CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Special Edition: War in Iraq
Aired April 6, 2003 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's Sunday, April 6, 12:00 p.m. on the East Coast, 9:00 a.m. in the western part of the United States, 8:00 p.m. in Iraq. This is a special edition of LATE EDITION.
Good afternoon to all our viewers in North America. Good evening to our viewers here in the Persian Gulf, and hello to our viewers around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Kuwait City.
Joining me this hour from Atlanta, my colleague Leon Harris, who gets thing started with a look at what's happening this hour right now -- Leon.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf.
All right, folks, here's what's topping the headlines at this hour.
A high-ranking Army officer tells CNN that U.S. military forces have completely encircled the Iraqi capital city. CNN's Walter Rodgers is embedded with the 7th Cavalry in a western Baghdad suburb right now. And he says that U.S. and Marine forces now control all roads into and out of town.
And we're also told that at least four people were wounded this morning. That when a Russian convoy came under attack outside of Baghdad. The group of vehicles was carrying 25 Russian diplomats and journalists who were fleeing Iraq and heading for the Syrian border. Not clear right now who is responsible for the attack, but U.S. Central Command says that coalition forces were not operating in the area at the time of the attack. Our Walt Rodgers says that attack happened in the area that's known as being the wild, wild west.
Now, Kurdish officials say a U.S. warplane mistakenly dropped a bomb on a U.S.-Kurdish convoy containing American special forces troops in northern Iraq today. A Kurdish spokesman says at least 18 Peshmerga fighters were killed, 45 others were injured. Kurdistan Democratic Party officials tell CNN there were also American casualties. U.S. Central Command says it is investigating this incident right now.
The family of rescued American prisoner of war Jessica Lynch arrived in Germany today. Lynch's parents, her brother and sister are all expected to visit her at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. That's where she is recovering from injuries she suffered in Iraq. Wednesday, a special forces raid freed Lynch from an Iraqi hospital in Nasiriyah. NBC News journalist David Bloom has died while covering the war in Iraq. Bloom, who served as the weekend co-host of the Today Show, was not killed in combat. NBC says that he died suddenly last night of a pulmonary embolism while he was out in the field. David Bloom would have turned 40 next month. He leaves behind a wife and three daughters, and he has our best wishes.
Now, let's go back to Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City with CNN's continuing coverage of the war in Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Leon.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
The United States has essentially told Saddam Hussein earlier today there is nowhere to run. CNN's Walter Rodgers, with U.S. troops in the western suburbs of Baghdad, reports U.S. forces have the city of some 5 million people surrounded. At the same time, American forces made pinpoint forays into Baghdad for a second straight day to flush out Iraqi troops and herald the United States presence.
We hope to hear live from Walter Rodgers in Baghdad's western suburbs shortly.
First, we're joined this hour by General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is joining me live from the Pentagon.
Good afternoon, General. Thanks so much for joining us.
And I wonder if you could start off by giving us your assessment right now, the assessment of Baghdad. Has the U.S. actually encircled the Iraqi capital?
GEN. PETER PACE, VICE CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Good afternoon, Wolf. Thank you very much for the time on your program today.
As you know, the Baghdad city east to west is maybe 15 to 20 miles long and north to south another 15 to 20 miles. There is absolutely no doubt that we have significant amount of combat power around that city, but with an area that large would not want your viewers to think that every single inch of territory around the city has been covered.
BLITZER: We know that the southern part, the southeastern part, the southwestern part, extensive U.S. forces there. We have heard in the north you've cut off that main road to Takrit.
What about on the western part? There seems to be one escape route that people are leaving the city, heading on the main road to either Syria or Jordan. Are you deliberately leaving that road open so some can leave?
PACE: Well, we need to make sure we have a differentiation between military forces, which would be engaged by coalition forces as soon as they show themselves anywhere on the battlefield, and legitimate movement of civilians who are trying to get out of the way of armed conflict.
BLITZER: So what you are saying is that you have the area basically surrounded, but you are willing to let civilians who want to be refugees leave?
PACE: Again, we need to be careful how we use the term surrounded. There is significant military force all around the city of Baghdad, but it is a huge perimeter. So don't want the viewers to think there is a soldier every 10 or 15 feet.
We do control the highways in and out of the city and do have the capability to interdict, to stop, to attack an Iraqi military forces that might try to either escape or to engage our forces.
BLITZER: Is that -- does that include the eastern part of the Iraqi capital as well?
PACE: It does.
BLITZER: And the U.S. has enough troops in place? Can you give us a ballpark number, how many forces you estimate you now have around Baghdad?
PACE: Well, I think the reporters on the ground have done a very good job of describing the units from the U.S. Army and the units from the U.S. Marine Corps that are on the ground. I would not want to tell our adversaries exactly how many troops are there.
What they need to understand is that the force that has arrived on their doorstep is a significant, capable force. That we prefer that the leaders of the Iraqi armed forces do the honorable thing. Stop fighting for a regime that does not deserve your loyalty. Surrender your forces and give yourselves and your troops the opportunity to be a part of Iraq's future and not a part of Iraq's past.
BLITZER: We know that there was at least a three-hour thrust into the Iraqi capital yesterday. And since then, we have heard there have been other penetrations of Baghdad proper.
How do you describe the current presence of U.S. military forces inside Baghdad itself?
PACE: I know that the forces on the ground have conducted a couple of armored raids in which they have taken significant numbers of coalition tanks and armored personnel carriers and driven through portions of the city, destroying all of the enemy vehicles and personnel with whom they've come in contact.
So the military would be conducting what we would call armored raids right now.
BLITZER: And those armored raids, what's the point, the main point of them, if you just go in and then you go back out? PACE: Well, one of the points is to destroy the enemy that we found, and the last two raids have been very, very successful at doing that.
Another point is to give the Iraqi armed forces that may still be there the opportunity to see that we are equally effective in and around the city as we are on the open battlefield.
And we do not take pleasure in destroying them, their equipment, or their people. We want them to understand that we have a mission to complete, that we will complete this mission. But we also want to demonstrate to them how efficient we can be, so that, again, as I've mentioned, the Iraqi individual soldiers and their leaders can surrender and become part of Iraq's future.
BLITZER: Have there been any locations in Baghdad itself, inside the city, where you've decided to establish a presence, as opposed to these raids that you've described?
PACE: I prefer not to talk about the future, because that puts our own forces in danger. You know that we have forces at Baghdad International Airport right now and other locations around the city, but I would not go into what's next.
BLITZER: You can imagine that this is a city with a lot of civilians. We have some pictures of pretty frightened Iraqis who have seen some of these battles that you've described during these raids.
One of the battles supposedly resulted in approximately 2,000 Iraqi soldiers, Republican Guard forces killed, maybe even 3,000. Are those numbers pretty accurate based on preliminary estimates?
PACE: Based on first reports of the numbers of Iraqi soldiers killed, that sounds about right.
BLITZER: And what about U.S. casualties in the process?
PACE: Very, very few. In fact, in that raid the other night where we lost a tank, what happened was the, I believe the tank tread was knocked off by a rocket-propelled grenade, so the tank itself could not move.
The crew was not at all injured. They got out of the tank, joined their buddies in the rest the column and kept on going. So in that one raid, for sure, there were no U.S. casualties.
BLITZER: How do you explain that, General Pace? We had heard so much of the elite, supposedly elite Republican Guard divisions, the Special Republican Guard inside Baghdad itself, the Special Security Organization that Saddam Hussein has surrounded himself with. How do you explain this disparity in casualties?
PACE: Well, one thing for sure, this is not an easy event. The U.S. soldiers, the lieutenants and captains and sergeants and lance corporals who are making these decisions on the battlefield are taking their training and applying their own smarts to it in a way that has truly produced incredible results of bravery and of combat effectiveness that we should all take pride in.
We have superior weapons systems. We have a great team of leaders from top to bottom, and we have young men and women who are willing to take this fight to our country's enemies.
So the big secret weapon that we have is the capacity of our young troops and our young officers to make decisions on the battlefield that result in the kinds of things that you've seeing so far.
BLITZER: You also have clearly superior weaponry, high technology, plus, perhaps, some have suggested, most important, air superiority, air cover that the Iraqis simply don't have.
Those are significant factors as well, I assume?
PACE: Oh, absolutely. Top to bottom, whether it be equipment or individual man-for-man or individual leader at any level, we've got them outgunned and outmatched.
BLITZER: What about that road leading from Baghdad to Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit? Is that effectively under U.S. military control?
PACE: I'm not 100 percent certain of that. Have not seen the latest reports. I do know that it would be a road of interest to us. Our exact capability right now to control that road, I'm not sure.
BLITZER: How worried are you about urban warfare in Baghdad, especially those Fedayeen Saddam, the paramilitary forces, the foreign fighters who have come in, the other Arab fighters? This could get pretty bloody in the days and perhaps weeks to come.
PACE: Well, there's no doubt that it is still possible that we will have some significant combat ahead of us. And I would never want anyone to think that that is not possible.
On the other hand, I am very comfortable and very confident that the soldiers and Marines who we might call on to do that have been trained exceptionally well, and that they will be equally efficient in the city as they have been in the countryside.
BLITZER: The Baghdad International Airport that you've now renamed from Saddam International Airport, when will that be suitable for use? When will U.S. planes, helicopters start using that facility?
PACE: Not sure. I understand from first reports that the facility itself is in pretty good shape, so I would imagine it would take a little bit of time to make sure that the area around it is secure.
I mean, the Iraqi regime still has many surface-to-air missiles at their disposal, so it will be a little while. But undoubtedly and inevitably, that airport will be reopened for the Iraqi people to use as part of a free Iraq. BLITZER: And despite Iraqi denials from their information minister, you can say categorically that that huge airport and the complex, the immediate surrounding areas, are under U.S. control?
PACE: Absolutely. In fact, I'd offer him a guided tour.
BLITZER: Well, I don't think he'll take you up on the offer, at least not yet.
Why is it so hard to knock Iraqi television off the air? Even earlier today, we heard Mohammed Said al-Sahaf, the information minister, delivering his daily briefing. That would seem, to a layperson, a relatively easy challenge for the U.S. military.
PACE: Well, you can understand that a regime that has stayed in power through coercion and fear is going to have -- put great emphasis on their ability to communicate with their people.
So there are redundant systems, there are land lines of communication and there have been fixed television studios, for example. But in addition, they have mobile means of communication, just like you see in and around some of our own cities. There are mobile ways to produce the television shows. We have been systematically attacking those, and as the mobile stations come up, we find them and target them.
The bottom line is, at the end of this, we will do what we've been sent to do, which is to free Iraq, to enable the discovery and destruction of the weapons of mass destruction, to provide stability inside of which the Iraqi people can select their own form of government. And then we'll be able to leave, and they'll be able to become members of the international community.
BLITZER: General Pace, you can confirm, though, that you are doing your best to try to knock Iraqi television off the air?
PACE: That's a fair statement.
BLITZER: OK, good. What about the whole issue of Saddam Hussein and his whereabouts? What can you tell us? Is he alive, is he dead? Is he in control of his military?
PACE: Don't know if he's alive or dead. Do know that the night that we attacked the location that we thought he was, that we had very, very good intelligence corroborated by several sources. Since that time, those same sources have not shown any indication that he's alive.
So if he is alive, he is proving himself to be one of the world's worst generals, and if he's dead, he's dead.
BLITZER: What about those videotapes we've seen of him, including that one in which he made that reference of the downed Apache helicopter, an event that occurred after that first night, when you targeted him in the war? PACE: It is possible that he's alive. That's possible that he could have taped something like that. I mean, it would not be inconceivable, before a war began, that you would think that, perhaps, a helicopter might be shot down. It's possible that one of his doubles is the one who said that.
Doesn't make any difference. The bottom is, whether he's alive or dead, the outcome of this is certain. And the regime will be replaced by a free Iraq that has the opportunity to develop their own government the way that the Iraqi people would like it to represent them.
BLITZER: I know your mission has been very clearly defined by the president, to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein. But is part of the mission also to find or kill Saddam Hussein personally?
PACE: Part of the mission is to do away with the Iraqi regime, to have that regime replaced by a free government. Whether or not Saddam is killed or captured is not a -- the specifics of that are not as important as the fact that his regime will be replaced, his people will feel free to stand up and determine what their own future's going to be.
BLITZER: I asked the question because a lot of people are wondering, will he wind up being as elusive a target as Osama bin Laden has been?
PACE: Don't know. Make no promises, other than the fact that the mission means to replace the regime, to discover and provide for the eventual destruction of the weapons of mass destruction, to ensure that a Iraq inside its current borders is turned over to the Iraqi people with the resources, to include the oil, that rightfully belongs to them, so that they can have a free, representative form of government and they can become part of the community of nations.
BLITZER: Can you update us as well on his two sons, Uday and Qusay, their whereabouts, whether they're alive? We haven't heard much from either of them.
PACE: Yes, don't know. We haven't heard much from them either, but we do not know their status.
BLITZER: How important are they in the big scheme of targeting them?
PACE: What's important is the dozen or so leaders of this very repressive regime, that they either be killed or captured or driven away in a way that allows the Iraqi people to design their own future.
So, of course, we would like to find them. Of course, we'd like to capture or kill them. But the bottom line is, they'll be gone one way or another, and the Iraqi people will be able to determine their own future.
BLITZER: We know you targeted Ali Hassan al-Majid, the man known as Chemical Ali, in the southern part of Iraq. Did you kill him in that target, the man who purportedly was responsible for gassing Kurds in 1988 in the northern part of Iraq?
PACE: Yes, we don't know yet whether or not we got him. That'd be a good thing. I mean, this is a guy who has chemical attacks on his own people, kills thousands of his own people when he's in supposedly a leadership position inside of his own government. So if he were killed today, that'd be a good thing.
BLITZER: Have you found any evidence of chemical, biological weapons, evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, so far, hard evidence, the so-called smoking gun that the U.N. inspectors used to look for?
PACE: Right now we're very much focused on the battle at hand, to destroy the enemy forces. Once we have that complete, we'll have plenty of time to go about the country and, with the help of the Iraqi people, discover the hiding places of these weapons of mass destruction and make sure that they get taken out.
BLITZER: Do you have any sense of why no weapons of mass destruction, chemical or biological agents, have been used so far?
And the follow-up I'll ask you as well: Do you expect that they still might use it?
PACE: Do not know why not yet. But it's possible that the Iraqi military leaders who have control of these weapons fully understand what we want them to understand, which is that they have absolute free will in this case, and they still have the opportunity to determine their own fate and the fate of their troops.
And they will be held accountable for the decisions they make. So they should in fact not obey the illegal and immoral orders to use weapons of mass destruction.
BLITZER: There was a friendly fire incident in the northern part of Iraq earlier today, killing several of the Kurdish allies, the Kurdish forces. Maybe you can update us on that particular incident. What exactly happened, and what's the outcome?
PACE: Wolf, it's first reporting on this end. We do know that there was a convoy up north. We do know that we had some U.S. Special Forces with that convoy. We do know that one of our planes dropped bombs on that convoy. And that's all we know right now.
BLITZER: Obviously, another friendly fire incident. What about this Russian diplomatic convoy, this motorcade, that was trying to head toward Syria? What happened in that particular case?
PACE: Well, last night, East Coast time, was when the Russians informed us that they would have a motorcade leaving their embassy downtown Baghdad to leave. That word was passed to our troops in the field, it was passed amongst all the ground forces.
Sometime early this morning, I'm told around 3:20 a.m. or so East Coast time this morning, that that convoy was attacked.
There's some things we know, and some things we don't know. We know that we knew that they were moving. We know that our forces were told they were moving. We know that they safely passed through the western part of Baghdad, through the U.S. forces that are there, and had gotten out into the countryside.
And we also know that there have been no reporting of any ground unit of the coalition of any kind of contact with that kind of a convoy. The other thing we know is that the convoy was attacked by somebody, so we still need to do some research into this. But as best we can tell right now, they got safely through the coalition forces.
BLITZER: There are reports, General Pace, that the Iraqis, or at least paramilitary forces, maybe regular forces, are hiding out in mosques and hospitals, shooting at U.S. troops from there, hoping to get sanctuary, and you're not going to respond. Clearly, you're not going to attack a mosque or a hospital.
Are those reports accurate?
PACE: I don't know about the current reporting. I do know for a fact that they have in the past used hospitals to wit where we found Pfc Jessica Lynch. She was in a hospital, and that was being used as a command center. There have been other hospitals used for that purpose.
We know they have used schools for various military activities, to include one school that was actually a factory where they made mines. We know in the most holy of Shi'a sites inside of Iraq, at Najaf, that regime death squad members had placed themselves on holy ground and had fired at coalition troops, hoping to get us to respond.
So we know that they have done this in the past. We can expect that they will do it in the future. And I would expect that the Iraqi people would want to take care of that particular problem themselves.
BLITZER: We know that the secretary of defense has issued some stern warnings, if you will, to the government of Syria, accusing Syria, in effect, of allowing military shipments to cross into Iraq from Syria.
Where does that issue stand right now?
PACE: Outside my lane. What we worry about is the battlefield itself, and we're very comfortable and confident that we have the capacity on the battlefield to deal with what's currently there and anything that might be introduced.
BLITZER: General Pace, I have one final question and then I'll let you go. The whole issue of how long U.S. military forces will have to remain in a post-war Iraq. There have been all sorts of estimates, six months to years, 100,000 to 200,000. What's your assessment right now?
PACE: Too early to tell. And what will happen is, when we get done with the kinetic piece of dropping bombs and shooting weapons and we have a secure environment, we'll be able to do an assessment of Iraq and the kinds of things, missions that need to still be accomplished.
And it won't be just U.S. forces or the coalition that's there now. Certainly, U.S. forces and Brit and Australian forces that are currently there will have a part in this, but other countries have already said that they would be willing to help with the stability inside of Iraq when this is all over.
So we're going to need to see what missions are left to be accomplished when this is done, meaning how many forces do we need to provide the stability throughout Iraq so that their own police forces can be rebuilt, their military can be rebuilt, they can get the water systems and the electrical systems and the like built up, and so that Iraqi citizens can meet in the open and have a debate and select their form of government.
BLITZER: General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Thanks for joining us. I know it's been a hectic schedule for you over at the Pentagon. I appreciate it very much.
General Pace joining us live here on CNN.
PACE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, live from the front lines we'll check in with some of CNN's embedded reporters. And reports of friendly fire incidents in northern Iraq. There are a number, a number of fatalities. Our Jane Arraf is in Irbil with the latest.
Also, British forces make a gruesome discovery in southern Iraq leading to this question, will Iraqi leaders face war-crimes charges?
Plus, remembering the fallen. Sunday church services pay special tribute to those lost in the war with Iraq.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures of Baghdad. It's now dark; it's now nighttime in the Iraqi capital. That's usually when airstrikes start occurring, we start hearing explosions -- artillery, anti-aircraft fire, and in recent days, artillery blasts.
CNN's Walter Rodgers is not very far away from the Iraqi capital. He's one of our embedded journalists. He's joining me now live.
Walter, give us the latest.
WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf. Well, actually, I'm in Baghdad on the western suburbs of Baghdad.
The real headline for today is U.S. Army sources told CNN that the Iraqi capital of Baghdad is now completely encircled by U.S. troops and that, in point of fact, U.S. troops -- U.S. Army soldiers and Marines are now guarding the entrances to all the highways going into and out of Baghdad. One soldier said, "No one comes up and down these roads if they want to live" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Walter, are they deliberately leaving some of those escape routes open so that some Iraqis can leave? I assume they check whoever wants to leave. But normally, that road to either Syria or Jordan has been pretty much open, even though, as you say, the U.S. now controls those roads.
RODGERS: The road had been open until today, Wolf, but the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division has now moved into a blocking position within the last, oh, 10 to 12 hours, and even those roads are sealed now.
When the Iraqis tried to flee yesterday, the Ba'athist Party members and the middle-level Republican Guard officers, they got out of Dodge, if you will, before the road was closed. But the roads are closed now, and the Army and the Marines are making sure that Baghdad remains a closed and encircled city -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I don't know if you heard my interview with General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, just a little while ago. But he confirmed that in that initial thrust, what he called an armored raid, into Baghdad, 2,000 or 3,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed, and there were minimal U.S. casualties.
Is that the kind of sense that you're getting, as well, as an eyewitness to what's going on?
RODGERS: Absolutely, Wolf. The Iraqis are just outmatched and overmatched here.
Several days ago, we were on one armed reconnaissance mission in the western suburbs of Baghdad, just a few kilometers from the airport. And within a 24-hour period, 7th Cavalry killed over 400 Iraqis.
I think any time the Iraqis put their heads up now, they get shot, they get killed. We've seen many Iraqi tank units simply parking their tanks in groves of trees, parking their armored vehicles in groves of trees, and then taking off, just leaving them.
The only Iraqis who are staying and fighting, we are given to believe, are the more fanatic elements of the Fedayeen, which, of course, was one of Saddam Hussein's elite units -- a few Republican Guards.
But often over the course of the past few days, what we saw was very interesting, many Iraqi soldiers tried to overrun U.S. positions, not so much to go into combat, but just to get out of Baghdad -- Wolf.
BLITZER: One final question before I let you go. I don't want to leave our viewers with the impression that this is a cakewalk. There are still huge dangers out there. Isn't that fair, Walter? RODGERS: That is correct. And it is night now, and we can see flashes of lights on the horizon. We can hear artillery -- U.S. artillery outgoing. There are hostile areas.
I think the best way to describe it, Wolf, is, there are really no front lines west of the city. There are areas in which the Fedayeen and the other Iraqi elements, the irregulars, move about fairly freely. And they're moving about as guerrilla elements. They take advantage of the night.
We were told by Iraqi civilians today that the Iraqis use mosques and schools by daylight. They take their sanctuary there and then, like guerrillas, they go out into the night, and that's when we're seeing a good deal of the fighting -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Walter Rodgers, one of our courageous embedded reporters on the front lines doing important work for all of us.
Walter, be careful out there. Thanks very much for that eyewitness account.
We're going to check in with Leon Harris in the CNN News Room for a quick update on all the latest developments unfolding this hour.
HARRIS: Thanks, Wolf.
Hello, folks. Here I am, this is Leon Harris at the CNN Center in Atlanta.
A senior army official tells CNN's Walter Rodgers U.S. forces do control all of the roads into and out of Baghdad, completely circling the Iraqi capital. Rodgers says that Iraqi irregular fighters, like the Fedayeen Saddam, are conducting nighttime launch attacks on coalition forces.
A British-led bombing raid in Basra has reportedly killed several cousins of Saddam Hussein and the bodyguard of a man known as Chemical Ali. Also a Saddam cousin, Ali reportedly ordered the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in 1988. The fate of Ali himself? Not known at this particular point. He is thought to be coordinating the forces in southern Iraq.
President Bush, meantime, returns to the White House today after spending the weekend at Camp David. Likely he will be preparing for his trip tomorrow. He will be traveling to Belfast, Ireland, for a two-day summit with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The two are expected to talk about a new peacemaking deal for Northern Ireland, as well as the war in Iraq.
In Hong Kong, in other news, two more people died overnight of SARS and 42 others were hospitalized with symptoms of the illness. Chinese officials have reported 22 SARS deaths in their country. Globally, 89 deaths have been linked to this mysterious illness. And SARS cases have been confirmed now in 18 countries, including here in the U.S.
Now let's go back to Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City for more of our continuing coverage of the war in Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Leon.
U.S. commanders are looking into an apparent friendly fire incident in northern Iraq. CNN has been told 18 Kurdish fighters allied with the United States were killed. U.S. special forces may also be among the casualties.
Let's bring in CNN's Jane Arraf. She's in Irbil in the Kurdish- controlled zone.
Jane, give us the details, please.
JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've just come from that area. Now, Kurdish officials are saying that this incident will not effect cooperation with the U.S., but it couldn't have been more unfortunate.
It was an absolutely horrific scene. A bomb dropped on this convoy, injuring more than 45 people, including seriously injuring the brother of what people refer to as the president of the regional government here. His son was also wounded.
Among the dead was a BBC translator as well, the BBC traveling in that convoy.
Now, the American special forces on the ground who had been calling in air strikes and helped treat some of the wounded said they didn't know of any American casualties. But that is still being investigated. But altogether, it was truly a horrific scene. And it happened at the site of a battle that continued throughout the day. Now, early this morning, American special forces said that they saw Iraqi tanks advancing in offensive positions. They didn't have air support at the time, so they moved back and called in air strikes. Now, they responded with what you see in these pictures, things like 50-millimeter machine gun fire, mortars and mostly F-14s.
This amazing image captured by our cameraman, Chris Matlock (ph), an F-14 dropping a laser-guided 2,000-pound bomb on an Iraqi defensive site.
Now, forces there said they believed they took out perhaps 10 Iraqi tanks. And as we left, they were planning to move forward again as the Iraqis retreated -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jane, so what's the reaction among the Kurds? These have been loyal supporters of the U.S. They've worked very closely with U.S. special operation forces in the north. How have they taken to this friendly fire incident?
ARRAF: You know, as we drove up to the scene and the ambulances were speeding the other way, I saw one man on the side of the road sobbing. But we spoke to the Peshmerga. Peshmerga means those who defy death, and it's sort of the definition of being tough. Because they've spent most of their lives in the mountains, these people, fighting guerrilla warfare, and they do not openly show emotion. The ones we spoke with said this was expected -- it can be expected in a chaos of war, it wasn't an indication that things would change, and that they still valued the United States. Indeed, they see the U.S. Army as liberators.
It remains, though, that this incident could not have been more unfortunate. It did seriously injure the brother of the head of the regional government here. It wounded his son. And it sent a message, perhaps, that things are dangerous not only from the Iraqi forces, but from the people they're fighting with as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jane Arraf, be careful up there yourself.
Jane is in the northern part of Iraq, the Kurdish-controlled part, reporting on this very, very disturbing friendly fire incident that occurred just a few hours ago.
President Bush is spending the weekend at Camp David preparing for tomorrow's summit with the British prime minister, Tony Blair, in Northern Ireland. Tony Blair, of course, being the Bush administration's primary ally on the war in Iraq.
CNN's White House correspondent Dana Bash is standing by with a little bit of a preview.
What's going on, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, the president actually arrived back at the White House early this morning. He came back just a few hours ago. And he will, as you say, be spending the day in the White House residence, obviously, preparing for his trip to Northern Ireland.
It will be a two-day summit with his top ally, Tony Blair, mostly on the issue of Iraq, but they are going to Northern Ireland. And officials from the White House and British officials say that this will give both men a chance to sort of symbolically focus, at least for a short time, on a peace process that they believe at least has worked somewhat -- it's about five years old this coming week.
But the most of their discussion will be on Iraq. They will be talking about military issues, about, as the coalition forces move in on Baghdad, but they will be talking about the future of Iraq. And this is where things get sticky between the president and his top ally, because Prime Minister Blair, we are told, will make the case that he believes that it's important for the United Nations to have a very strong role in reconstruction and in the interim government, forming the interim government in Iraq.
The White House is making pretty clear now that they believe that the U.N. should have a role, perhaps in humanitarian aid and in other means. In terms of building and reconstructing Iraq, they believe that that should be left to the coalition that, as Condoleezza Rice put it, gave its life and blood in this effort.
So that's going to be the stickiest thing that the two men will be talking about, as the summit comes forward.
I should also note, Wolf, that Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, is currently in Moscow, working to bridge relations with that country, as they have been pretty strained over the past couple of months -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And just to be precise, that visit of hers to Moscow came long before -- that was in the works long before this Russian convoy was hit by some sort of missile or bomb, as it was attempting to leave Iraq for Syria. Just coincidental that she happens to arrive in Moscow right now in the aftermath of that incident.
Is that right, Dana?
BASH: That's absolutely right. She is going to talk about relations with Russia. They have been really bumpy, just in terms of dealing with the Iraq issue. The Russians did not want this military action to go forward, and there have been problems, in terms of the White House being very upset with Russia because they believe that they were selling illegally some military equipment to Iraq. Those are some of the things that they will be talking about.
And like you said, it was arranged before this incident happened.
BLITZER: All right, Dana Bash at the White House.
Dana, thanks very much.
We're continuing to watch what's happening in Baghdad. Right now our Walter Rodgers says the entire city is effectively sealed off by U.S. forces. They've surrounded it. They've got control of all the main roads leaving the Iraqi capital. We're watching all of that.
CNN's live coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom will continue, right after this short break.
BLITZER: When 19-year-old Jessica Lynch went off to war, her family, of course, hoped she would come home again safe and sound. But it turns out, they are not waiting for her to return back to West Virginia all that quickly, so the Lynch family went to see her. Her parents, brother and sister landed this morning at the Germany's Ramstein Air Base.
Lynch is in intensive care, being treated for wounds received in Iraq. She was taken prisoner during an Iraqi ambush and rescued Wednesday from a hospital in Nasiriyah.
While Jessica Lynch was rescued from that hospital in Nasiriyah, other members of her unit were not. Of the nine bodies recovered during the raid to rescue Private First Class Lynch, seven were her comrades in the 507th Maintenance Company. That group is based in Fort Bliss, Texas.
That's where CNN's Ed Lavandera is standing by -- Ed. ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, of those seven bodies that were recovered on Friday, you also must remember that originally, that there were already two members of the 507th Maintenance Company that were found dead as well. So the total of that is nine members from that company that were found dead. Jessica Lynch found alive, and that there are still five prisoners of war from that group.
So there are still, as this base here at Fort Bliss, Texas, in El Paso, mourns the loss of the soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company, there is still the slice of hope out there for those soldiers that are being held as prisoners of war. And a lot of the folk that is here returns to those family members and helping them out. Much of what military officials on this base are doing is helping out those families and pushing them through these difficult times.
And church services here this morning, an extra poignant moment for regularly scheduled church services here on the base this morning, after the news on Friday night that the seven bodies were recovered, along with Jessica Lynch on Wednesday. The confirmation that those soldiers missing in action were indeed found dead.
The bishop of El Paso spoke to the congregation here. He was actually scheduled this meeting to speak with these family members six weeks ago. He wanted to be able to help out a lot of these family members who were already dealing with the stresses of their loved ones being deployed, but the added stresses of what has happened, here at this base in particular.
The bishop here coming to say that they hope that there is mercy for those soldiers who have died in action and also comfort for the families who are dealing with so much at this time.
And a lot of the parishioners who came here to the services this morning talked about their thoughts are now with the prisoners of war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our hopes are strong that they are coming back. We want them back. Our prayers are that they're being well cared of. That, of course, the Iraqi government or the regime in charge is following the proper protocol that's called for.
As far as the faith here, it's strong. I mean, we back our country and our president 100 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a past military member and now as a civilian member of this community, I feel like that things that are happening just bring us closer together and help us, like I said, to get over this period of despair. And I think everyone will just pull together, and we'll get this thing behind us.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
LAVANDERA: Wolf, we're standing just across the street from the chapel where services that were being held this morning. This is Memorial Field. And we've been talking about the flags here on base being held at half-staff. Below the American flag here, on Memorial Field, the flag of the POW-MIA flag, flying also, alongside the American flag.
So, clearly here, heavy hearts, as family members await any kind of word on the fate of the five POWs.
There is a memorial service that is -- has been scheduled for next Friday. This is the official memorial service for the soldiers of the 507th Maintenance Company, and what we're told here is that it will probably be open to the public -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera at Fort Bliss. Heavy hearts, indeed. Thanks, Ed, very much.
Among the soldiers killed in Iraq from the 507th Maintenance Company was Private First Class Lori Piestewa. Piestua is a friend of Jessica Lynch, and is the first America service woman killed in the war so far in Iraq.
CNN's Rusty Dornin is joining us now from the fallen soldier's home town of Tuba City, Arizona, with more.
Rusty, among other things, Peistewa was a Native American.
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She was a Native American, a Hopi living here on the Navajo reservation. She was also a Catholic and part of the congregation here at the St. Jude's Catholic Church.
The service just ended here just about a half hour ago. During the service, Father Godden Menard (ph) talked about the fact that Piestewa liked to travel -- or liked a road less travelled; that's why she joined the Army. And how proud he was and the community was that she gave her life for her country. But now she is at peace.
The Piestewa family was here. They gathered after the service with close family and friends.
Also here with us today is a former babysitter of Lori Piestewa, a very close friend of the family, and also someone who the family has given permission to to talk to us right now, Serita Dale.
Serita, you and I talked just even a week and a half ago how much people were hoping that Lori would come home. How is the community taking it now?
SERITA DALE, FAMILY FRIEND: Well, the community now is very quiet. It's not too much -- oh, gosh, it's hard to say. It's quiet. I don't know what else I can say. And the community was hurt when they first heard it. Everybody was crying. Everybody was hoping more than what we got the news on.
DORNIN: Was it difficult, too, when you heard -- when the community heard Jessica Lynch was rescued, of course they were joyful, but... DALE: Oh, when they said one female was rescued, we were ready to go run and honk our horns and thank the Lord. And we waited, just anxiously, but it happened not to be her.
DORNIN: So many people say -- have said to me that people -- everyone knows everyone here, someone's related somehow. Has this brought the community together in a different way, though, this tragedy?
DALE: Not really in a different way. I think the community was always a tight community. We've always been together. We all know one another here. We work together. We wave to each other. We're all a whole big family. This is a small community, but we stick together, and we're here for the family.
DORNIN: And also there is a number of tribes. You're Apache. Lori was Hopi, but this is also a Navajo reservation, so it's a number of communities, right? DALE: Yes. Oh, yes, it's not just -- there is different other tribes here and also different people who work to help the family to...
DORNIN: How is the family doing?
DALE: Well, when I see them, they are holding up very strong. There is still more to come, but we're sitting tight and waiting for when the time will happen. We have -- other people have plans for next weekend for the week, but people are putting it off because they want to wait for this occasion, that we owe her this special time of her life.
DORNIN: Thank you very much, Serita Dale.
As Serita was referring to, no one knows here exactly when the body will return to Tuba City. But this community is that close that people are actually putting off personal plans. They just don't want to go anywhere until they find out when the funeral service will be -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Rusty Dornin. And of course, our heart goes out to that family as well. Rusty Dornin in Tuba City, Arizona, thank you very much.
The nine U.S. soldiers whose bodies were recovered from outside the hospital in Nasiriyah came from cities and towns across the United States. And now family, friends and strangers are gathering to remember and honor those who gave their lives serving their country.
HARRIS: Let's get a recap now of some of the latest developments in the war in Iraq.
HARRIS (voice-over): 3:13 a.m. Eastern, 11:13 in the Gulf: From CNN's Kathleen Koch, Pentagon officials say that despite 6:00-p.m.-to- 6:00- a.m. travel restrictions announced by Baghdad, U.S. forces will operate when they want, where they want.
5:40 a.m.: Tom Mintier reports the bodyguard of Chemical Ali, a top Hussein aide accused of gassing Kurdish villagers in 1988, has been found dead in the rubble of an airstrike that destroyed Ali's home. There's no word on Ali's fate.
6:33 a.m.: CNN's James Martone reports from northern Iraq, where a U.S.-Kurdish convoy was bombed. The BBC reports that the bomb was mistakenly dropped by a U.S. warplane. Kurdish leaders say at least a dozen Kurds died and at least 45 were injured. No word on any U.S. casualties.
6:36 a.m.: Iraq's information minister says, in fighting around Baghdad's international airport, Iraqi forces killed 50 coalition troops and destroyed or severely damaged 16 tanks.
7:01 a.m.: U.S. Central Command says coalition fighters in Iraq have killed and captured a number of fighters from several nations, including Sudan and Syria. A link to terrorism is suspected.
9:02 a.m.: CNN's Walter Rodgers reports that, according to a high-ranking senior official, Marine and Army troops now have Baghdad completely encircled, controlling all roads into and out of the city.
9:44 a.m.: CNN's Diana Muriel reports British forces have rolled into Basra, encountering little resistance, and are now securing that southern Iraqi city.
HARRIS: All right, coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION, the latest action from the front lines of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We'll get a situation report from Major General George Harrison.
Plus, war funding and homeland security -- just two topics we'll discuss with Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator John Warner and the ranking Democrat on that committee, Senator Carl Levin.
That's coming up in CNN's continuing coverage of the war in Iraq.
BLITZER: This very, very sad personal note. We at CNN join our friends and colleagues at NBC News today in remembering our friend, the journalist David Bloom.
David and I spent several years both covering the White House. We spent an enormous time together. I got to know him very well. A great guy, a loving father, a great husband, a terrific friend.
He died in Iraq today of natural causes, only 39 years old, just shy of his 40th birthday. We will miss him terribly.
Let's take a look at his life and times. Here is CNN's Jason Carroll.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the last three years, he has been the friendly, familiar face on NBC's "Weekend Today." Sunday morning, his colleagues, his friends began with one of the most difficult stories they've ever had to tell.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, NBC ANCHOR: Good morning. Sad news today from the front lines of Iraq. NBC's David Bloom, a husband and father, adventurous spirit and our colleague, died overnight, of course, covering the story in Iraq that he loved to cover so much. It's just -- it leaves you speechless, really.
CARROLL: Bloom died early Sunday of a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lungs.
BLOOM: If you talk, you've got to yell to me, because it's really hard to hear out here.
CARROLL: He died doing what he loved, reporting on the big story, no matter where it was.
BLOOM: These are not, obviously, ideal living or working conditions.
CARROLL: While in Iraq, Bloom met his deadlines from the front lines. He was embedded with the 3rd Infantry.
BLOOM: What the sheriff's department calls the first real break in this case...
CARROLL: Bloom joined NBC News 10 years ago, he came from WTVJ in Miami. He was an award-winning reporter at that station.
BLOOM: Are you trying to hide your face? Are you embarrassed that you're doing this?
CARROLL: And while at NBC, he quickly rose through the ranks, becoming to the network's go-to guy.
TIM RUSSERT: If there was a hurricane, flood, a coup in Haiti, wherever there was something breaking he wanted to be there.
CARROLL: The O.J. Simpson trial, presidential impeachment hearings, the serial sniper -- Bloom did it all, and did it well.
As White House correspondent, he showed why he was so respected. He was a journalist who cared.
BLOOM: Under the cover of the bombings, or despite the bombings, the Serbs are rushing to complete their ethnic cleansing. Is there at least no sense of urgency about trying to stop that now?
CARROLL: Bloom wasn't all business. It was his boyish charm that endeared him to so many at NBC.
Humor, commitment and devotion to family. Bloom is survived by his wife and three young daughters. He would have been 40 next month.
BLITZER: And our deepest condolences to David Bloom's family. He loved his wife, he loved his kids, he loved his family. He was always so enthusiastic in his profession. He was a great journalist, and how sad we all are to have lost him.
HARRIS: Hello, I'm Leon Harris.
At this hour, American forces have Baghdad encircled. A U.S. commander says that all major roads into and out of the city are now in the hands of the Army and the Marines.
CENTCOM says that in-and-out (ph) raids into Baghdad yesterday resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Iraqi combatants.
In northern Iraq, a deadly case of friendly fire. Witnesses say an American warplane mistakenly bombed a convoy carrying Kurdish guerrillas and American special forces. At least 18 Kurdish fighters are dead, and a top Kurdish commander is one of dozens seriously wounded. At this time, there are no confirmed reports of any Americans deaths or injuries in that incident.
A search today through the bombed-out villa of the Iraqi general known as Chemical Ali. CENTCOM says a coalition air strike killed a bodyguard of Ali Hassan al-Majid. Al-Majid's fate remains unclear at this hour.
Also today, NBC says the death in Iraq of David Bloom was not related to combat. The NBC correspondent collapsed south of Baghdad and was later pronounced dead at a mobile medical center. NBC says the 39-year-old Bloom died of a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in his lungs.
Our thoughts are with his family today.
And now, we check on the weather right now. Jacqui Jeras is standing by in the Weather Center with word on severe weather today -- Jacqui.
HARRIS: Thanks, Jacqui. Good deal. We'll see you in a bit.
I'm Leon Harris in the CNN center in Atlanta, and our coverage of the war in Iraq continues with Wolf Blitzer right now.
BLITZER: It's just after 8:00 p.m. here in Kuwait City as well as in Baghdad, where the news is being made this Sunday, April 6th.
Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. Welcome to our second hour of LATE EDITION. JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, Wolf. From CNN studios in Washington, where it is just after 1:00 in the afternoon, I'm Judy Woodruff.
BLITZER: Welcome, Judy.
As darkness falls on Baghdad, the ancient city is now under siege. U.S. officials say the Iraqi capital is completely cut off and all roads in and out are secured now by American forces. Explosions rocked the city, once again. And a U.S. Army task force has staged yet another in-and-out foray.
On the outskirts, there is what is being described as guerrilla war, American fighters going house to house to quell localized resistance. Just south of the city, this Marine unit entered a village, calling families out of their homes. Here's why: Bands of Iraqi irregulars are using civilian cover to mount hit-and-run attacks, especially after dark. And it is after dark right now. CNN's Martin Savidge reports these terrified Iraqis were allowed back into their homes after the Marines checked it out.
Also today, the tide turns in Basra. That's in the southern part of Iraq. After a day-long siege, in fact several days, British tanks entered Iraq's second-largest city amid scant reported resistance. The British say Basra is nearly secure.
Now, for more perspective on the unfolding situation in Baghdad, let's get to CNN's Miles O'Brien. He's with Major General George Harrison, Retired, at the CNN Newsroom in Atlanta -- Miles.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Wolf.
The question is, with Basra nearly secured, it may be a long while before the coalition can say that about Baghdad. Joining me, of course, is George Harrison. He is at our map room right now.
General Harrison, good to have you with us.
GEN. GEORGE HARRISON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good to be here.
O'BRIEN: I want to go to our earthview.com, get a big overview of Baghdad for just a moment, give you a sense of perspective here.
First of all, I want to tell you that from one end of the screen to the other here is 15 miles. So that is pretty much the greater Baghdad area. I'm going to overlay a map on here to help you get a sense of what is the center of town. There is the map right there in the middle.
And we're told now, by Walt Rodgers, just a little while ago in his good reporting with the 3-7 Cav, that all the key access routes, probably here, here, here, here, along here, along here, and up here, are now under the control of U.S. forces. In other words, all of the key ways of getting in and out of Baghdad.
George Harrison, is this laying the groundwork for a siege?
HARRISON: Well, I'm not sure that it's going to be a siege. Dick Myers, two days ago, told us that if we have a picture in our mind of a classic siege with an encirclement and gradually moving in from that area, that we have the wrong mental image, that that's just not the way we should be thinking about this.
Conversely, I think there are several models that can apply to this sort of a situation, and we might think about the way Saigon fell in 1975, where civil authority collapsed and the, at that time, North Vietnamese, now the Vietnamese, moved into that area and took over the city with virtually no resistance, because there was absolutely no government that could support their transition of power.
O'BRIEN: Just a collapse.
Let's talk for a minute about yesterday's foray by the Third into parts of Baghdad, really skirting the very center of town.
I'll try to draw you a rough map, if we can keep the earthsphere.com up there for a minute, I want to draw a map, and then I'll show you some of that action.
OK. What they did was, they came out this side of the airport, kind of looped around, came up Route 8, and back into the airport, 25 miles in total for that excursion.
But look here. If you look in that spot right in here, that is very close to the center of town. We're told as many as 2,000 to 3,000 casualties along the way.
George Harrison, what did that prove?
HARRISON: Well, it proves again, as General Leonard (ph) said the other day, or this morning, that U.S. forces and coalition forces can enter Baghdad at will, at a time and place of their choosing.
It's also important, because this was what's called, in military parlance, a "reconnaissance in force." They moved forward, they fixed the enemy, they were able to figure out where the enemy is, at least at the time they moved through the town, and it lets them plan further campaigns.
It's our understanding that there was another reconnaissance in force today, during the daylight hours that have just closed, so that they can again figure out where the enemy are, figure out where the concentrations are, and figure out the proper courses of action to move forward and bring about, perhaps, this collapse of civil authority that we speculated might happen.
O'BRIEN: Just quickly, before you get away, because you used to wear a blue suit in the Air Force, just talk briefly about the air campaign, where it stands right now, as we look at a high picture over Baghdad, 24 by 7 coverage. We're told there are two forward air controllers in the skies all the time.
Just check out earthsphere.com, and we can show you what's going on here.
And typically, this air mission would involve F-16s, F-15s, F- 14s, F-18s. Typically, the type of ordnance they would use would be a lot less than we've seen in the early stages, correct?
HARRISON: I think that's true. I think you'll see a lot more 500-pounders, instead of 2,000-pounders. But the emphasis is going to clearly be on precision, clear target identification, understanding exactly where they're dropping, and the reason for the forward air controller in the sky is to establish direct communication with the supporting ground units, so that we avoid the kinds of errors, or minimize the kind of errors that we unfortunately saw this morning in the northern portion of Iraq.
O'BRIEN: All right. We can talk about that a little bit later. A friendly-fire incident, 12 killed, including the brother of one of the key Kurdish leaders, talk about that a little bit later. Time does not permit right now.
General George Harrison, thank you very much -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Miles, just moving across the news wire now, Reuters is reporting, quoting U.S. military sources as saying that the first U.S. military aircraft has now landed at Baghdad International Airport.
Of course, as we know, coalition forces moved in there just two days ago. So very quickly now we are hearing that, on this Sunday evening, Baghdad time, the first coalition U.S. military aircraft, we're told, has landed at Baghdad Airport.
Again, this coming in from Reuters. That's all the information we have right now.
We are also hearing reports of fighting continuing in the area of the airport. As you just heard Miles discussing with the general, there are -- there has been another foray into the city.
With me now, from the Pentagon, CNN's Patty Davis, who's been talking to people there.
Patty, there is movement on a number of fronts, and I don't know whether they've had time yet to comment on this first military aircraft landing at the airport.
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no word yet on that from the Pentagon or U.S. Central Command.
But coalition forces do continue to put a lot of pressure on Iraqi troops in Baghdad. Pinpoint missions, quick in-and-out raids inside Baghdad. And there are two goals, according to the U.S. military: Destroy enemy troops, number one. And number two, show Iraqis that coalition forces can be as effective in the city as they are on the open battlefield.
Now, Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Peter Pace told CNN's Wolf Blitzer just a short time ago that troops are making their presence known in Baghdad, but have they surrounded the city? Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PACE: We need to be careful how we use the term "surrounded." There is significant military force all around the city of Baghdad, but it is a huge perimeter, so I don't want the viewers to think that there's a soldier every 10 or 15 feet.
We do control the highways in and out of the city, and do have the capability to interdict, to stop, to attack, any Iraqi military forces that might try to either escape or to engage our forces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIS: Meanwhile, Pace confirmed a friendly fire incident. A coalition airplane mistakenly bombing a convoy of U.S. Special Forces and Kurdish troops near Mosul.
The incident, early reports say, may have killed one civilian. Also injured one U.S. soldier, one Kurdish soldier and four civilians. Now, U.S. Central Command says that coalition aircraft were conducting close air-support missions over that area at the time. Back to you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Patty Davis, bringing us the very latest from the Pentagon. Again, Reuters reporting the first military aircraft landing at Baghdad International Airport just now.
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Judy.
And we have one of our embedded correspondents not very far away from Baghdad. Right now, CNN's Walter Rodgers with the 37th Cavalry.
Walter, I don't know if you know anything about this report that the first U.S. military aircraft has now landed at Baghdad International Airport, about 10 or 12 miles outside of the Iraqi capital, but what do you see, what do you know from where you are right now?
RODGERS: Wolf, we have known for hours and have been under an embargo that the U.S. was planning to fly in several aircraft this evening. The plan was two C-130s, plus a C-117.
Again, we've been under an embargo, but army officials told us earlier in the day that under the cover of darkness, once it was dark, they planned to make a number of flights into the Baghdad International Airport.
Of course, this is somewhat symbolic at this point, and it is important to point out that they had to wait for the cover of darkness to fly aircraft into Baghdad International Airport. But this has been in the planning stage now for at least half a day, perhaps even more. I've known about it six or eight hours, but because of the Pentagon's rules and because of the risk of reporting planes were going in before they actually landed, we've had to sit on the story.
We do need to point out that the airport is still, while under U.S. control in terms of real estate, the area around the airport is hostile, hence the planes flew under the cover of darkness. Wolf?
BLITZER: And Walter, we know, at least I assume that the Iraqis still have significant anti-aircraft fire, what they call triple-a (AAA) fire in and around the Iraqi capital that could pose an enormous threat to U.S. fixed-wing and helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
Is that fair?
RODGERS: That's accurate, Wolf. And I should say that within the last hour, we have seen anti-aircraft fire coming from the direction of the airport.
But again, it's very difficult to say if the Iraqis knew what they were shooting at. What they have is old 20 millimeter Soviet- vintage ack-ack guns, anti-aircraft guns.
They fired tracer bullets into the night. These are not radar- controlled. They are visually sighted, and at night, a dark, overcast like this, it would be very difficult to hit an incoming plane.
Having said that, and your point is well taken, Wolf, we are not seeing U.S. Army aircraft, particularly the helicopters, the Hiowas and the Apaches anywhere near Baghdad, and that clearly testifies that there are very serious pockets of resistance with surface-to-air missiles believed to be in their possession.
Also, we've seen dozens and dozens of anti-aircraft weapons, the 20 millimeter which are perfectly capable of shooting down a low- flying aircraft on a daily approach to Baghdad International Airport. Wolf?
BLITZER: Walter, we heard yesterday from one of the commanders at the Central Command in Doha, Qatar, at Camp As Sayliyah, right outside of Doha, say that there are these two long runways that we're all familiar with, we've all seen these pictures of Baghdad International Airport. One was the civilian, one was really used for military. I think he said that they effectively bombed out the military runway, but the Iraqis themselves had put in some dirt, dirt mounds, I think he called them, on the other runway to prevent the U.S. from using that runway.
It would not be a difficult ordeal for a U.S. Corps of Engineers, others, to fix up those runways. It could be done very quickly. Clearly, it's been done.
Do you know which runway they're using, or are you not allowed to say if you do?
RODGERS: Wolf, I really don't know which runway they're using. But I do, am more than familiar with the aircraft which were planned to fly into the Baghdad International.
One of them is a C-117 and I flew out of Afghanistan in the middle of the night in a desert with no runway, no lights at all. That plane can land virtually anywhere. It's a superb aircraft. And of course, the C-130 HERCs (ph), which were also planned have fantastic reputations going all the way back to dirt runways in Vietnam.
So the kinds of aircraft which were slated to fly in, at least if they follow the original plan, those planes can land virtually anywhere, including broken runways -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And they don't even need much of a runway. They can take off and land with very limited runway capabilities, as many of us remember what happened in Bosnia when they tried -- the C-130s, in particular, tried to land there.
Walter Rodgers, our man on the scene for us doing outstanding work.
Walter, we'll be getting back with you very, very soon. Thanks very much.
And while U.S. forces move in and out of Baghdad, civilians continue to flood out of the Iraqi capital. CNN's Rula Amin is watching all of this for us. She's along the border between Jordan and Iraq in Roashed (ph).
Rula, what are you hearing from your sources today? What's happening inside Baghdad?
RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they are saying that the raids have continued throughout the day. Large explosions are being heard in the Iraqi capital. In the last hour, we are told continuous explosions. Now most of it, it seems, are sounds of heavy artillery fire, especially coming from the southern outskirts of Baghdad.
The Iraqis are saying and reporters on the scene that some missiles, including mortars, have landed in some of the residential neighborhoods in Baghdad. It's not clear, as it stands now who is shelling who in terms of artillery fire, but we do know from Iraqi officials, they are saying some of those missiles hitting the residential neighborhood have caused some civilian casualties.
The Red Cross say Iraqi hospitals are stretched to the limit. The medical staff stopped counting the number of wounded. They are hardly trying to cope with the large number who are coming in, many military personnel and some civilians.
Now, Iraqis and the Iraqi officials seem to be feeling this pressure being put on Baghdad and on the security forces there. There are security forces on the streets, Republican Guards, the ruling Ba'ath Party militias and as well as Fedayeen Saddam. And the Iraqi officials are urging everyone to help defend the capital.
There was another message today from Saddam Hussein to his troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SADDAM HUSSEIN (through translator): In the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful, from Saddam Hussein to all of the forces of the Iraqi armed forces, peace be upon you. When it is hard or difficult for any member to join their own respective unit, they can join -- they can link up with any other unit and they will be counted as such until further notice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMIN: Now, obviously, there, the Iraqi leader is trying to compensate the lack of communication between him and the troops. We do know that coalition missiles have hit most of the local telephone exchanges. And so it seems that he is reaching out to any troops, any people, any security forces who are willing to fight. He's urging everybody to fight and stand by him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Rula Amin, watching the situation for us from her monitoring location along the border between Jordan and Iraq.
Rula, thanks very much for that report.
Let's go back to Judy Woodruff in Washington -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Wolf.
And we continue to note reports from Rula and Nic Robertson and others that the hospitals in Baghdad are being stretched to the limit. That's something that we will want to keep an eye on, of course.
Well, there is a delicate dance for U.S. Marines who have been moving into Baghdad, primarily from the east. They are trying to wipe out Iraqi resistance in the midst of civilian populations, which you've been hearing about.
CNN's Martin Savidge is traveling with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, and he filed this report earlier today.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As they have for the past three days, the Marines continue to drive into the southeastern suburbs of Baghdad. And as they do, they have been encountering pockets of resistance. This is sporadic fighting that does not occur all the time, but does flare up from place to place. And they have been moving into more built-up areas. And that is complicating things for the movement of the convoys.
Other units have pushed ahead, but now the 1st Battalion 7 brings, in this specific area where we are at, has been tasked with the job of cleanup -- trying to find where the resistance is coming from. Who is it? Search-and-destroy missions, as they call it.
The difficulty, of course, is they are now mixed in with the civilian population. Opposing forces are using that to their advantage. For the Marines, they have to be very careful now -- have to be careful that they select their targets and make sure that the targets they aim at, are in fact, hostiles, while the innocent civilians are not caught in the way.
It is house-to-house searches, sometime. A very poignant scene, at one point, that cameraman Scott McWinney (ph) found, as these Marines moved in on a house.
Now, we do have translators, but not all the units have translators. They came across one family. It's through voice and through hand gestures that they try to get them to come out of the house.
And they do, but it's clear, you can tell, that the family is terrified in the presence of these Marines.
Now, the Marines also, as you may notice in this video, are keeping their weapons well away. They are not pointing them at the women and children and the men of this family, and they are trying to assure them that it's for their own safety.
The Marines have been receiving fire from this specific area. They are trying to simply search in and around the home, and once that is completed, the family was allowed to return back to their house.
Meanwhile, though, in the backyards and the back alleys and the side streets, it's a different story. At times, infantry units are fired upon. They call in artillery, which is used to take out some of the heavier fortified portions of Iraqi opposition. This is the way it has gone for the past three days and may continue like that for some time.
However, last night, a special find: the 1st Battalion 7th Marines managed to capture three members of the Special Iraqi Republican Guard. These were men that were identified because of the ID cards that they had with them. They weren't wearing uniforms, but they did have them in the back seat of their vehicle, as well as their weapons. The three men are being interrogated and reportedly cooperating with the Marines.
It is hard, difficult, dangerous work -- within the forefront of their minds, always protecting Iraqi civilians.
Martin Savidge, CNN, southeast of Baghdad.
WOODRUFF: And difficult to watch those pictures of the children, the small children raising their hands, when the Marines came into their house, their compound.
Next up, we will talk to top members of the Senate Armed Services Committee -- Chairman John Warner and Ranking Member Carl Levin -- about the war in Iraq. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Baghdad, it's a city presumably under siege right now. U.S. forces virtually around the Iraqi capital. More air strikes expected, of course, around this time of the night.
Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION.
Late last week, in the U.S. Congress, in separate votes, the U.S. Congress approved almost $80 billion in short-term war funding and homeland security, and a final bill will likely reach the president's desk as early as this week.
That said, lawmakers' opinions of the war and its possible ramifications are virtually all over the map, even now. And we're joined in this hour by two very influential senators, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, John Warner of Virginia, and the ranking Democrat of that committee, Carl Levin of Michigan.
Senators, thanks so much for joining us.
Let me begin with you, Senator Warner. This latest development at Baghdad International Airport, now receiving the first U.S. C-130 landing there. You heard General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, speaking on this program in the past hour.
What's your bottom-line assessment of how this war is unfolding right now?
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: First, let us remember in our hearts and our prayers those that we have lost here -- the United States and other coalition forces and, indeed, all who've lost lives. And also to reflect on how well the loved ones, the families and others are reflecting these losses here at home and the bravery that they're showing.
But, Wolf, I think it shows very clearly that President Bush, General Franks, Secretary Rumsfeld and others carefully laid down a plan which was considered for weeks and weeks in the Department of Defense. They've stuck with that plan. It is unfolding.
And, today, of course, you saw a historic flight, U.S. planes landing at Baghdad to bring in badly needed supplies, food, and other things that are necessary for the continuation of fighting forces.
How proud we are of the corporals and the sergeants, the lieutenants and the others of the coalition forces, particularly the U.S. Marines, being a former Marine myself, how brilliantly these young men and women are discharging their professional responsibilities and with great bravery.
BLITZER: Senator Levin, is this war going as you expected it to go? Is it moving more rapidly, more slowly? What is your bottom-line assessment?
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I think the war is going as planned militarily.
There are two major challenges ahead, though, and we should not underestimate just how difficult those challenges are. One is Baghdad itself, which militarily could be a very difficult problem.
And I think our uniformed military leaders are very cautious about overemphasizing speed here. They're going to do this in a way which reduces the level of casualties, both militarily -- to our military and to the civilians there.
But secondly, of course, the post-conflict problem, the administration of Iraq, to do this in a way so it does not appear to be an American occupation. We're not there to occupy Iraq. The president said that we were there to liberate Iraq. And it's very important that we now move in a way which makes it clear to both the Arab, Muslim and the entire world that we're not there in our own interests. We're there for better reasons than that.
BLITZER: Well, do you have confidence, Senator Levin, that that is the case, that the Bush administration will act as you want it to act?
LEVIN: I have to put a lot of faith in what the president said at the Azores with Prime Minister Blair, when he said that we will be seeking on an urgent basis the U.N. endorsement of a post-conflict administration. Those are the words that they used.
And I think it's critically important, for all kinds of reasons, that this not be an American occupation. First of all, it's important, it seems to me in terms of world opinion, which is hostile in many cases and many places to the United States, that they see us acting multilaterally.
It would have been better if we had the support of the world community acting through the U.N. going in. It was not obtainable by us. It's important now in the post-conflict area that the world community be involved deeply in the reconstruction of Iraq.
BLITZER: Senator Warner, on that point, who should take the lead, the U.S. military, the U.S. government, or the United Nations, in a post-war Iraq?
WARNER: Very carefully, and in my discussions with senior administration officials in the last 48 hours, we're laying plans for Senator Levin and I to have a hearing of the Armed Services Committee next Thursday on this precise point.
First and foremost, the president, through his secretary of state, said that the United Nations should be partners. I add to that phrase yes, they should be partners, but the managing partners. In other words, those with the ultimate responsibility for the interim period should be representatives from the coalition forces -- the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Poland and others -- who have taken a very active role.
Also taking the advice from surrounding nations, nations surrounding Iraq, which have been quietly, in various ways, involved. They know a lot about the internal workings of Iraq, and I think we can benefit by listening carefully to them.
We'll bring in such assistance as needed to allow the oil-for- food program to resume. There, the U.N. can take an immediate role, reestablishing the currency, reestablishing all types of things that allow the Iraqi people to reconstitute, in due course, their own political government, their own choosing, not the U.S. choosing or the coalition forces.
So there will be room for participation internationally by a great many individuals and organizations. And the job -- I think I agree with Carl Levin who said the job is challenging, but we must make clear to the world that the United States' role was to free the Iraqi people of the Saddam Hussein regime, destroy the weapons of mass destruction, enable the Iraqi people to elect their own government, and then we quietly depart.
But in the interim, we've got to remain and give the force structure to enable the security -- to maintain the security within Iraq so that these steps can be taken.
BLITZER: Senators, even as you are speaking, we are hearing more explosions in Baghdad. That should not come as much of a surprise to any of us or to any of our viewers.
Senators, Judy Woodruff is joining me in the questioning from Washington -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Senators, you were mentioning how around the world there has been opposition to the war. We also know that in the United States, right here, there is a lot of support.
There's a new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll out today showing 71 percent of American people favor this U.S. war with Iraq. Even more people think victory is certain.
In addition to that, almost half say they think the U.S. will take control of Baghdad in less than two weeks.
Senator Levin, is that realistic and is that wise?
LEVIN: It may be possible. But whether or not it's wise is going to have to be left up to the commanders in the field.
There's many alternatives to street-to-street and house-to-house fighting in Baghdad, including the kinds of probes that have been going on, including taking over, perhaps, sections of Baghdad militarily and not moving in in great force, house to house.
But the military commanders have got to make that decision in the field. And they're going to make it in a way, I'm sure, which will reduce casualties of American forces, as well as civilian casualties inside of Baghdad.
It's a huge challenge. I don't think we ought to be setting deadlines or overly optimistic time periods. That was done once before. It was a mistake, that seemed to me, when some of the civilians in the Pentagon had overly rosy scenarios going on for a while. We've made that mistake once; it should not be made again.
And I hope that people don't come up with these very short-term predictions. Hopefully, they'll be true, and it will be easy, but it may be very difficult and very complex.
WOODRUFF: Senator Warner, when it comes to the Baghdad timetable, should coalition/U.S. military leaders take into consideration factors such as what our Rula Amin reported a few minutes ago that she's hearing, that hospitals inside Baghdad are stretched beyond the limit with civilian and some military casualties, but more and more civilian?
WARNER: Quite true, and also, unfortunately, the hospitals and schools have been used by the Iraqi military, both irregulars and the Fedayeen militarists, as their own base headquarters. As you recall, where that brave young Army Pfc. Lynch was found, in that very hospital was a military headquarters.
But, Judy, that's why I find the current tactics being applied by the current coalition military in Baghdad a wise one. They're sending in heavily armored reconnoitering forces to look for targets, specifically those targets related to the military, and how best to take them out with the continuing effort to limit the collateral damage to civilians.
WOODRUFF: Senators, we want to have you stick around for some more questions with Wolf and me. But right now, it's just about half after the hour, and it's time for a quick check of the headlines.
And for that, let's go to Leon Harris.
HARRIS: Yes, thank you, Judy. We want to give folks a quick check of what is happening at this hour.
American forces tighten the noose around Baghdad. As ground units are working to secure the outskirts, explosions ring out in the city's center. An Army commander says that all routes into and out of Baghdad are now under U.S. control.
And we have some breaking news within the past 20 minutes to report here. CNN's Walter Rodgers reporting the arrival of the first American military planes coming in under the cover of darkness at Baghdad International Airport. That airport fell to the U.S. Army after an all-night battle that ended Friday morning.
Also, today, the tide appears to have turned in Iraq's second- largest city. After a day's-long siege, British tanks shoot their way into Basra. Reports say the British face some light resistance from Iraqi Fedayeen, and the British say that Basra is now nearly secured.
Now, updating another story that we covered earlier: Human remains that were found yesterday inside a warehouse near Basra are mostly those of Iraqi soldiers who fought in the Iran-Iraq war. That war raged during the 1980s. U.S. military forensics experts analyzed the body parts, and they say the injuries appear to be consistent with combat and are not the result of any torture.
President Bush is back at the White House now, returning early from Camp David. He's going to be heading to Northern Ireland for a two-day summit with British Prime Minister Tony Blair tomorrow. And conflict is going to be on the agenda -- not between those two men, but rather, the conflict in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a peacemaking deal for Northern Ireland.
Killer storms predicted for the southern plains in southern Mississippi River Valley here at home. Tornadoes are likely. Watches in effect now for parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. This until 5:00 p.m. eastern. Now, in a rare statement, the U.S. Weather Service is calling this a particularly dangerous situation. So if you folks live in that area, be careful, and keep an ear open for those sirens that you may be hearing.
Now, here is what we are working for the next hour here on CNN. The battle for Baghdad: Jets roar over the sprawling Iraqi capital, and explosions punctuate fearful calm today, as U.S. airmen and soldiers kept up the pressure on the city. We'll take you inside there.
Also ahead, this is what the road to the southern city of Basra looks like. Hundreds of mines scattered about on the highway, just waiting for coalition troops to set them off.
And the media coverage of the war -- Peter Arnett, Geraldo Rivera -- are some of them going too far? We'll talk to a media analyst, Howard Kurtz, about that, as CNN's coverage of the war in Iraq continues right now with Judy Woodruff -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Leon. As you've been talking, we've been hearing more explosions over Baghdad. Of course, as always, we monitor that. Senators Warner and Levin are still with Wolf and me.
Senators, I want to ask you to listen just quickly to something that General Vincent Brooks, who was speaking at Central Command earlier this morning, said about the goal of the mission right now in Iraq, whether it's getting at those weapons of mass destruction or toppling the regime.
Just listen, please.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENERAL VINCENT BROOKS, CENTCOM: Weapons of mass destruction are something that remain a focus of this operation. It is not the primary focus. We're still conducting combat operations, focused on the regime. That's the first order of business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Senator Levin, is that a priority you agree with? LEVIN: Yes, at this point, I do. I think it's critically important that the military campaign prevail, and prevail in a way that limits casualties and particularly to our military and to civilians.
But the weapons of mass destruction, clearly, were one of the goals here that the president repeatedly said was the reason that we were moving in. It was to disarm Saddam, as well as to liberate the people of Iraq.
So I think that it is important that at the appropriate time, after the military victory is secured, that that become an important focus to try to find those weapons of mass destruction.
WOODRUFF: Senator Warner, must weapons of mass destruction be found for this war to have been worthwhile?
WARNER: Time will tell, Judy. All of the intelligence here within our governments and other coalition governments show very clearly that Saddam Hussein possesses them.
But I think we should draw on the lessons learned in 1991. When the war had ended and the inspectors went into Iraq they worked very diligently for a number of years, and it was quite a slow process to discover those weapons.
Indeed, the effort to build a nuclear bomb was all but determined by the International Atomic Energy Commission that it didn't exist, and then there was a defector, one of the immediate family of Saddam Hussein that went out, told where they were. And sure enough, they went and found it and determined that Saddam Hussein was not, as the original projections stated, three or four years away, he might well have been a year or two away from completing a nuclear system of weapons.
So we have to move carefully, and he's had a lot of time and a lot of experience as to hide and secret those weapons. But the answer to it is, as soon as we can convince the Iraqi people, after victory, that we're there for them, not for ourselves, and they feel that they should come forward on their own and explain how they participated or what their knowledge is as to where these weapons are hidden, that's when we'll have success in unearthing the caches of weapons of mass destruction and destroy them.
WOODRUFF: Back to Wolf.
BLITZER: Before I let both of you go, Senators, Senator Levin, first to you, there's a lot of concern, at least among some, that Syria might be the next target of the United States, given its support for Hezbollah, given what Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, says is the transfer of military equipment across the border between Syria to Iraq, and given some suspicion maybe even that some of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction may have been transferred to Syria.
How concerned are you about that, Senator Levin, if you are concerned at all? LEVIN: Well, I'm concerned about Syria, because Syria represents a significant threat. We have to deal with threats in different ways. We can't just always proceed to use military force without the support of the world community, acting through the United Nations. It just has too many risks for us, it seems to me, and too many risks for a stable world.
So is Syria a threat? Yes, they are. They've been a supporter of terrorists for a long time. So is Iran; so is North Korea.
But we should be a little more cautious with some of the rhetoric and some of the threats of unilateral action to deal with these threats. They ought to be dealt with multinationally, with the world community trying to contain these threats, without our using the kind of unilateralist rhetoric which has too frequently been used.
WARNER: If I could add a word there...
BLITZER: Same question to you, Senator Warner. Go ahead.
WARNER: Fine. That will be one of the great challenges post- military action in Iraq, as to how the coalition forces, and principally the United States and Great Britain, will convince the world that our mission was limited to removing the weapons of mass destruction and the regime.
But the world will sit back and take notice we have remarkable capabilities to back up the failure of diplomacy. The military forces, I think, from any judgment, fair, unbiased judgment, were extraordinary.
And that does not mean that they're to be unleashed elsewhere in the world to achieve similar goals. However, as Carl Levin said, there are a variety of means to pursue, whether it's North Korea, Iran, or other areas, possibly Syria, where a threat is posed, that the diplomats this time, I think, can speak with a stronger voice knowing that, if we follow the international fora and try to eliminate these weapons. And if they fail, then there is a coalition of the willing, maybe not our country, maybe other countries, that can come forward and apply such force as necessary where diplomacy fails.
But let's hope diplomacy fails (ph), and this is a lesson to the whole world that people who are repressed and suffering today, and particularly in those nations that are striving to get weapons of mass destruction, to not only keep their people in subjugation, but to maraud against others, or sell them throughout the world, there's a coalition of nations, a large coalition, 47 in this instance, who are going to take the responsible and accountable attitude internationally to stop it.
BLITZER: Senator Warner, thanks so much for joining us.
Senator Levin, thanks to you as well.
We'll continue this conversation on another occasion.
LEVIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: We have much more news coming up. We're watching what's happening in Baghdad right now, the outskirts, as well as the central part of the city. We're also watching what's happening elsewhere around Iraq. Earlier, a Russian diplomatic convoy attacked, while trying to flee Iraq. We'll have a live report from Moscow, as soon as we come back.
Stay with us.
WOODRUFF: Central Command is saying it is investigating the reported bombing today by a U.S. warplane of a convoy made up of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and U.S. special forces.
A BBC reporter, who was part of that group calls it, quote, "a scene from hell." Kurdish officials say that at least Peshmerga guerrilla fighters were killed, another 45 wounded. CENTCOM is saying one U.S. soldier was hurt.
CENTCOM also says that today's attack on a Russian convoy took place in Iraqi-held territory. U.S. Army officials flatly tell CNN that the Russians did not come under fire from coalition troops, but most likely from Iraqi paramilitaries.
CNN's Jill Dougherty is following this story from Moscow. She joins us now with the latest on that.
Jill, what are they saying there especially after the Central Command denials?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Judy, you know, the story is developing rapidly. And the latest wrinkle is that the Russian foreign ministry says that the U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell, has now called the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov. He expressed his deep sorrow, they say, at the incident, and is assuring the Russia that the United States will do everything to help the safe passage of the diplomats who are still in Iraq out of Iraq into Syria.
The U.S., as you said, is still saying that it's not responsible. They say that they knew and had been talking with the Russians about the fact that that convoy with diplomats and journalists would be leaving Baghdad and they knew where it was going to go. They also said that there were no military -- U.S. military operations in the area where it happened.
Now, the Russian foreign ministry immediately called in the U.S. ambassador and the Iraqi ambassador. And then after that meeting, Alexander Vershbow, the U.S. ambassador, came out and spoke to reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER VERSHBOW, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: We still are gathering information about the incident that took place a few hours ago. We are obviously very concerned about those who have been wounded. We still do not know which forces were involved, and we don't know anything about the circumstances of the incident.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGHERTY: And the Russian foreign ministry, for that matter, says that it also does not know, that it's awaiting the answer from -- official answer from the United States as to what they believe happened. And obviously, they want to hear from the Iraqis as well.
At the very same time that this news was breaking, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser to President George W. Bush, was arriving here in Moscow. And tomorrow, Monday, she will be meeting with senior Russian officials, both at the foreign ministry and in the Kremlin. And obviously, Iraq and this particular incident will be on the agenda.
Now, this evening on Russian television, the second channel which is RTR, now called Rossiya, that's the main government-owned station, they had a live telephone report from their reporter who was in Baghdad and who was in that convoy as it came under fire.
Alexander Menuykov said that they were actually caught in the cross-fire between U.S. forces and Iraqi forces. He says that the U.S. attacked Iraqi forces, and then the Iraqi forces answered that attack. The convoy, the Russian convoy, as a result, was caught between that, this journalist says, and that is when people were injured.
He does say that they, as well, saw a column, a long column, he says, of U.S. armored vehicles going past them. This reporter, Russian reporter, says that they approached the U.S. vehicles waving rags, white rags looking like white flags and tried to flag them down to get some help, but that that cortege of U.S. forces moved on and did not stop.
So the convoy continued on to a city, Thaluga (ph), which is west of Baghdad, and there the diplomats are still located, and the journalists left, went on to the border of Jordan.
Back to you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Jill, clearly a lot of facts to be sorted out here, because we're getting different stories from U.S. Central Command and from the Russians.
But just quickly, Jill, you mentioned Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who is the president's national security adviser, arriving there in Moscow. There have been some very difficult relations between the U.S. and Moscow in the last weeks, especially since right before this war broke out.
What was the expectation there in Moscow before her, I have to say, unusual visit, personal visit to Moscow in the middle of this war? DOUGHERTY: Well, it does come after different feeling coming from the Kremlin, different tone from Vladimir Putin who has been speaking about this. In fact, twice last week, he made it very clear that although Russia is very strongly opposed to this war, that Russia still wants that relationship with the United States to be protected and to continue. And he even said, Judy, that Russia does not believe that it's in its own interests that the United States lose this war.
So obviously there's a better, more moderate tone coming from President Vladimir Putin. And presumably this could be the follow-up to that.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jill Dougherty reporting from Moscow.
And I should add that the visit by Dr. Condoleezza Rice had been scheduled ahead of time. It was not just laid on, but still, somewhat unusual, coming in the middle of the conflict in Iraq.
Wolf, back to you in Kuwait City.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Judy.
The rescue of American POW Jessica Lynch was just one of the many successful missions carried out by U.S. Special Operations forces in Iraq. Regular forces participated in that rescue as well, but Special Operations forces had a unique role.
What's specifically involved in these high-risk operations? Joining us now for a little bit more analysis from our military desk, CNN's Miles O'Brien and retired U.S. Air Force Major General George Harrison.
O'BRIEN: Thanks very much, Wolf.
You know, we've seen glimpses of what special operations had been doing, through grainy nighttime-type video, through the help of Mike Betcher, our correspondent embedded with Special Operations. But then, when you put together all these elements, you realize that this rather significant Special Forces operation really indicates that special ops has come of age.
General Harrison, let's -- I tell you what, we're going to zoom in, first of all -- good to have you with us, by the way.
O'BRIEN: I want to zoom in, first of all, on the so-called "Scud box," the location of two key airfields called "H2" and "H3", as we go from the big globe here down to a shot showing Baghdad and the west.
One of the things we did not see, this time around, 12 years after the '91 Gulf War, was Scuds being lobbed into Israel. And why don't you explain how that happened, or didn't happen, more accurately? HARRISON: Well, I think the important thing here is that, as the coalition was planning this operation, they knew very clearly that Scuds going out of the Scud box into Israel, into the northern portions of Saudi Arabia would be a significant political and military threat to the success of the operations.
Consequently, they figured out and developed plans to move into those key airfields and those key portions of the desert, first of all to capture the airfields, and, equally important, to conduct reconnaissance in those areas, on the ground, to figure out the kinds of places where special operations forces might be likely to operate.
O'BRIEN: Now, we're looking at some recently released tape of an airfield seizure. This is not H2 and H3 we're looking at, but typical of what special operations does as it seizes a field. Air drops going in and so forth. Very hazardous stuff.
Let's also look at another thing, another preventive thing that they were involved in, also in the northwestern portion of Baghdad -- excuse me, Iraq, a little closer to Baghdad, as we go from H2 and H3 in that Scud box where there's range to Israel -- we haven't seen anything like that -- all the way to the Haditha Dam along the Euphrates River.
This Haditha Dam, if it had been blown, it would have been a significant problem, causing flooding in the passageway, the Karbala Gap, where U.S. armor intended to pass through.
Instead, that didn't happen, did it, General Harrison?
HARRISON: No, it didn't happen, as a matter of fact. And that's an important factor about these special operations. They involve small numbers of troops. There are about 9,000 special operations troops in Iraq, or in the operation at this time. So they emphasize coordination, planning and precise execution, so that they can get the job done.
In this case, they needed to insert themselves close to the point of vulnerability at the dam, so that they could preclude the possibility of the Iraqis blowing that dam and flooding the plain, as you mentioned.
O'BRIEN: And sure enough, it was wired to be exploded.
Let's move from the dam to one of Saddam Hussein's numerous palaces, the Tharthar Palace is the one in question here, purportedly the second-largest palace in his multi-billion-dollar collection, it along the shores of Lake Tharthar. Take a look at this amazing edifice here.
And the special forces swooped down on it, and what they had hoped probably to get were members of the regime. They got some documents, and mostly an empty palace.
What does this tell you, though, the fact that they were able to sort of stage an attack on a place like this with impunity? HARRISON: Well, I think this probably struck a little fear into the heart of the Iraqi regime. It turns out that no place in Iraq can be successfully defended. They cannot guarantee the security of any particular place, location or asset within the entire country.
O'BRIEN: All right. Now, finally, from the Tharthar Palace, which is a frequented place for the regime loyalists -- or it was, we should probably say -- let's go down south to Nasiriyah.
And this is the one we perhaps heard the most about, the rescue of prisoner of war -- former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch. That was a significant moment for morale, if nothing else, wasn't it?
HARRISON: Well, it certainly was. And again, what happened is that there was -- what appears to have happened is that there was a great tip that she was in the area. They used existing intelligence. The Special Operations Forces put together this operation and precisely executed bringing together a bunch of elements -- artillery, AC-130s, Marines, diversionary attacks -- in addition to the SEAL team and the Special Forces Delta folks who went in and snatched her, literally, out from underneath the noses of the Iraqis.
O'BRIEN: All right. So, just going back to earthsphere.com, quickly, we'll just sum it up, just a few of the Special Operations engagements for you, to give you the big picture, if we could.
And we've got H-2 and H-3. We've got the Haditha Dam, we've got the Tharthar Palace, we have Nasiriyah. We didn't even talk about what's going on up in the Kurdish country.
I guess, in a word, General Harrison, Special Forces have come a long way from the dark days of Desert One, 1979, the attempt to rescue the hostages in Tehran.
HARRISON: Ubiquitous and extremely professional, very good troops.
O'BRIEN: General George Harrison, thanks for your insights. Always appreciate it -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Miles. And thank you, General Harrison.
While we're watching the war in Iraq, some weather developing across the United States here that we want to talk about. For the very latest, let's go to Orelon Sidney at the Weather Center in Atlanta -- Orelon.
ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Judy, thanks a lot.
The beginning of a very dangerous situation, I have a feeling, for tonight, going on actually probably into Monday morning.
We have a tornado watch here that is in effect, stretching from Mississippi all the way back into eastern Texas ,in effect until 4:00 p.m. Also to the north of that, severe thunderstorm watch in effect until 4:00 p.m. This severe thunderstorm watch that covers parts of Oklahoma, until 3:00 p.m. A new tornado watch has just been issued right here, covering the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, southward down to just west of Houston, includes the Austin-San Antonio area. That one, now, is going to be in effect until 6:00 p.m.
We've had numerous reports of tornado warnings, and we're concerned mainly about this area in red. This is the high-risk area. In this region, you have about a one-in-four chance of a tornado capable of doing F-2 to F-5 damage, which is violent tornadoes at the F-5 range, anywhere within this region, within 25 miles of any point.
So, this is an extremely dangerous situation. Storm prediction center calling these tornado watch particularly dangerous.
Again, this is going on through the evening. We'll keep you informed as the evening goes on -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Orelon. I know that everybody who lives anywhere close to that part of the country will want to pay close attention. Orelon Sidney, thanks very much.
As we move up on 2:00 East Coast time, we have headlines. Coming up in a moment, watching these live pictures from Baghdad. There have been explosions this night. U.S. planes arriving for the first time at Baghdad Airport within the last hour.
We'll be right back.
HARRIS: Good afternoon. I'm Leon Harris in the CNN News Room here in Atlanta, and here's what's happening at this hour in the war in Iraq.
Sound and fury in Baghdad, as mortars and bombs are shaking the ground at 10:00 p.m. local time, just as they mingle with the Muslim calls to prayer around sunset there.
U.S. forces tell our Walt Rodgers that they control the roads going in and coming out after two days of armored forays and sporadic street, fire fights, rather, there on the streets.
Rodgers also reports that U.S. military aircraft have begun landing at Baghdad's international airport. Now to the south, British forces tell our Diana Muriel that they've taken key positions in the city that they've been camped outside of for days.
Opposition in Basra said to have softened up considerably after a coalition air strike on Friday on the Baath Party officials there.
CENTCOM is now looking into an apparent friendly-fire attack today on Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and U.S. Special Forces operating in the north. Kurds say at least 18 Peshmerga were killed when a U.S. jet bombed a convoy near Irbil, 45 were injured. CENTCOM says a U.S. soldier was wounded. And in a related note NBC's David Bloom is being remembered at this hour as a tenacious and talented reporter whose direct dispatches captivated viewers back home. David Bloom died today, just south of Baghdad. He died of a pulmonary embolism, or blood clot in the lung, not related at all to any combat. He was 39 years old and leaves behind a wife and three daughters. They have our best wishes.
And now, CNN's coverage of the war in Iraq continues.
BLITZER: Good afternoon to our viewers in the United States. Good evening from here in the Persian Gulf. It's just after 10:00 p.m. in Baghdad, just after 2:00 p.m. over at the White House where the news is being made this Sunday, April 6th.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City.
Coming up this hour, the battle for Baghdad. Jets roar over the sprawling Iraqi capital and explosions punctuate fearful calm today as U.S. airmen and soldiers keep the pressure on the city. We'll take you inside in 60 seconds.
WOODRUFF: From CNN studios in Washington, I'm Judy Woodruff.
Also this hour, this is what the road the southern city of Basra looks like, hundreds of mines scattered about on the highway waiting for coalition troops to set them off.
O'BRIEN: And from CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta, I'm Miles O'Brien. Also this hour, the media coverage of the war, Peter Arnett, Geraldo Rivera. Are some going too far? We'll talk to our media analysts, Howard Kurtz.
But first, back to Wolf in Kuwait City.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Miles. I want to bring our viewers up to date now on what they're seeing. We're looking at some live pictures of Baghdad.
There have been some explosions that have rocked the city over the past hour or so. Certainly there is intense fighting going on in various parts of the outskirts, the U.S. now effectively, according to our Walter Rodgers, who's on the scene, embedded with the U.S. 37th Cavalry, U.S. forces effectively control all the main roads leading in and out of Baghdad, certainly control the major airport, Saddam International Airport, that's what it used to be called, now it's called Baghdad International Airport.
Indeed, within the past hour or so, a U.S. C-130 has landed, the first U.S. military transport plane to actually touch down at that huge airport. Another sign that U.S. forces are consolidating their positions on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital.
We're watching all of these developments. We're trying to make sure that our viewers know precisely what's going on. An historic day today. Another historic day, who would have thought that U.S. planes would be landing at Baghdad International Airport in week three, week three of this war.
Let's get some further analysis of what's going on. CNN's Miles O'Brien is at the military desk at the CNN news room in Atlanta -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Thanks very much, Wolf.
And I'm joined by our retired General George Harrison of the U.S. Air Force. We're going to walk through the events as we know them.
Good to have you with us, General Harrison.
HARRISON: Good to be here.
O'BRIEN: Let's move in on Baghdad. I want to show -- give you a sense of when we talk about U.S. forces having control over the main access points in and out of Baghdad, this is a sprawling city, this image you're seeing right here from one end of the screen to the other end of your screen is 15 miles, and if you look, however, very closely at it, there are some key roads that kind of go around the perimeter here, which are really just choke points, much like an interstate highway would be into any major city in the United States.
George Harrison, what's the correct term then? Encircle, cordon, checkpoints? How would you describe what the U.S. coalition forces have managed to pull off so far?
HARRISON: Well, we can call it encirclement, but encirclement in a tactical sense. If you envision two rings of steel, the inner ring being the Iraqis and the outer ring of steel being the coalition, that's clearly the wrong picture. Because these are not solid, impenetrable rings. They are very permeable. There are gaps in between. We don't have soldiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder as we go around this are.
However, anything of significance that needs to move has to move in this urban environment on the prepared roads. And in that circumstance, or in that context, Saddam's forces are encircled. They cannot escape with their forces, although certainly individuals can move through these areas if they desire to escape this Baghdad environment.
O'BRIEN: All right. Upper portion of your screen, that is Baghdad International, formerly Saddam International. I want to just draw out quickly this little foray we saw yesterday by the 3/7 Cavalry. They turned around, did a 25-mile run.
And I'm told we're out of time, George Harrison. Back to Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, very much, Miles.
I want to immediately go to our medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He is embedded with the U.S. Marines and the Navy, the so- called Devil Docs. They're not far from Baghdad.
Sanjay, tell us what's going on. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we talked to you yesterday, and at that time we were about 30 miles south of Baghdad. Well, we talked so much about the fact that these operating rooms are mobile. And that is just what they are doing right now, moving and moving north closer to Baghdad.
(OFF-MIKE) convoys. And we're in a long convoy, and (OFF-MIKE) vehicles are stopped. We have seen significant fire power maybe for several miles in front of us, but we were in no immediate danger. We had no...
BLITZER: I think we just lost Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our medical correspondent. We are going to try to reconnect.
Just to reestablish, Sanjay and his photographer, Mark Biallo (ph), they are embedded with the so-called Devil Docs. Those are Navy physicians working in M.A.S.H. units, mobile M.A.S.H. units. They are moving ever closer toward Baghdad, toward the Iraqi capital, with the U.S. Marines who are, of course, on the front lines of this war outside of the Iraqi capital.
We are going to try to reestablish our communications with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, get his report. They have been obviously very busy, those Devil Docs, taking in casualties, not only U.S. and coalition casualties, but they're also dealing with Iraqi wounded, Iraqi wounded in battle, civilians as well as military. That's their job. That's what they've been doing since day one of this war, now in week three.
Let's go back to Judy Woodruff in Washington -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Wolf.
And Sanjay has certainly helped us understand just what those doctors are up against and what practically miracles they accomplish. Every one of his reports has been riveting.
We want to bring everybody up to date once again on the situation around the Baghdad airport. It has become essentially a base of operations for coalition forces.
As we have been telling you, in the last hour, the first U.S. warplane, a C-130, has landed at Baghdad International Airport. Certainly, a moment -- an important moment in the battle for Iraq and for Baghdad itself.
We are going to go to the Pentagon now to our correspondent Patty Davis.
Patty, are they giving you any more information about what further operations are being conducted in the area around the airport, or between the airport and the city?
DAVIS: Well, they are keeping that information pretty close to the vest, Judy. It's certainly not surprising, though, that that plane went ahead and landed at the airport there in Baghdad. U.S. Central Command has said that that has been its goal for quite some time, open that airport and make it available for coalition forces, ferry in troops, ferry in supplies. Eventually, the U.S. and coalition forces plan to reopen it for use by the Iraqi people.
Now, meanwhile, coalition forces are working to isolate Iraqi troops in Baghdad. Quick pinpoint attacks with these armored vehicles, a show of force for Iraqi troops and the Iraqi people. Reports of 2,000 to 3,000 Iraqis killed in those attacks, destroying one-third of the Republican Guard forces around Baghdad.
Now, there are significant coalition military forces there in Baghdad, but the U.S. says it does not yet have control of that city. Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Peter Pace says that there could be some very difficult days ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PACE: There is no doubt that it is still possible that we will have some significant combat ahead of us. And I would never want anyone to think that that is not possible.
On the other hand, I am very comfortable and very confident that the soldiers and Marines who we might call on to do that have been trained exceptionally well, and that they will be equally efficient in the city as they have been in the countryside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIS: Now, as for that friendly fire incident near Mosul early today, Pace says that a coalition plane did, indeed, drop bombs on the convoy of U.S. Special Forces and Kurdish troops.
But there are discrepancies in exactly how many people were killed. The Kurds are saying 18 Kurdish fighters and 45 wounded. But U.S. Central Command -- the earliest initial report from U.S. Central Command saying that one civilian may have been killed, six others wounded, and that including one U.S. serviceman -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Patty Davis reporting for us from the Pentagon.
And right now, we want to go back to our Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who was just in the middle of a report. He's with the group of doctors they call "Devil Docs."
Sanjay, back to you. We have a connection again?
GUPTA: Yes, we have a connection. I apologize in advance if I lose you. Six hours now we've been on the road. We were, last time we spoke, earlier today, we were at 30 miles from Baghdad. He has us moving north, although, as you've heard so many times, these convoys move very slowly.
Today, it was for a very good reason. Ahead of us, several hundred meters, we saw significant firefight in progress. We could see (ph) a blast of light. I personally have never seen anything like that. And then we heard some helicopters flying overhead and some significant fire power from the helicopters from the air to the ground. And then after that, things seem to quiet down.
We've been waiting for quite some time for additional security. We travel -- Judy, these are the Devil Docs that we are traveling with. A lot of these doctors reservists, a lot of them surgeons. A lot of them (UNINTELLIGIBLE) commenting to me that they've never seen anything like this either.
No question -- in order to take care of patients, both coalition and Iraqi, they, at times, have to put themselves in harm's way. And today is a good example of that.
We are continuing now, as I'm speaking to you. Their vehicle is starting to move again, heading north to the next destination to be closer to the front line, to be able to take care of the patients that come off the front line. It looks like security is here, and we are on our way -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Sanjay, what are you hearing, if anything, about the casualties on the front lines as you move forward? Do you get advance word about that, and what are you hearing?
We're hearing the Central Command saying 2,000 to 3,000 Iraqis killed in that foray yesterday into Baghdad -- only one U.S. soldier killed. What are you hearing right now about casualties?
GUPTA: We're seeing a (ph) significantly larger number of Iraqi casualties versus coalition force members. That is in the pattern. I'll tell you a couple of things. One is that the caliber of injuries -- that is the significance of the injuries -- has increased significantly -- dramatically, I should say -- over the past few days. Where, on the path, they were mainly bleeding-type injuries, we're starting to see much, much more dramatic, significant injuries: large- caliber weapons with dramatic injuries to the abdomen, chest and head. You weren't seeing that, even a week ago. The caliber has increased; the numbers have increased as well.
I'm traveling with one particular surgical station. They were operating nonstop for the last 48 hours. They saw over 100 patients. Even some of the patients who are killed in action are actually brought there as well. Obviously those aren't patients that get any medical treatment, but we see them come through the station as well.
It has been very, very busy. Percentage-wise, probably 80 percent Iraqi versus 20 percent coalition force members over here.
Finally, Judy, the other thing is that these surgical stations need to evacuate the patients quickly. They cannot stay with these mobile surgical operating rooms. Kuwait won't take any of the Iraqi patients. For that reason, it's been hard to have these patients MediVaced. They have to go either to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or to Germany, and that's been a bit of a logistical challenge, as well. All of that still in progress now, even as we speak -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Sanjay, did we understand you correctly to say most of the patients they're working on are Iraqi?
GUPTA: Absolutely. That has been the pattern. Now, all along from the very start (UNINTELLIGIBLE), from the first operation done from the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) surgical suite, that pattern has continued and even increased to say that maybe 80 percent -- again, repeat, 80 percent Iraqi versus about 20 percent coalition forces.
WOODRUFF: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the move with the Devil Docs, that group of medical corps moving toward the front lines to work on the many, many increasing numbers of casualties.
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: They have really been doing incredible work.
Sanjay Gupta's photographer, Mark Biallo (ph), I think all of us are very proud of them, wish them only the best. Dangerous work, as they inch ever closer toward the Iraqi capital.
I want to get to another one of our embedded correspondents right now, doing some important work himself, Mike Boettcher. He's attached to the U.S. special operations forces.
Mike, tell us where you are and what's going on right now.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now I'm on the edge of Basra.
Earlier today, I was in the southern area as British forces prepared for their push into the city, and at the present time they continue that push. There are conflicting reports whether they've reached the center of the city or not. But their objective -- and they said publicly at first -- is to go for Ba'ath Party headquarters there, and then to move on to other objectives.
Now, we are told they are meeting sporadic resistance, and I assume it's like the resistance we met two days ago, when we went inside Basra with U.S. special forces. We took mortar fire on that entry into the city, but we did find bunkers with rocket-propelled grenades, and were told by the local citizenry there that there were prepositioned stockpiles of RPGs and mortar shells around, that the Iraqi Fedayeen team that we believe was firing at us was in a vehicle. They set up the mortar tube, fired for a considerable period of time, and then went off. That is the strategy apparently being employed tonight.
Now, it's a completely different scene here in Basra tonight. As I look out on the city, most of the lights are off. There is not the psychological wear period that was going on for the last 10 days or so, with flares being fired, and all sorts of tactics like loudspeakers to make it look like an attack was coming. The attack has indeed come, and also a sign that British forces are inside the city, is the fact that there is no artillery fire from coalition positions in the city, and no airstrikes. It's been incredibly quiet tonight, but there is street-to-street fighting. It's sporadic, and the British are pressing in -- Wolf. BLITZER: Is it fair to say, Mike, that the British forces, the British Marines, the other British troops are taking the main responsibility for Basra, and the U.S. special operations forces are there to back them up and make sure they can help them if necessary?
BOETTCHER: This is a big Army show right now. The actual thrust into the city is big Army.
What U.S. special operations forces have been doing is helping the British crest that battlefield, using psychological operations, using the civil affairs units, and using the special forces aid teams, going in, trying to gather intelligence. That triangle of special operations forces has been key to the British, but now the show is in the British hands. They're moving in, and they say they are there to stay.
I think the past, the special operations forces I've been with have gone in, in forays, and come back out. The British have done the same with armor, but tonight they say they're going in and they're going to stay --Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Mike Boettcher. I'm going to have to leave it right there.
Mike Boettcher is one of our embedded correspondents. He's covering the U.S. special operations forces doing some important work outside of Basra right now.
We're going to go to another embedded reporter, Mark Johnson, of the Charlotte Observer from North Carolina.
I believe you're with the 82nd Airborne, Mark. That was the last time we spoke. Are you still embedded with them?
MARK JOHNSON, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: Absolutely, Wolf. We've moved up the road a little ways. When last we talked, the 82nd was in Asamawah (ph), on their mission of clearing out the (OFF-MIKE) after coalition forces closing in on Baghdad.
We have moved north, up to a town called Al-Ramesah (ph), about 18 kilometers north of Asamawah (ph). A very different story here. In Asamawah (ph), there was a big collection of guerrilla, paramilitary fighters there. The 82nd rolled through them, but it took a few days. Here there was virtually no resistance. When we rolled in this afternoon, there were a few folks along the sides of the street waving and offering all sorts of greetings. Just a very, very easy run through here.
And it sort of raises the question of, you know, have the guerrillas given up, or have they run north for the defense of Baghdad?
BLITZER: And what's the assessment, what's the assessment right now on that question that you ask?
JOHNSON: Well, I'm not sure the folks here have a clear answer. I think they're happy that they didn't have to engage any more than they did, didn't have any casualties to speak of, and are just sort of plodding, continuing moving north, you know, keeping this route open.
I think, you know, as you and I talked before, this is a legendary unit. This was Sergeant York's unit. These are guys here who parachuted in on D-Day. You know, their motto is, "You call, we fall." And they had trained to take over that airport, and are probably a little disappointed this evening that planes of another unit are flying in there, but they have undertaken this mission of keeping this route open, this Highway 8 and Highway 9, and getting supplies up to the units close in to Baghdad.
BLITZER: Is the entire 82nd Airborne Division, which, of course, thousands and thousands of troops, 15,000, maybe 20,000 -- I'm not even sure how many, you probably know off the top of your head -- are they all moving en masse, or is there just brigades or specialized units moving where you are?
JOHNSON: Sure, sort of two parts to that answer. The 82nd, as you know from when you covered the Pentagon, Wolf, is broken up into three brigades. One of those is in Afghanistan. One rotated out of Afghanistan and is recuperating at Fort Bragg. And the other, the 2nd Brigade is here in Iraq. That's about -- I think it's about 4,500 folks total.
And they have left one infantry battalion back in Asamawah (ph) to continue punching out the pockets of resistance there. And everybody else is continuing to move north. They will have to, you know, drop off some folks here and there to, you know, keep checkpoints clear and make sure the supply route stays safe.
BLITZER: Mark Johnson of the Charlotte Observer. He is embedded with the 82nd Airborne Division based in North Carolina.
Mark, we'll be talking to you to see what happens next in this glorious chapter of the 82nd Airborne. As you point out, and as I pointed out, it's a legendary unit.
Judy, you know that, as well, having lived in North Carolina for some time.
WOODRUFF: That's true -- that's true, Wolf.
And I have to say, listening to Mark does raise all sorts of questions about what has happened to these irregulars? Have they just melted away? Have they gone to Baghdad? We are -- you know, we all want to know the answers to those questions.
Well, as CNN has said, people inside the city of Baghdad are being told if you want to stay alive, you should stay off the roads, because as we've been telling you, the United States is claiming that Marines and Army forces now control all the roads in and out of the city.
We want to go now to our Rula Amin. She is in Ruwashed (ph) on the Jordan-Iraq border on the Jordanian side. Rula, you have been our -- the one who has been telling us what's been going on inside Baghdad because of your sources there. What are they saying right now?
AMIN: Judy, today they say it was relentless bombardment of Baghdad, planes, artillery fire. Reporters on the scene speak of continuous large explosions. And there has also been very heavy artillery, especially on the outskirts, the southern outskirts of Baghdad.
Now, Iraqi officials, as well as the reporters say some of the bombs have hit some of residential neighborhoods in Baghdad. There are some civilian casualties, according to Iraqi officials.
The Red Cross says the hospitals in Baghdad are stretched to their limit. They say the medical staff had stopped counting the number of the wounded who arrive at the hospitals, large numbers. The medical staff can barely cope with the large numbers. Some of them are military personnel and some are civilians.
Now, Iraqi officials do acknowledge the fact that many people have been going to the hospital. They do acknowledge the pressure that is being applied to Baghdad, but they are very defiant. On the streets of Baghdad -- we just spoke to sources in Baghdad, they say, especially on the western outskirts, tonight military personnel all over, on every street corner there are Republican Guards, the ruling Ba'ath Party militias, as well as the Fedayeen Saddam. It seems that Iraq is thinking some kind of attack will take place in that neighborhood and they are preparing themselves.
Now, Saddam Hussein today had another message to his troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUSSEIN (through translator): In the name of God the most compassionate, the most merciful, from Saddam Hussein to all of the fighters of the Iraqi armed forces, peace be upon you. When it is hard or difficult for any member to join their own respective unit, they can join -- they can link up with any other unit and they will be counted as such until further notice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMIN: Now it seems that the Iraqi leadership is trying to compensate for a lack of communication between the leadership and the troops. We do know that the coalition forces had hit a number of local telephone exchanges. And it seems that the leadership is calling on every trooper, every soldier in order to take part in this fight -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Rula, what about the civilians? How can they stay safe? Is the feeling that by staying in their homes and in their apartments they are most likely to be safe, or by moving to another location, or -- what are their options?
AMIN: Well, some did leave. We do know that hundreds, maybe even thousands, had left Baghdad in the last few days. Mostly they headed to the east -- either towards Iran or to some of the villages and the farmland around Baghdad. They went walking, they went in buses, they went in cars. But many others did stay in their homes.
Now, in the beginning of the war, it seemed they had some faith that the bombs and the war may only target the military, the headquarters, the communication and command centers.
But as the war went on, we did see more civilian casualties, regardless of who's to blame, they do know that they are paying a price. They're trying to stay at their homes. They are not going to shelters because they had a bad experience with shelters. But it seems for now they're staying at their homes, out of the streets -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Rula Amin, on the border of Iraq in Jordan, describing civilians trying to stay safe, but clearly, every day feeling more and more vulnerable to the fighting as it gets closer to the city center.
Let's get a bigger picture now of what's going on in Iraq, region by region.
In the north, Kurdish officials saying that a U.S. warplane mistakenly dropped a bomb on a Kurdish convoy, killing at least 18 Peshmerga fighters, and injuring at least 45 Kurds.
CNN's James Martone is being told there were American casualties, but we have not been able yet to confirm that. The incident happened about 35 miles southeast of Mosul.
To central Iraq, now, where a convoy of Russian diplomats was attacked today, and Russian and U.S. officials were trying to determine who carried out the attack. The incident happened while the group was fleeing Iraq going towards Syria. CNN's Jill Dougherty is working that story from Moscow. She's going to be joining us live in a few minutes.
Into the south and the stronghold of Basra: Three British battle groups are pushing toward the center of Iraq's second-largest city. Coalition forces and British troops continue the painstaking task of trying to subdue pockets of resistance. That story now from British reporter David Bowden.
DAVID BOWDEN, BRITISH POOL REPORTER (voice-over): Strewn across our path, more than 100 mines -- anti-tank and anti-personnel. We're not going any further down this route.
The gunner from our Spartan carefully checks under the lead vehicle to see whether it is already into the minefield. It's not. So the convoy takes a new way into town.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're doing is probing forward on one of the roads, on one of the main routes which heads toward Basra. Basically it's the fringes of Basra, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) see out to our right there. So basically, it's just probing forward and clearing any positions. Most of these positions have already been hit by artillery. But like I say, it's just a case of going forward and seeing if there's any further enemy...
BOWDEN: Local residents are conspicuous largely by their absence. There are some, but only the tiny donkey seems impervious to the scenes of devastation all around.
One of the vehicles in our convoy spots an Iraqi tank, abandoned but intact, though not for long. Thirty-millimeter cannon shells burst into the superstructure. And then a striker edges into position before lifting its firing platform and unleashing a swing-fire wire- guided anti-tank missile.
In just a few seconds, the tank is no longer a threat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This area is now secured. I suspect now we'll withdraw from this area, hand over any information we've got to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) behind us, and then they'll act on that. They're the ones who do the destroying.
BOWDEN: With Baghdad breached and Basra teetering, the war in Iraq may well be entering its final phase.
David Bowden with the Welsh Cavalry on the outskirts of Basra.
BLITZER: The brother of a leading Kurdish politician is said to be among the casualties today of a friendly fire bombing near the northern Iraqi city of Irbil. The Central Command says it is investigating an apparent U.S. air attack on a convoy of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and U.S. Special Forces. Kurds say at least 18 of their number are dead.
CNN's Jane Arraf can tell us more about this story, as well as the ongoing battles between the Kurds and the Iraqis.
Jane, tell us what's going on.
ARRAF: Well, Wolf, it was an absolutely horrific scene: burning vehicles, people being sped by ambulance to hospitals even an hour after it happened.
And among the casualties, as you mentioned, was the brother of Mosoud Barzani. Mosoud Barzani is essentially known here as the president of this region. His brother was in critical condition, and he was being airlifted to Germany for medical treatment with the U.S. this evening. Also injured was the son of the de facto president of this region.
Among those killed were 18 people. Now, 17 of them are believed to be Peshmerga, the guerrilla fighters. One was a young translator, a Kurdish translator for the BBC. His name was Cameron Abdul Razak (ph). Also injured was an Afghan journalist.
Now, this was a convoy that was heading toward the scene of fighting, and these were Special Forces up on a ridge.
Now, a senior KDP leader, that's the Kurdish Democratic Party which controls this part of northern Iraq, said that there appears to have been a terrible mistake made.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We were engaging the Iraqi tanks and forces there, and some fighting. They called in close air support. At 12:30, two U.S. planes mistakenly bombed the friendly force.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ARRAF: What this convoy was heading toward was the shifting front line here in northern Iraq.
Now, just outside of this city of Irbil, about 20 to 25 miles away, Special Forces were battling Iraqi forces who came up with tanks this morning. Now, the Special Forces responded with 50-millimeter gunfire, as well as mortars and, most spectacularly, F-14s firing 2,000-pound laser-guided missiles. The spectacular picture taken by cameraman Chris Matlock (ph).
Now, this went on for hours, the F-14s dropping bombs and the Special Forces firing anti-tank missiles. They say they disabled at least six tanks. When we left they were still on that ridge, saying that they intended to advance their position as the Iraqis were retreating -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jane Arraf covering the story in northern Iraq for us. A sad story, Jane. Thanks very much for all those details.
Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: Wolf, still to come this hour, most wanted: water. Southern Iraq and one of the most dire effects of this war. The story as CNN's coverage of the war continues.
HARRIS: Leon Harris here at the CNN Center in Atlanta with a look at what's happening this hour in the war on Iraq.
CNN crews report U.S. military aircraft are now on the ground at Baghdad International Airport, and this barely two days after coalition armor moved in. The first flight came in low, fast and dark with Iraqi resistance still a factor on the airport's perimeter.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, there is mortar fire in the city, bomb blasts on the outskirts, U.S. troops and armor all around. That's the story from CNN correspondents, wire reports and U.S. military officials all combined. Iraqi officials reportedly have set out a dusk to dawn curfew.
President Bush is back at the White House this hour, but not for long. Tomorrow he is going to be meeting up with British Prime Minister Tony Blair for the third time in less than a month. The venue this time is the outskirts of Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The White House is joining the press corps in morning the death today of NBC correspondent David Bloom. As an embed reporter in Iraq, Bloom saw plenty of hostile fire. But his network says that he was killed by a blood clot in the lung. He was 39 years old.
In other news, health officials in Hong Kong tell us two more people have died there today of that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. Hospitals are treating more than 40 new potential SARS cases, pushing the total in Hong Kong alone well above 800. Dozens have died around the world of this disease.
And here at home, CNN meteorologists are watching some dangerous weather in the U.S. southern plains and Mississippi delta. Tornado watches are in now effect for parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. And we have late word that twisters are being spotted. Sop we'll keep you posted as the day wears on here.
Also here is what is coming up on our network in the next hour of live coverage on CNN. Marines in the southeastern suburbs of Baghdad search house to house.
It is Sunday, we'll see how some Iraqis are laying down their weapons in favor of worship today.
And as we said moments ago, weather systems to keep your eye on, both in the desert and here in the U.S. as well.
And now, CNN's coverage of the war in Iraq continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage. A very sad day for all of us, especially those of us who knew NBC correspondent David Bloom. He had been reporting brilliantly on the war from the Iraqi desert. He was a good friend of mine. I am sorry that he died. Unfortunately, he collapsed early today, some 25 miles south of Baghdad, apparently from a blood clot.
Throughout this war, the news media have been part of the story, not only reporting it, but being reported on. With us now is our media analyst, Howard Kurtz, the host of CNN's Reliable Sources.
Howie, let's talk a little bit about David Bloom, first. He had been doing an outstanding job. It's so sad to see him -- Michael Kelly, a columnist for The Washington Post, who died earlier -- a few days earlier. What goes through your mind when you see our colleagues dropping like this?
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, CNN'S "RELIABLE SOURCES": It's heartbreaking for those of us who are in the business, Wolf. And here are two guys who knew the risks of war and died doing what they loved to do.
The case of David Bloom, he was a born reporter, an irrepressible guy who gave up his, you know, cushy weekend anchor spot at the "Today Show" in order to go over. He told his NBC bosses, "I want a piece of this war."
And I spoke to him a few days ago, in the middle of one of those sandstorms, and you could just hear how excited he was to be there. He told me, "I'm here to tell the soldiers' stories," and there's no question that he just felt that he wanted to be at the center of the action.
I think he really captivated the country with that moving tank of his and those stories he told.
In the case of Michael Kelly, a Washington Post columnist and Atlantic Monthly editor-at-large, he had covered the first Gulf War as a relatively unknown freelancer, and went on to fame as a magazine editor and columnist, he didn't have to go back. He had already made his career. Yet he was so passionately pro-war in his columns that he told friends, "I want to go back and see how the story ends. I want to be there when Saddam Hussein is toppled." And in doing so, he gave up his life as well.
BLITZER: And if anybody wants to read a brilliant, brilliant column about Michael Kelly, read Maureen Dowd's column in the New York Times today, passionate, a wonderful tribute to this Michael Kelly.
Judy Woodruff, Howie wants to ask you some questions as well -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Howard, how would you say the casualties, the deaths of journalists in this war -- now, we've only had Michael Kelly who died as a result of combat -- compare to previous conflicts? How much do we know about how much more dangerous this one has been for journalists?
KURTZ: Well, there's also been one Australian cameraman and two British journalists, Judy, who have died. These were unembedded reporters. So, it's clearly a dangerous place. After all, it's only been about two and a half weeks.
I think what's different here is not so much the number of journalists. You know, we in the news business tend to focus on journalists. Clearly, American soldiers are taking the greatest risks here.
But the fact is that, because of the technology, these people are coming into our living room in real time, telling us about the weather, what the troops are doing. We've seen Walt Rodgers of CNN coming under fire as he tries to narrate the war.
And so I think all of us perhaps feel touched when a journalist goes down, only because they've become our eyes and ears on this battlefield in a way that I've never seen before in wartime.
WOODRUFF: And that's especially true of the television reporters, but of course the print reporters are every bit on the front line. You can tell this from what you read from their dispatches. KURTZ: In fact, sometimes print reporters, not having to lug the cameras around, can get a little closer to the action. Dexter Filkins (ph) of the "New York Times" had a gripping report the other day about the shooting death of an Iraqi woman who was standing next to a soldier, and the sergeant said to Filkins, "I'm sorry, the chick got in the way."
You know, we are there, and there was a lot of talk about embedded reporters would be cheerleaders for the military. They're also telling us the raw and sometimes ugly side of this war, and that's their job.
WOODRUFF: No question.
I want to also ask, turn the corner, Wolf, and ask Howard about the increasing criticism we're hearing of the so-called armchair generals, retired generals. They are helping us analyze the war on CNN. They appear on virtually every other television network.
Does it bother you, does it bother others who watch the media that there is some good bit of reliance on these former military officers?
KURTZ: I sometimes think that a number of these former generals tend to be very supportive of the Pentagon, because that's, after all, where they spent their whole career. There have been some exceptions to that. CNN's Wesley Clark, among others, have criticized the war plan.
But I was surprised, the extent to which Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, lashed out at the press coverage and the armchair generals.
And you know what? This is part of a democracy. These guys get to come in and say what they think. Maybe sometimes they're too negative. Maybe sometimes we make too much of one day's battles, as opposed to looking at the larger picture of the war.
But no administration is immune from this kind of criticism, and I think it's healthy that we get to air these views. And I think that now that things are going a little bit better in the war, perhaps the people at the Pentagon won't feel quite so sensitive about some of their former colleagues.
WOODRUFF: That's right.
BLITZER: Howie, let me ask -- I was going to just pick up, Judy, and ask Howie about -- he's had about a week to digest the impact of the Geraldo Rivera and Peter Arnett -- I don't know if you want to call them "fiascos" or "episodes," journalistic episodes, that occurred.
On both of these issues, now that you can look back and reflect a little bit a week later, was NBC News right to sack, if you will, National Geographic's Peter Arnett? And what about the decision of the Pentagon to effectively pressure Fox News into forcing Geraldo to leave the battlefield, to leave Iraq?
KURTZ: Wolf, I don't think NBC had any choice but to pull the plug on its relationship with Peter Arnett. This is a guy who not only gave an interview with Saddam Hussein's television station, Iraqi state-controlled television, but said nice things about the Iraqi Information Ministry and declared the U.S. war effort to be a failure.
One NBC executive told me that he kind of hoped that he would learn that somebody was behind the curtain with an AK-47 forcing Arnett to do these things. It was an embarrassment. It was not good judgment. Peter Arnett has apologized. And I'm sorry that his comeback with MSNBC and NBC turned out this way.
In the case of Geraldo Rivera, it was inadvertent, I will cut him some slack there. But he did a dumb thing. I mean, getting down in the sand and drawing a map about where the different troops were. Nobody at Fox News has tried to defend that behavior to me.
And I think we see here the inexperience of somebody whose career was not spent as a war correspondent but as a daytime TV talk show host being a little too loose-lipped, shall we say, in a time of war. He is now reporting on the war from Kuwait.
BLITZER: Howie, has this whole experiment with having journalists embedded -- about 500 of them -- with the U.S. military, covering this war, has it surprised you as to how it's turning out?
KURTZ: I think, on balance, Wolf, the coverage has been terrific, despite some mistakes that were made that we've just talked about.
You know, there was a lot of talk early on about these reporters would bond with the soldiers and they would become part of the Pentagon's message machine.
Clearly, we have seen both inspiring stories of our fighting men and women at war, and we have seen and read stories that have been very critical of friendly fire incidents and have given us really the downside of war, the emotions running away with people and so forth. And so, I think that the Pentagon has gotten what it wanted out of the experiment, which is to humanize the war and also to act as a counterweight to any Saddam Hussein propaganda.
And I think the American people have gotten terrific reporting from the likes of our fallen colleague David Bloom and Ted Koppel and Walt Rodgers and John Roberts and a lot of others who put their lives on the lines to give us a glimpse that we've never had before with this new satellite technology of what it's like to be on the front lines in time of war.
And I'm very grateful that we're able to do that rather than covering, as we have in past wars, rather than being shut out, rather than having to rely on official briefings. People are really seeing what this war has looked like, and that's got to be a plus.
WOODRUFF: Howard, I just want to follow up there...
BLITZER: Judy, I was going to say, Judy, go ahead and ask the final question because we're rapidly, unfortunately, running out of time -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: I'll make this very quick, Howard. You're saying that the ability to be in there with these embedded reporters makes up for the trade-off in the fact that the Pentagon still controls a great deal of the information that is being put out about casualty figures, about advancements and where troops are and so forth.
KURTZ: Sure, those details have to be held back for the safety of the troops and the safety of the journalists.
But, basically, there was a lot of talk of about, would the Pentagon censor negative reporting when things perhaps went sour? We haven't seen any evidence of that. These correspondents have given us all sides of the war.
And I look forward to -- I hope this doesn't go on all that much longer, but I think that the American public has never had this kind of glimpse. Sometimes it's disturbing, but I'm glad that we have it.
WOODRUFF: Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," also with "The Washington Post." Good to see you, Howard. Thanks very much.
KURTZ: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: You know, Judy, listening to Howie and, actually, like all of us, watching this experiment with these embedded reporters, it's brought a whole new dimension of reporting, as far as I'm concerned.
Sure, there have been some problems, but if you go back to the first Gulf War, and I covered that war, obviously we had nothing like that. We had no journalists, really, on the front lines. We used to just get all the information from briefings at the Pentagon or at the Central Command briefing centers in Riyadh and Dhahran (ph).
This has been, as far as I'm concerned, it's been a fabulous experience, experiment for all of us, especially for the consumers of our product, namely the viewers, the readers, the listeners of what we do.
Thanks to Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post and CNN's Reliable Sources for that always-important analysis.
Let's go to Miles at the CNN military desk in the CNN newsroom -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Thanks very much, Wolf. I'm joined by retired General George Harrison of the United States Air Force, and we're going to talk about Baghdad and then try to put it in some historical perspective for you, if that's possible in three minutes' time. I think we might be up to the challenge.
First of all, looking at the table here, the term that is used, "cordoned," or whatever you want to call it, essentially all these key interstates, if you're in the U.S., these key divided highways are apparently under the control of U.S. forces right now, access into and out of Baghdad controlled strictly.
Is that an encirclement?
HARRISON: Well, the term that we just coined is porous encirclement. Because, clearly, the intent is not to keep everything from coming out of here. If civilians want to leave, if there's a reason for folks to leave the area, this is not an iron ring. It's also not an iron ring moving in, because there's not an iron ring of defenders.
O'BRIEN: All right, there's just not enough boots on the ground to encircle Baghdad, that's number one.
HARRISON: That's right.
O'BRIEN: Number two, the idea of laying siege to a city you don't win the hearts and minds of those who live inside, do you?
HARRISON: That's right, because they starve, they go through hunger deprivation, all those kinds of things. So it's really not a good way to win the war.
O'BRIEN: All right, well, let's talk for a moment about previous events in military history.
I want to begin with Paris, the liberation of Paris in World War II. That scenario may or may not be analogous to what we're going to see in Baghdad. Explain that.
HARRISON: Well, in Paris in World War II what we saw was a government in place, the Vichy government, which convinced the Gestapo, the secret police of Hitler that it was in the best interest of the people of Paris and the best interest of the Axis powers, for that matter, to surrender Paris intact. So they surrendered it and the allied troops moved in without destroying or sieging the city of Paris.
O'BRIEN: All right, is that a likely scenario, you think, in this case? Probably not, right?
HARRISON: Well, probably not because I don't think there'll be an intact military authority to conduct the surrender.
O'BRIEN: All right, let's go from Paris to Berlin now and talk about what happened in Berlin. Now, that was a scenario at the latter stages of the war, obviously, the idea of keeping Berlin intact was not high on the priority list.
HARRISON: Not a big one. As a matter of fact, the strategy of the Russian army was to destroy Berlin. Thirty thousand -- or 80,000 Russian troops killed in three days.
O'BRIEN: All right, so we've sort of given you both ends of the spectrum here. Let's talk for a moment about Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City and how that might possibly be a model for what could happen in Baghdad. Explain how that went down.
HARRISON: Saigon was a completely different circumstance. In that case, the Saigon government, South Vietnamese government completely collapsed. And we see here, of course, people fighting to get out of there, trying to flee the area. There was no civil government. There was no military authority. There was no way to enforce order. So the North Vietnamese then, now the Vietnamese, just moved in unopposed and imposed their will on that city.
O'BRIEN: So when you look at that whole spectrum, from Paris on one side, to Berlin, Saigon perhaps somewhere in the middle, is Baghdad going to be in the middle near Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, potentially?
HARRISON: Well, we speculate that. And I speculate that that's the way it's going to happen. We see breakdown of civil authority. We've seen the same sort of thing happening down to the southeast of Basra, breakdown of civil authority and the coalition troops moving in essentially unopposed and maintaining civil order as their primary focus.
O'BRIEN: And I guess if you look at all those scenarios, that is as good as you could hope for as far as civilian casualties?
HARRISON: I think it is because it lets us then rebuild a civil government, maintain order and then develop a way of governing this complex place with minimum disorder.
O'BRIEN: All right, military history in about three minutes time. General George Harrison, you did it. We appreciate your insights as always.
HARRISON: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: And we'll see you next time.
We're going to take a break. We'll be back with more in just a moment. Stay with us.
BLITZER: In the coastal city of Umm Qasr, many Iraqi residents say their attention is not on Baghdad right now. Their only concerns are the hardships they've had to face since the start of the war, including an ever-growing thirst for usable water.
For more on the situation there, we go to ITN's Dan Rivers. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
DAN RIVERS, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The children of Umm Qasr want only one thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Water, water, water.
RIVERS: We toured the town today, besieged everywhere we went by the same demand.
As the temperature touched 100 degrees Fahrenheit, water tankers from the nearby pipeline were mobbed by frantic townsfolk. But there simply aren't enough of these lorries to supply everyone.
Many have to use this well -- hard work in the baking sun, and the brackish water drawn up not fit for drinking.
There might not be a humanitarian crisis here in Umm Qasr, but there is, as you can see, a desperate shortage of water. And as the temperature gets hotter every day, that need becomes ever more pressing.
In the local hospital we found squalid conditions. Once again, the taps weren't working. Not a single drop in the entire building.
We found this patient, a young boy, with a badly broken arm, the X-ray showing a horrible fracture. When we'd arrived, there'd been no water to make the plaster cast. We gave them the small amount we had with us, allowing them to set his arm as best they could.
Despite the hardship, the hospitality of the local families was undiminished. Over tea, they told me they didn't care what was happening in Baghdad. All they worry about is food and water.
Since the war started, the men of the household no longer have jobs. They say war has brought nothing but hardship.
There's a chronic shortage here, particularly of water -- dire diet. I mean, there's enough food, but it's desperate. And people, you know, the questions of politics in Baghdad -- it's a long, long way from here to the capital.
The coalition forces have been here for a fortnight, and some aid is arriving. More is promised. But the need is huge. It's not regime change that people here are concerned about. It's food and water.
Dan Rivers, ITV News, Umm Qasr, southern Iraq.
WOODRUFF: Still to come this hour, remembering the 507th. Our Ed Lavandera is live from Fort Bliss.
LAVANDERA: Judy, coming up here in a little bit, we'll be talking about church services here this morning in Fort Bliss, Texas. Not a usual Sunday service, as many of the families here dealing with the reality that many of the soldiers that were deployed from here won't be coming home alive.
WOODRUFF: A moving and emotional family reunion in Germany. The former POW, Jessica Lynch, finally has been reunited with her family at a U.S. military hospital.
The teenager still recovering from her wounds. She was taken captive after her unit was ambushed on March 23rd in Nasiriyah. U.S. commandos later rescued her from Saddam Hospital on last Wednesday, after being tipped off by an Iraqi lawyer.
Well, we know now that the other members of Jessica Lynch's unit were not so fortunate. A Texas military base is mourning the loss of 7 soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company.
Our Ed Lavendera now joins us live from Fort Bliss with more on that.
Ed, hello again.
LAVENDERA: Hi, Judy.
Well, Sunday services weren't an official memorial service for the soldiers of the 507th Maintenance Company that were killed in Iraq, but it was the first opportunity, at least in a spiritual sense, for many of the military family members here at this base to kind of deal with what has happened over the course of the last two weeks.
Of course, many of the people praying for the mercy of the souls of this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that have been killed. Also, though, a lot of hope for the 5 prisoners of war from the 507th Maintenance Company that are still in Iraq, and many of the family members praying for their safe return here, as well as very much a theme of this morning's services, as well.
The bishop of El Paso is the one that presided over the church service this morning. He had actually planned this service for about six weeks ago, when the troops from this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) first deployed. He said back then it was an opportunity to give an opportunity for this bishop to deal with the families here, who were at the time not only dealing with the fact that their loved ones had been deployed. That was already stressful enough, but, considering what has happened here, with the 507th Maintenance Company, an even much more difficult situation.
And after the service, many of the people who were attending these services this morning said that they're very much thinking of the prisoners of war that are still in Iraq and hoping they return home safely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our hopes are strong that they are coming back. We want them back. Our prayers are that they're being well cared of, that of course the Iraqi government or the regime in charge is following the proper protocol that's called for.
As far as the faith here, it's strong. I mean, we back our country and our president 100 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a past military member, and now as a civilian member of this community, I feel like the things that are happening just bring us closer together and help us, like I said, to get over this period of despair, and I think everyone will just pull together and we'll get this thing behind us.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
LAVANDERA: You're looking at one of the yellow ribbons that is tied to a pole here on the Fort Bliss area. And you've seen moments like this from time to time around this base. There have been signs that have been put up as well. Also, the flags have been flying here at half-staff as well.
Now, the official memorial service is scheduled for next Friday afternoon, and officials here at this base say the public is welcome to come. And, Judy, there is no question that many people here who live in El Paso even though -- even if you're not connected to this base in any way, this is a story that has very much touched many lives in this El Paso area. Judy?
WOODRUFF: Ed, what sort of support system do they have in place for a situation like this, where you have several members of this maintenance group wiped out? How do they -- what sort of system do they have in place for this?
LAVANDERA: Well, they have what's called a family readiness group, and they work in conjunction with the chaplains here at this base. And from what we understand, many of these groups have been in constant contact with family members of not only the POW families, but also of those soldiers missing in action.
And basically, they serve as a conduit of information. As many of these families just hold on for -- hold out for any kind of information coming from the front lines. It's a very slow process.
And in the meantime, these families, as you might imagine, have dozens of questions and exactly how to deal with that.
So, the family, the counselors say that they've been dealing with a lot of issues -- helping people through episodes of depression and that sort of thing.
So, they just kind of -- a group of people who are in constant contact with these families, making sure that all their needs are taken care of as they wait for the final word to come from the battlefield. Judy?
WOODRUFF: It has to be excruciating for so many of them, certainly for POW families, but also for those who are just still out there fighting.
All right, Ed Lavandera reporting for us from Fort Bliss, Texas. Thank you, Ed, very much.
The next hour of CNN's coverage of the war in Iraq continues right after this break.
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