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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

101 Airborne Finds Iraqi Weapons Stash

Aired April 5, 2003 - 06:06   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: As promised, we want to go back to Ryan Chilcote in Najaf. He was showing us amazing pictures just a short time ago of a huge weapons cache that was actually found inside of a high school.
So carry on -- Ryan.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Well, we're still with Sergeant 1st Class Clark (ph), and the 2nd Platoon of Bravo Company, the 2nd Battalion of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, one of the infantry regiments in, of course, the 101st Airborne. And they have all moved into the city or into the vicinity of the city of Karbala to clean up and make safe that area behind on the wake of the 3rd Infantry Division.

But first, what have you guys been up to? Can you show us what you've been finding today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. Well, this is about the third cache we've found today. We've been finding them nonstop, and it's a really tedious affair.

We've got an assortment of weapons right here ranging from AK-47s to over here behind them you'll see mortar sites, 60mm and 81. Off on the far left you'll see a second-generation star scope, kind of outdated but it still works. If you keep shifting over you'll see stabilizer fins for mortar rounds. On the back here you'll see both 60 and 81mm mortars.

CHILCOTE: They used to be well-equipped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they were very well-equipped. Definitely put up a fight.

Rocket-propelled grenades, I'm finding a lot of these lately. They could take out a Jeep or a Humvee in a heartbeat.

CHILCOTE: Now, you said you had seen a lot of weapons caches recently found.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger.

CHILCOTE: Is this a large cache?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'd say this was about a medium cache.

CHILCOTE: This looks like a lot of weapons. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like a lot of weapons, but it's really not. Technically this would probably outfit a platoon, a platoon of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CHILCOTE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep going on. This is a little bit more advanced. These are 25mm shells, and each one of those silver boxes you see behind them holds 50 of these shells. That's a little bit (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That's actually going into mechanize and armor.

CHILCOTE: All right, and you were talking about the makers, where some of these weapons are coming from. And you were expressing surprise to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. A majority of these are coming from, as you can see on this box, both Jordan and France. We have very scattered and limited Russian equipment, but like I said, France and Jordan are the main suppliers right here.

CHILCOTE: Now, for your guys, this is dangerous work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it is extremely dangerous, because once you enter these buildings, we found actually enemy, you know, guarding these sites. Don't know if they're going to be booby-trapped, don't know what's going to be there. so it's very tedious. You've got to be careful about it.

CHILCOTE: OK. You were showing me another site that really got your interest. If you wouldn't mind, we're going to slip over there. If we could get our microphone here.

Now, you were saying that this is basically an agricultural complex where you're finding all of this stuff. This isn't a military site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, itís not. A majority of the caches we've been finding are both in schools -- last night, we found soldiers in the hospital. You know, the unusual part about this is the wide variety of chemicals here.

CHILCOTE: At this site, that's what is different about this weapons cache.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. One of the caches we found about two days they were making foo (ph) gas, which is a combination of gas and liquid soap, which turns into Napom (ph). But this is probably about seven or eight bunkers, all camouflaged here, very recently dug, and you can tell by the moisture on the ground, on the dirt line.

CHILCOTE: All right, just to be the skeptic, you said that -- if I could stop you right there. You said that this was some kind of agriculture, some relationship to agriculture, right? Maybe a storage house over here, where they had some produce.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. CHILCOTE: What makes you think that this is for military use and wasn't just lying around?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I can't speculate whether it's for military use or not, but the fact that there has been business here, there's no produce here, there's no vehicles to move the equipment with, but there is a -- as I showed you earlier there are Iraqi boot prints.

CHILCOTE: Yes, can you show me that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.

CHILCOTE: So you think that this was -- they were hiding this not to just safeguard it but to -- that this was to hide it, to then use against U.S. forces?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Basically because of -- you saw the burned-out crane back there coming up the road. These were dug by backhoe. They were hiding it from us. I don't know what use it can be used for.

But if you look very closely in here, right here is a military- style boot print U.S. Army. Back here, and I kind of erased it when I drew earlier, there is actually an Iraqi boot print, a totally different sole. In fact, this one right here, it's a totally different sole. And the soldiers around here, you can tell the citizens only wear sandals, but the soldiers would have to wear boots, so that's how we're telling the soldier activity around here.

Plus we found a sleeping area right next to this place yesterday with uniforms, weapons, ammunition.

CHILCOTE: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there was definitely military activity around here.

CHILCOTE: Now, are you feeling like -- are you feeling a little bit left out that you're not getting a piece of what's happening in Baghdad? I mean, I know your troops are interested in what's going on in the capital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no, because everybody has a job to do here. We're a team. The United States Army and all of our armed forces are a team. Everybody gets their piece of the pie right now. We're better suited, as far the 3rd ID is better suited for taking out the tanks and their armor. Right now, we're suited for cleaning up the small guerrilla warfare, which is what the danger is at the moment.

CHILCOTE: OK. All right, well, that was Sergeant 1st Class Larry Clark (ph) of the 2nd Platoon of the 502nd, also known as the Deuce (ph), the Strike Brigade of the 101st Airborne near Karbala, where the 101st has moved in to -- if I might use the expression -- mop up or clean up the area of Fedayeen fighters, to safeguard this area behind the backs of the 3rd Infantry Division, which has moved on, of course, as you know, in the direction of Baghdad.

COSTELLO: Right, and quickly now, Ryan, because we have to get to CENTCOM, but all of those weapons that you showed us were found...

CHILCOTE: Sure.

COSTELLO: ... inside of a high school. Were students inside the high school during the time when these weapons were stored there?

CHILCOTE: No, these weapons were found -- all of these weapons were found at this agriculture site.

COSTELLO: Oh, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we found at the school was probably five times that size.

CHILCOTE: Yes. A lot of these weapons -- just yesterday I was in nearby in a city called Najaf -- are being found in schools. You know, you talk to any soldier in the 101st, and they've probably just been through a school that day that had a weapons cache inside of it. But this is some kind of -- this has some relationship -- this site has some kind of relationship to agriculture. That's what makes this a little bit different.

COSTELLO: I understand.

CHILCOTE: And these -- as we were discussing, of course, these chemicals are a little suspect. They could obviously be civilian use; they could not. It's not entirely clear to us here on the ground.

COSTELLO: I understand. The headlines at the bottom of the screen, well, frankly, it was confusing to me, so thanks for clearing that up for me and for some people out there in our viewing audience.

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