (INAUDIBLE).

This is my home town. It is a civilian place where there is a small factory for industrial silk, not natural silk. It is built by the Germans in the '60s, and it is a quarter for labor people. Mainly there are the laborers in that factory. They bombarded that quarter. That's all. Therefore, they are inflicting crimes and casualties among Iraqi civilians.


AL-SAHAF (through translator): The U.S. secretary -- U.S. Secretary of Defense, and I also said I feel that this man is -- he is a bastard. One of the worst, in fact, bastards, and he is so always -- he's always lying. He's not being -- I mean he is -- he has lied so much that he is not being taken seriously by our people. We think that the -- even the American opinion, American public, they feel that he is lying all the time. He has been asked, actually, about the subject you're asking, is it true that you are going to -- you are going to stop the advancement of the American forces -- or the Iraq forces to change your strategy and do you need reinforce those courses and he said no, we will not stop the advancement of our forces and its advancement and we will not accept any cease-fire because the Iraqi forces has mass destruction weapons and we should get rid of them.

This in reaction to your question.

The American politicians, the rulers of America, the symbols of the American, the fascist American rulers are not, they're not stop lying. They're actually lying to their people and they're lying to the whole people, to their people and to the whole people. And their lies are clear to everyone.

When they say we found, I answered that, in fact, more than once previously. All the armies, when there are wars, especially when there is aggressive war like the American-British war against Iraq and they're trying to invade, which they are trying now and which we foil it, hopefully, the standard that by the armies, the equipment of the fighters and the -- we should be among these equipment should be a mask and a description of any weapons. Those bastards, let's suppose that the Iraqi soldier has, there is an equipment of a mask so that he will not -- what we would not exclude that their defeat will be more when the time comes to cut the body of the snake, god knows, actually, that those bastards would not be, I would not exclude, I would not leave, I would not be surprised that they would use.

So the saying that the Iraqi soldiers' equipment, that Iraq, this is an indication that Iraq is the opposite, that those bastards and within the army's, you know, we have equipped our forces with equipment. Iraq will deal with the American and British within the Islamic and Geneva Conventions.

Does that mean that you will allow the Red Cross people to visit those prisoners of war?

We, as stated by the Iraqi officials, as stated, whether by President Saddam or by his foreign minister or by all the Iraqi officials, exactly as stated, they said, they talked about this subject before, that we will deal with this subject according to the Geneva Conventions in connection with prisoners of war. And I have followed that what happened yesterday, what they said about those, this imperialist forces, those -- that we will, this is confirmed.

We want all the, they have, actually they have taken all the civilians, actually, and they consider them prisoners of war. But they are civilians. They say that they are prisoners of...

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to jump away from this right now. That's the Iraqi information minister.

And we want to go to Doha, Qatar to command headquarters and Tom Mintier to talk a little bit more about this, some strange allegations coming out of this press conference -- Tom.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Most definitely, Carol. And officials here at CENTCOM are apparently monitoring the press conference as it continues. I went to ask them while the press conference was still under way if they could confirm the allegation that some Americans were among those on the bus that approached the checkpoint of the Third Infantry Division overnight and were, had warning shots fired at them and then the shots were fired to try to disable the vehicle, and finally the passenger compartment was engaged by the soldiers, shooting into the compartment and killing seven.

So, the word is that they're watching it and they are investigating the report. No, nothing further than that is being provided right now.

COSTELLO: Well, Tom...

MINTIER: They seemed a bit surprised at the allegation.

COSTELLO: Yes, I was just going to get into this supposed use of American human shields and what they were saying about that.

MINTIER: Well, again, they say that they are investigating. They have heard the report and they are investigating it, not really a full reaction or a denial or a confirmation. I don't think that those are the proper terms. They have heard the allegation by the Iraqi information minister. They are monitoring the report as it's coming in and they say they are now going to investigate. So I guess that there will be a call to the commander for the nationalities of those who were involved, if that can be determined.

COSTELLO: Tom Mintier reporting live from Doha, Qatar this morning.

We're going to toss it to a break.

We'll be back with much more right after this.


COSTELLO: 6:27 Eastern time.

War is but an endless series of chaotic and dangerous moments all strung together into an historic narrative. One of those vignettes was recently captured by a photographer with the Associated Press.

CNN's Bruce Burkhardt provides the story line.


BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid the flames of war, amid the backdrop of battle, amid the images of bombings of buildings and bridges, there is a reality of combat -- crossfires, casualties and even compassion. A key bridge in the town of Hindia, the U.S. Army on one side, Iraq's vaunted Republican Guard on the other. A desperate and injured woman caught in the middle. Three GIs from the U.S. Army's Third Battalion head to her rescue. But for the man lying beside her, it is too late.

Captain Chris Carter, the commander of A Company, draws ever closer. This bridge over the Euphrates has been smoke hasn't cleared. Captain Carter radios for an armored ambulance. Tense and dangerous moments pass. And then the medics arrive. The injured woman is evacuated and the Third Infantry Division looks to continue its march north to Baghdad.

Bruce Burkhardt, CNN, Atlanta.


COSTELLO: And we'll be back with the latest headlines right after this.


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