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Deadly Checkpoint Shooting, Reaction From Jordan

Aired April 1, 2003 - 04:04   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: For an update now on the latest, we're going to go to our own Tom Mintier at Central Command in Doha, Qatar for the latest on that checkpoint shooting -- Tom.
TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, in the last half hour, a senior CENTCOM official confirmed to CNN that they're going to be using psychological operations to inform the Iraqi people of the dangers of the battlefield, the checkpoint being pushed forward by elements of Saddam Hussein's regime. They say a message is being prepared and will be dropped in leaflets over southern Iraq very soon.

As you reported earlier, a checkpoint incident overnight resulted in the death of seven civilians when their vehicle failed to stop. Also, CENTCOM says there is a concern that there may be remote control detonation of vehicles, that vehicles packed with explosives and people behind the wheel ordered to drive them up to checkpoints and then detonated remotely. The technology, they say, does exist.

But we did hear very early on this morning from CENTCOM's Director of Strategic Communications, Jim Wilkinson, about this unfortunate incident where seven civilians were killed when they drove into a checkpoint at a high rate of speed.


JAMES WILKINSON, CENTCOM COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: This is a sad and tragic incident, and it is really terrible that innocent people have died. I will point out that this is a by-product. The new security measures we've had to put in place are a by-product of the regime's tactics of terrorism. They have now called for terrorist attacks both in the United States and United Kingdom. They continue to, as the report said just before, they continue to attack their own citizens who try to flee. And so it's a sad and tragic incident. It's unfortunate that it had to happen, but all such incidents like this are the fault of the regime.


MINTIER: Also, CENTCOM officials blame the regime for offering a reward for a suicide bomber, providing the family of that person who detonated in the 3rd Infantry Division the equivalent of about $35,000 and a posthumous promotion.

So there is a great deal of concern here. Whether they've changed the rules of engagement or operational procedures is up to question, but it does seem that the procedures at checkpoints have changed dramatically since a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle outside the 3rd Infantry Division checkpoint on Highway 9. Now they are ordering these vehicles to stand off, people to get out of the vehicles and check them out from a distance rather than from up close.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: All right. Tom Mintier live at Doha, Qatar. Thanks very much, Tom.

In a few hours, as Tom mentioned, at 7:00 a.m. Eastern, we're going to have live coverage of that briefing from Central Command, 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

Let's go to Daryn Kagan in Kuwait City -- Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Anderson, let's go ahead and get more on that checkpoint. We're going to bring in Rym Brahimi. She is in Amman, Jordan, and Rym hopefully can bring us some Arab reaction to the deadly checkpoint shooting.

Rym, hello.


Well interestingly enough, I can tell you that it hasn't made the main Arab newspapers. That event doesn't seem to be in any of the headlines of today's newspapers. It wasn't either in the headlines of the broadcast of Al Jazeera television.

Now it's typically the kind of event that would trigger a lot of high emotions in the region, and it's typically the kind of event that people are worried will happen more and more. But in terms of media coverage, so far we haven't seen a big splash on it for the moment. It could be that it didn't make it, that the event wasn't -- happened actually too late for the newspapers to make it, but there is a question over why the broadcasters aren't leading with that as a top story at the moment.

Of course, as you know, Daryn, there are a lot of other things happening in Baghdad, a lot of targeting of Republican Guard facilities, of intelligence facilities, presidential palaces. There was a lot of smoke in Baghdad earlier this morning and residents will have woken up after a night of intensive bombing. Five huge explosions overnight. If we're to believe the Pentagon, in the past three days, 3,000 precision-guided munitions have been dropped over the Iraqi capital.

Now I just spoke to some people who have just come out from Baghdad, they say Iraqi civilians are trying to make -- to just sort of lead their life as they can under the circumstances. And as soon as the bombing stops, well they go out and try to buy food and go about their daily business, despite the difference of circumstances of course -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Rym, let me -- let me just jump in here. Our time is a little bit short here. I want to ask you one thing that I know has made the media, because I've seen it here on Arab television here in Kuwait, is this new video of Saddam Hussein and his sons. What kind of coverage is that getting in Jordan and what do you make of the release of that video?

BRAHIMI: Well that's a very interesting release of a new, we can call it the latest release of the President Saddam Hussein tape, in a way. It has made Al Jazeera. It's been in a lot of the Arab newscasts, definitely.

Definitely a sign, again, not only for the international community there, but also for the Iraqi people. President Saddam Hussein, hours after the domestic TV channel was knocked off air, the TV comes back on air with this picture of President Saddam Hussein, both his sons, Uday and Qusay Saddam Hussein, the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Military Industrialization. This at a moment when there were a lot of questions over the sons may have fled in another country, even in the region. A lot of rumors abounding about whether or not Saddam Hussein's family was still in Iraq. So as if to answer those rumors, the president coming up on TV, and it has been broadcast on Arabic channels, way of saying that they're still in charge, if you will -- Daryn.

KAGAN: That would be the Iraqi response, I guess, but also have to have some kind of verification, Rym, of when exactly that tape was done.

Rym Brahimi, in Amman, Jordan, thank you.

Anderson, you take it from here.

COOPER: Daryn, thanks very much.


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