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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

War in Iraq: Iraqi Troops Flee

Aired April 3, 2003 - 06:44   ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: There is more to talk about, not just in Baghdad, and also in the southern part of Iraq, but the north as well, more bombing overnight near the town of Mosul and other areas.
Ben Wedeman was reporting yesterday that a number of Iraqi positions have been pulled back. Retreat was the word that Ben used yesterday. He's back with us live in the northern town of Kalak.

Ben, good afternoon there.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good afternoon, Bill.

Actually, we moved beyond Kalak. Kalak is about three miles behind us. Now we're in the town of Nasamia (ph). And what you're looking at behind me is the town of Hasar (ph), which is still under Iraqi control.

Now what you see here is a position occupied by the Kurdish Democratic Party. Those are those Kurdish fighters who have been moving steadily in this direction all day long. At the moment, though, they're taking some incoming rounds from Iraqi, either mortars or artillery, that we've been hearing some thuds coming in their direction.

Now earlier there were bombs falling from U.S. aircraft flying overhead. There were four either F-14s or F-18s, it's not clear which. What we have here in Hasar is a bridge over a river and that bridge leads to the city of Mosul.

From where we're standing, we're about 25 miles. Yes, I just heard another incoming round going in the direction of the Kurdish positions. So, as I was saying, we are 25 miles east of Mosul. Now Kalak, as I was reporting yesterday, has been abandoned by the Iraqi forces. They are now ensconced in this position -- in their positions in Hasar. Earlier there was a fairly heavy exchange of gunfire between the Kurds and the Iraqi troops.

Now, at the moment, there are also American forces in this area. They are not, to the best of our knowledge, directly involved in the fighting. What they are doing is providing spotting, providing a guidance and coordinates for the U.S. aircraft overhead on where to drop those bombs.

Now we've been watching them all morning long or all afternoon, at this point, as they -- we've seen the bombs -- actually, we've been able to see them falling in front of us, or rather, on the Iraqi position. So it does appear that the Iraqis are holding the ground around the bridge at Hasar, but they are coming under fairly intense gunfire.

Now our understanding is that the U.S. planes are not only hitting artillery and mortar positions in that area, but also hitting vehicles that are bringing Iraqi reinforcements to the area -- Bill.

HEMMER: Ben, thanks. Ben Wedeman, again, south of Kalak in northern Iraq.

And some of the main questions at this point certainly surround the capital city of Baghdad and where these Republican Guard divisions of the -- of the six that we were told that were operating prior to the start of this war, at least two have been devastated beyond the point of being able to operate in that country. That's according to Central Command.

Now the question is where -- what remains of the remaining four? Where have they moved? And are they in Baghdad? Are they surrounding the city or have they not moved at all? Perhaps a bit of a clarification on that when CENTCOM briefs at the top of the hour, 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time, one of the main issues outstanding right now.

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