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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Interview With U.S. CENTCOM Spokesman

Aired April 5, 2003 - 06:13   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to head live to CENTCOM right now, because about, oh, 45 minutes ago, the Iraqi information minister gave a press conference, and in it he said that the Republican Guard had control of the Saddam International Airport.
Tom Mintier -- you have word about that.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They definitely have a different view of that here at CENTCOM.

In the past few days we have heard about these weapons caches being in hospitals, being in schools, being in mosques. They have shown several pieces of video that CENTCOM says are from those locations where they have found weapons caches.

And as we heard a little while ago, the minister of information saying that coalition forces are surrounded at Baghdad International Airport, or as they call it, Saddam International Airport.

Joining us now is Captain Frank Thorpe, U.S. Navy, the public affairs officer here.

Kind of quick into Baghdad today.

CAPTAIN FRANK THORPE, U.S. CENTCOM SPOKESMAN: We took an opportunity last night to move in. That's basically the strategy that we've been using is to seek opportunities when they are apparent to the ground combat commander, to move into the heart of the city with an armored combat formation.

So what we've seen today is a continuation of the battle, some tough fighting. We expect we'll have some more tough fighting to follow in the future. As well as around on the southeast of the city, the United States Marines are engaged with the Al Nida Division of the Republican Guard.

So it's been a tough day of battles. We expect some more tough days ahead, but we continue to move through the heart of the city.

MINTIER: Are you still finding this unconventional suicide bombing attacks coming at troops as they're moving into Baghdad?

THORPE: Tom, we don't have any reports this morning of suicide bombing attacks. What we have reports of this morning is our forces moving through, some sporadic fighting, some fighting that's been described on the scene as fierce, some of the reports have come back with heavy fighting, heavy ground fire and the such, very small reports of casualties on our side.

MINTIER: But you're not seeing the formations, the stand of troops of the Republican Guard you expected to see ringing the inside corridors of Baghdad?

THORPE: We have engaged today some remnants of the Republican Guard divisions that were farther down south, the Medina and the Baghdad Divisions. Those divisions are no longer fighting as an effective fighting force, as a division. But in fact we have engaged those divisions today.

MINTIER: Now, you talk about tougher days ahead. What you're seeing today is tough enough, but what about tomorrow and next week?

THORPE: What we've seen over the last two weeks as we've moved closer to Baghdad, the fighting has become more fierce as we have gone through the Republican Guard. This morning, we have reports from the battlefield of engagements with Special Republican Guard.

So the fighting is tough, don't want to understate that at all. And expect that we still may have some tougher days to follow in the eventual outcome of the regime falling.

MINTIER: Very quickly, there were reports this morning that U.S. military units moved into the Medina Division headquarters and captured it unopposed.

THORPE: We've heard those reports of the Medina Division headquarters being taken. I can't confirm those at this time.

MINTIER: All right, Captain Frank Thorpe, an update on the situation. In less than 45 minutes here in Doha, we expect the CENTCOM command briefing. We will get information and pictures from the last 24 hours from the coalition forces. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks expected to deliver the briefing again today -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And we look forward to that. That's happening at 7:00 Eastern Time, and as Tom said, we will carry that live.

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