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War in Iraq: Large Column of U.S. Marines Advances on Baghdad from Southeast

Aired April 6, 2003 - 05:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It's 5 a.m., I'm Carol Costello. Time to check the latest headlines at this hour.
The Iraqi regime reportedly will impose a nighttime band on the leaving the capital. According to Iraqi television all the entrances to the city will be close from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. beginning tonight. It's not clear what practical effect this edict will have on the Iraqis reportedly have been fleeing the capital.

There are no such travel restrictions for the U.S. military. A large column of U.S. Marines and armored vehicles continues advancing on the capital from the southeast. CNN's Martin Savidge says the 5th Marines had to fight their way through the suburbs about 48 hours earlier, one of their burned out Abrams tanks as silent monument of that battle.

The Pentagon says the skies of Baghdad will now be under constant surveillance called urban close air support. It's designed to provide cover for ground forces as they scan out the capital. The Pentagon says aircraft are outfitted with special ordinance meant to minimize civilian casualties.

President Bush's National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice is scheduled to arrive in Moscow today. She'll be meeting with top government officials in an attempt to smooth strained relations over the war in Iraq.

And the U.S. Postal Service says it has chartered two 747 cargo jets to keep huge amounts of mail moving to the troops in the Gulf region. The Postal Service says the military mail volume has jumped from 21,000 pounds a week in October to more than 750,000 pounds a week now.

In the world of sports, it will be a match up between Kansas and Syracuse in the men's NCAA basketball championship tomorrow night. Last night Kansas trounced Marquette 94 to 61 while Syracuse beat Texas 95 to 84 in the semi-finals. The U.S. troops in Kuwait stayed up to watch the game. The first game aired at 2 a.m. over there and they've been following the tournament since it started when they can of course.

Coming up on CNN this hour, as we continue to follow developments in Iraq, CNN's Kyra Phillips is airborne with the Navy as it provides coverage to the Marines on the ground. We'll have her exclusive report for you.

CNN's Walter Rodgers is reporting U.S. tanks rolled back into Baghdad for a second day of recognizance missions.

And her brother called her our lady warrior but to Americans she'll be remembered as the first U.S. servicewoman killed in action in the Iraq war. The story of Lori Piestowa is also ahead.

And hello to you. I'm Carol Costello live here at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Good morning Bill Hemmer.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello Carol. I'm Bill Hemmer live here in Kuwait City. Good afternoon from here.

I want to take you to a live picture right now of Baghdad now in the afternoon hours already, about two o'clock local time in the Iraqi capital and Iraqi television says the travel in Baghdad a restriction from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Thousands are reported trying to leave the city. The U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry is near the center of Iraqi capital today for a second day of recognizance missions there.

Look at the situation right now on the ground in the war. If coalition troops have to wear suits again today it's going to be really hot. They are going to feel the heat again today. The forecast has the mercury climbing to over 100 in parts of Iraq, at least 95 degrees in Baghdad. In Basra meanwhile on the southeast that temperature could hit about 104.

The U.S. led coalition has a new strategy too we're told from the skies over Baghdad. Barbara Starr reported this yesterday. Aircraft will now be flying 24/7 in the skies to protect grounds troops.

Also, the search for Iraqi General Ali Hassan al-Majeed nicknamed "Chemical Ali," CENTCOM says the General's Basra home has been destroyed as of yesterday by coalition forces. He though we're told still remains at large.

Back in Baghdad, loud explosions from the skies and ground attacks heard in and around the capital today, some animation right now can show you how coalition troops advancing from several directions to challenge Saddam Hussein's defenders of the city. U.S. 3rd Infantry tanks were near the center of the Iraqi capital today conducting a second round of recognizance missions. Tanks reported fired into the barracks of Iraq's Republican Guard in Baghdad but Iraq's Information Minister denied that any such incident has taken place.

Sources telling Nic Robertson that U.S. soldiers were as close as a mile from Saddam Hussein's presidential palace. The U.S. Central Command cautions that this fight is far from over.

Some of the latest scenes now from the front lines in Iraq. A deafening explosion rocked central Baghdad earlier today and coalition planes now flying again as I mentioned over the city 24 hours a day. One hundred miles north of Baghdad meanwhile night scope videoed the action, U.S. Special Forces working with Kurdish fighters calling an F-15s B-52 bombers to soften up a ridgeline where Iraqi forces are entrenched there. In the south, U.S. and British forces continue the painstaking task of trying to subdue pockets of resistance in and around Basra. Britain's famed desert rats now going house to house in some parts anyway hunting down Saddam's Fedayeen militia.

Also, Army sources telling CNN's Walt Rodgers that U.S. tanks on recognizance missions near the center of Baghdad again today, Walter's with the Army's 7th Calvary which is moving toward the capital, an update from Walt and a report found a few moments ago.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we are hearing from the U.S. Army commanders in this theater of operations is a very upbeat message, upbeat in the sense that one senior officer in the United States Army was quoted as saying we have the Iraqis rocking backwards on their heels. This senior officer went on to say we just need to keep the pressure on for a few more days, the very clear implication of his remarks is that there is a timeline and that the military commanders believe the Iraqi resistance is crumbling and will continue to crumble especially when the U.S. Army's 2nd Brigade 3rd Infantry Division rolled at will through some sections of Baghdad today right into the city itself, well into the city limits and get a tour through the U.S. Army's 2nd Brigade 3rd Infantry literally rolling on tanks through first as a recognizance unit then as literally a show of force and indeed they swept through a southern third of the city perhaps the southern quarter of the city of Baghdad, six million and then came back out again just simply to say we are here and if there's anything left (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this regime of Saddam Hussein, the message the Army was sending was that we can flex our muscles in your capital anytime you want.

One very important thing, we have - we continue to receive reports of a mass exodus of Iraqi party officials, Baathist party officials and Republican Guard officers trying to flee west of the city going up perhaps in the direction of Syria. We have heard that they have been carrying suitcases of money. The Army has discovered that in some fleeing vehicles over the past few days.

COSTELLO: And we'll get to Walter live when we can. We've been telling you about this all morning. Reuters is reporting Iraqi authorities plan to impose a travel ban into and out of Baghdad. It comes from the wake of thousands of people fleeing the Iraqi capital in the last couple of days. You heard Walter Rodgers talk about that. CNN's Rym Brahimi is monitoring developments from Amman, Jordan and Rym I know you talked by phone to people inside Baghdad. What are they telling you?

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here's the situation as far as I know it from my sources in Baghdad Carol. Bombing resumed barely an hour ago. It seemed to be mainly toward the outskirts of the Iraqi capital. It may have gotten closer since then. We'll have to check in on that later. There was also artillery fired. That started off at 9:30 a.m. so roughly three hours ago, almost four hours ago actually and that also seemed to come at a distance around the south Baghdad. Now the bombing actually started at midnight and then it went on for a while and then it stopped at dawn only to resume now. People have been hearing a lot of things, a lot heavy, heavy explosions during the night. One explosion in particular came from a missile that literally zoomed in front of the Palestine Hotel which is where the journalists are staying and then landed in the river right in front of the presidential palace. The palace has been targeted many times before by the U.S. forces. Now of course people are fleeing the capital as you were saying but there are also people who are moving from the outskirts of Baghdad toward the inside and the reason for that is they've been hearing that there are U.S. troops. No people I spoke to saw any U.S. troops themselves but they have been hearing from word of mouth that U.S. troops had been seen in certain areas again in the suburbs of Baghdad not inside Baghdad proper and so that's caused some people to move in from the outskirts to the inner city of Baghdad. There's also people just simply moving neighborhoods because they think that the neighborhoods that are on the western side of Baghdad which is the part where all the government buildings or most of them and the presidential palaces are, are not safe.

So a lot of confusion there especially what doesn't help of course is that there are conflicting reports. The Minister of Information again had repeated that the U.S. forces have not yet taken the airport but then again some people do have access to international radio stations and they've been hearing totally the opposite - Carol.

COSTELLO: Rym, what is this curfew this 6 p to 6 a curfew that the Iraqi government has imposed? Are people going to adhere to that? I mean why did the government do that there?

BRAHIMI: Well, that's interesting. The people I spoke to actually said it doesn't really make any difference if you're banned from leaving Baghdad from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. because what happens is nobody in Iraq actually goes out of their homes after 6 p.m. Dusk or rather nightfall comes at around 6:30 or 7 and just before nightfall the roads are pretty quiet. Nobody goes out. People stay in their homes and they wouldn't want to go out because that's when the bombing starts. That's when it's more dangerous and remember Carol that electricity has been cut off and although it's been restored in some parts of Baghdad, well it's still intermittent in most of the parts of the capital - Carol.

COSTELLO: And quickly now because we're seeing pictures of Saddam Hussein, any word on his fate?

BRAHIMI: Well, not much on his fate directly but again the people I spoke to had an interesting comment. Some of them actually spoke to people in the neighborhood where President Saddam Hussein was seen or shown on TV meeting crowds and being cheered by crowds. The people in that neighborhood say they saw him in person. They said that they were amazed to see he was still alive and they were amazed to see that the most tracked out person on the planet, the man who's been basically the most wanted is going out to talk to people and they thought it was a good thing, at least that's what they said and there were also some Baath party members who said that they shook hands with him and for so people it means there seems to be no doubt that the president is still around - Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, U.S. government officials would probably disagree with that because they're saying they don't know the fate of Saddam Hussein right now. Rym Brahimi reporting live from Amman, Jordan.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll get an update from the Pentagon.


COSTELLO: It's 5:13 a.m. Eastern Time, continued fighting and explosions heard in Baghdad this morning and it's kind of a new strategy in the air war. Newly released video of Saddam Hussein and his sons, those are among today's highlights as summarized by CNN's Miles O'Brien.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): 12:13 p.m. at the Pentagon, Barbara Starr reports officials say today begins a new strategy in the skies over Baghdad. The coalition Air Force will begin providing urban combat air support over the city. Now the operating plan includes both ground and air missions.

12:21 p.m., CNN's Wolf Blitzer reports according to an eyewitness a bomb has hit central Baghdad only a few hundred meters from the Palestine Hotel. The Palestine Hotel is where much of the international press core is based.

2:25 p.m., CNN's Brent Sadler embedded with U.S. Special Ops in northern Iraq files this CNN exclusive video of U.S. Special Forces operating in the northern front. Sadler reports there is significant cooperation between U.S. and Kurdish forces on the northeast front.

2:45 p.m., Iraqi TV released footage of President Saddam Hussein meetings with his sons, Uday and Qusay. Some of his top aides and military commanders are also with him. CNN cannot confirm when or where the tape was made.

4:32 p.m., CNN's Judy Woodruff reports that in 18 days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition forces have now lost more than 100 servicemen and women.

5:02 p.m., CNN's Nic Robertson said sources told that Iraqi forces are gathering tanks and artillery pieces in a park near the center of Baghdad. Iraqi troops and Fedayeen forces have also been seen out in the streets with tanks and machine guns.


HEMMER: And again, we're getting word now the Iraqis are trying to seal off the city of Baghdad between six o'clock in the evening and six o'clock in the morning. We are hearing already from CENTCOM that this will not impact any type of maneuvers or any type of missions that will go into Baghdad. More on this from Kathleen Koch who is working the Pentagon for us on this Sunday.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, obviously CENTCOM and the Pentagon are on the same page on this. They are not impressed by this threat to basically lockdown the city of Baghdad. A Pentagon official is saying "we will operate where we want, when we want, as we want and we'll continue to so despite the curfew." So Bill, we're clearly expecting that we will see more of these bold forays by these columns of tanks into the city. A roadblock obviously and an Iraqi soldier is no match for tanks and armored vehicles that are we are told back into the city for a second day in a row. The goal in these pinpoint probes into the Baghdad city limits is to look not for Iraqi troops for armaments that could be hidden there but also make it clear to the regime that the coalition will operate with impunity within the city limits. The city again hit hard from the air of this morning, bombs falling in the central downtown area. A new strategy in place now in the skies over Baghdad, 24/7 there will be two U.S. warplanes watching everything that moves on the ground so if U.S. ground troops do encounter resistance, do get into trouble, those aircraft can call into at least six other, A-10s, F-16s for some aerial support.

CENTCOM is also downplaying predictions from some commanders in the field that this war could be wrapped up in the next few days.


MAJ. GEN. VICTOR RENUART, JR., U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Victory will come. Of that there is no doubt but this fight is far from over. As we have said, we've been able to move into the area of Baghdad city. As you look at the map of Iraq, you'll note that there are many other parts of the country where we have not yet taken control of enemy forces in that region and so the fight will continue and the fight is far from finished in Baghdad.


KOCH: Now the general in charge of the Air Force said the coalition Air Force in Iraq is reporting that from the air they are only spotting small groups of Iraq's Republican Guard, no large divisions in sight. Also, Lieutenant General Michael Mosley took questions on the relative inability up to this point of the U.S. military to eliminate the broadcasting capability of Iraqi TV and Mosley said that the U.S. would rather let the television transmissions pop back up from time to time than to risk, you know, causing large numbers of civilians casualties in trying to totally take out the broadcast facility - Bill.

HEMMER: Kathleen, thanks. Kathleen Koch at the Pentagon, thank you.

You can hear a bit later today on CNN directly from some of the key players out there. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace will be the guest with Wolf Blitzer at noon Eastern Time on Late Edition, a three hour broadcast originating here in Kuwait. Also, Wolf will talk with top members of the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner and ranking member, the Democrat Carl Levin out of Michigan - Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Bill, I want to talk about something strange that British troops came across. It was a morbid and kind of a sad - well it was a sad discovery at an abandoned military base in southern Iraq, correspondent Tim Ewart describes it as a makeshift morgue. A warning for you, some of the pictures are quite disturbing.


TIM EWART, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a discovery that horrified the soldiers who made it. The remains of hundreds of men were found in plastic bags and unsealed cardboard coffins. British troops found the bodies at an abandoned Iraqi military base on the outskirts of Az Zubayr. The evidence suggested it what the scene of appalling atrocities. The teeth in many of the skulls had been broken and bones appeared to be wrapped in strips of military uniform. It's not clear how long the bodies had lain here but they were clearly not from this war.

CAPT. JACK KEMP, ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY: You come to expect everything in war fighting. The coffins were there. It was a bit more of a surprise when I discovered the bags with human remains inside.

EWART: Inside a neighboring building there was evidence of cells and a catalog of photographs of the dead. Most had died from gunshot wounds to the head. Others were mutilated beyond recognition, their faces burned and swollen.

Outside soldiers discovered what they described as a purpose built shooting gallery, the brickwork behind it riddled with bullets.

Identity cards revealed the names of some of the dead. Forensic specialists will now visit the scene and hope to establish the truth of what happened here and when.

(on camera): Today's discovery seems to provide shocking evidence of atrocities under Saddam Hussein's regime. Most people are afraid to talk openly about what's been happening here. But when they do, British soldiers believe more horrors will come to light.

Tim Ewart, ITV News, Az Zubayr.


COSTELLO: We've been talking about the fighting in Baghdad but we want to turn our attention now to northern Iraq where Kurdish fighters are helping American Special Forces coordinate attacks on Iraqi forces. CNN's Brent Sadler has been in northern Iraq. He joins us now from the northern front - Brent.

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks Carol. Continuing air strikes along many sectors of the northern front particularly in this area where I'm reporting from, the southeastern sector of that northern front really very heavy explosions over the past couple of hours. This after what appeared to be a concentration of Special Force units working alongside Peshmerga guerillas on the ground here coordinating, pinpointing targets, and bringing in close air support to destroy Iraqi positions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) (voice-over): The beginning of a mission to locate and destroy Saddam Hussein's forces in northern Iraq, lightly armed but confident Iraqi Kurds combine their raw battlefield skills with high tech American air power, power that will soon be used by these U.S. Special Forces preparing the ground for a carefully calculated kill. The Kurds and their American allies are gunning for the Iraqi regime in any way they can. Baghdad is 100 miles south of here. This route blocked by Iraqi army soldiers manning this ridgeline. The Iraqi Kurds have been biding their time here awaiting the U.S. military's next move now helping them figure out the lay of the land.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is soldier Saddam Hussein.

SADLER: This Kurdish fighter says he knows the terrain like the back of his hand and maps out positions for his American allies with a small mosaic of stones.

(on camera): The sun is setting. There are reports of Iraqi tank movements and U.S. strike aircraft will be operating in this vicinity shortly. If Special Forces can help locate targets and coordinate with close air support there'll be bombing runs.

(voice-over): These forward air controllers bristled with antennas. They call in America's birds of prey with calm and precision and the unmistakable trail of a B-52 bomber armed and ready to strike, circling warplanes hunting their quarry but ground and air find it difficult to get a fix on camouflaged covered targets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just so hazy right now too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just - well I'll tell you what. That one right there that I'm looking at looks like that's a net over top of that damn thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patience is virtue sometimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Tom has columns with the birds just have them do a fly over and see what they think.

SADLER: The first birds draw a blank but others are on the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About, right now about 15 minutes and if that one don't come another one's coming and the B-52's on top.

SADLER: And this time their targets are confirmed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're cleared hot. Stand by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Impact 25 seconds.


SADLER: An F-15 releases a 500 pound bomb on demand. It's close to the target but not close enough. It is the end of the day but the attacks have just begun. The Iraqi lines appear to fire back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw flashed behind the mountain. You might want to get down.

SADLER: Orders are obeyed by one and all until more bombs fall.

That flash is the detonation of seven 500 pound bombs dropped from a high altitude B-52 bomber. That's what they sound like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice. That looks good. That looked like it took out (UNINTELLIGIBLE) east.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: East four five degrees. I shifted down, right down that line. So this is our next target and that target.


SADLER: And another Iraqi military target goes up in flames.


Now as those smaller aircraft, F-15s and F-18s, are operating off U.S. aircraft carriers, U.S. Naval officials are saying that since the bombing of the northern front began over two weeks ago, roughly a quarter of Saddam Hussein's northern army, about 100,000 strong has been seriously crippled. The fighting is still going on between redoubts of Iraqi army soldiers and Peshmerga fighters. We're getting reports that there have been casualties among the Peshmerga one killed and one wounded after an exchange of fire around Ainsimfy (ph) 28 miles northeast of the city of Mosul, one of the two important oil capitals in the north of Iraq. So it gives you an idea that the Saddam Hussein loyalists despite this heavy pounding Carol over two weeks continuing today. They're still not cracking on those northern approaches to Kirkuk or Mosul - Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Brent Sadler reporting live from northern Iraq.

This just into the CNN Newsroom also from northern Iraq. Apparently there has been a friendly fire incident. A U.S. warplane has bombed U.S. Special Forces and Kurdish civilians in a convoy killing at least 10 to 12 of them. A reporter on the scene says this. He says it's just a scene from hell here and he also said a senior Kurdish political figure was believed to be among the wounded. We'll have more on this incident of friendly fire when we get it into the CNN Newsroom but right now let's head back to Kuwait City and Bill Hemmer.

HEMMER: All right. Carol, thank you on that. About 90 minutes away from the CENTCOM briefing down in Cutter and perhaps more on that as well when that rolls our way. In the meantime though, back to the battlefield, back to CNN's Jason Bellini by way of videophone. Jason's embedded with the Marines, the 15th Marines Expeditionary Unit. Yesterday we've had a very interesting observation from just the Marines allowing Jason to know that items, key belongings of Jessica Lynch have been discovered. Jason's back with us again this afternoon.

Jason, what's happening now? JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, that's right. Jessica Lynch was rescued from the hospital right behind me, Saddam Hospital. Let me tell you a little - tell you a little bit about this hospital. We had a chance to visit it yesterday. The Marines that we are embedded with went door to door inside of the hospital. They were with one of the administrators there who opened up most of the doors for them. A few they had to break down as they were looking for weapons caches but inside this hospital are still a large number of Iraqi wounded. They don't have much electricity. It's a very untenable situation for them working in there.

I want to introduce you now to some of the people we met inside that hospital.


(voice-over): The children who will never play soccer again, the expectant mother who will be unable to lift her baby, the wounds that time won't heal. Wounded civilians in Iraq are harder for us embedded with the U.S. military to see and report on than the bright and thrilling explosions that hurt them. Today in Saddam Hospital in Nasiriya we heard just a few of their stories.

20-year-old Hider (ph) was eating breakfast when he heard a helicopter flying overhead. Then an explosion, which killed his brother, wounded his father and made him an amputee.

15-year-old Jezmak (ph) says he was walking down the street when a bomb hit nearby sending shrapnel into his arms and legs.

The doctor who served as our guide and translator says that over 400 people have died in Nasiriya since the war began, another 1300 injured, the hospital woefully unprepared operating without enough power, water and medicine. In Saddam Hospital, Saddam Hussein's picture is two-thirds of the way down but civilians suffering is far from over.


Bill, I can also tell you that the Marines that we spoke with said that inside of that hospital there's been a lot of looting that's gone on as if they didn't have enough problems there and looting has been an enormous problem all over this city, people feeling free to wonder around to government buildings and there're quite a few of them in this city to wander around, take all the furniture, take just about everything that's not nailed down and even some of the stuff that is nailed down. You can see some high ceilings where the light bulbs were taken out of the roof. It's been amazing and from one of the mosques here we've heard announcements saying please don't steal things because it's going to make it that much more difficult for the next administration for the next regime in power to get things going here again - Bill.

HEMMER: Jason, thanks, Jason Bellini embedded with the Marines, 15th MEU there in southern Iraq.

Carol, again now at the CNN Center.

COSTELLO: All right. We've been telling you about the fighting in Baghdad. New explosions this morning, fighting still going on at the airport. We want to check in with Art Harris. He is south of Baghdad and he's with the 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines Task Force.

Art, bring us up to date from your vantage point.

ART HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, the unit I'm with is trying to secure the highways, keep them open for the convoys going north and interviewing people they find for weapons and any affiliations with Saddam's Fedayeen paramilitary and a few minutes ago a very interesting mystery white Mercedes coming just before the sandstorm hitting us, coming down the highway. Marines pulled these two gentlemen over, an elderly woman in a white - I mean a black robe in the black claimed to be the mother of the driver. He was wearing a tie, a coat and claimed to be a pharmacy owner who was going back to Baghdad to check on his family. He said he heard it was safe, said that he had been listening not only to PVC but Iraqi radio and wasn't sure who to believe. Things were going well for him until his friend volunteered they had a friend in the CIA who had told them wear armbands that looked a little bit like the Japanese flag, white with a red zero in the middle and to use the code word cowboy that that would guarantee them safe passage, free passage down this major highway. They were probably disappointed however when the Marines thought that was a little strange, said they had heard that from their intelligence people, and took them into custody for further questioning - Carol.

COSTELLO: That is a strange story. I wanted to ask you about supplies because I know it's very hot there today. Are the Marines getting enough water and food?

HARRIS: They are. We're about to go down the road to a major supply depot to get more food and water. We ran out of water for just an hour yesterday, Carol. But the supply sergeant sent a water truck down just in time to get back so the Marines could fill their canteens and camelbacks and they had been working and spent the day yesterday scouring the countryside in their security mission, got fired on once by somebody in a field. And we're looking for an RPG sniper who took a shot at a Cobra helicopter, could not find either one and there were no injuries. But they are well watered, well fed, got a decent night's sleep, Carol, and back near a bridge on a major highway today to find it aswarm with young Iraqi males trying to sell them cigarettes and money. So perhaps that's some kind of indicator that the U.S. economy and the seas of capitalism are beginning on the outskirts of Baghdad - Carol.

COSTELLO: Yeah. I know the Marines don't like to see civilians anyway for a number of reasons. Can you get into those?

HARRIS: Well, they don't especially if cars or trucks are coming to an overpass, Carol, if they could be a potential suicide bomber. They've got security forces out trying to stop them well ahead of any overpass or intersection. They have translators but they don't have enough translators. There are two with the unit I'm with who have spent a year-and-a-half with the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, who speak very good Arabic. But they are spread thin and they are trying to decipher as many as now 100 stories a day from individuals who are stopped and the Marines believe need to be questioned further. So that is the job they're trying to do in a security capacity they're trying to keep civilians safe not to intimidate them or you know infuriate them in any way but letting them know that is for Marines' safety and their own safety - Carol.

COSTELLO: I don't know if you'll be able to answer this question but we've been hearing different numbers on the number of Iraqi dead and casualties. What are you seeing?

HARRIS: Well, just units are a lot hitting action in Nasiriya before they started moving north. And there along the river the battlefield damage assessment, the kind of accounting that goes on, which is not exactly adding up bodies, but trying to assess the rounds that are fired and the casualties that are inflicted came to several dozen or maybe more that this unit, which is you know a number, I can't say how many. But a couple of dozen light armored vehicles with high powered cannon machine guns and mortars that they inflicted on several building along the river where snipers were firing at them, RPGs. They called in air support but as one - as one operations officer told me, he is not looking at casualties or body count as a way to measure things because it is so hard to assess. He is looking at the blocks and the amount of area they clear and sort of the hearts and minds they went over because bodies are taken from the battlefield quickly by the Iraqis. And when we were there we heard ambulances into the night late taking people purportedly to the Saddam Hospital Jason Bellini just reported on. And an informant inside the hospital said that there were many paramilitary wounded and killed in that fight I just described to you.

So casualties a murky figure, Carol. And the Marines though are trying to keep the civilian casualties to a minimum and move forward. They're now at a different mission and trying to protect the roads. Back to you.

COSTELLO: All right. Art Harris, we'll let you get back to work. We appreciate it, Art Harris live somewhere south of Baghdad.

At 5:35 Eastern Time, it's time to check the latest headlines at this hour. The BBC reports a U.S. Kurdish convoy in northern Iraq was accidentally bombed today by a U.S. warplane. At least 10 people were killed, many more wounded that's according to BBC reporter on the scene who was also slightly injured.

The Iraqi regime reportedly will impose a nighttime band on leaving the capital. According to Iraqi television, all entrances to the city will be closed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. beginning tonight. It's not clear what practical this edict will have on the Iraqis who reportedly have been fleeing the capital.

There are no such travel restrictions for the U.S. military however. A large column of U.S. Marines and armored vehicles continues advancing on the capital from the southeast. CNN's Martin Savidge says the 5th Marines had to fight their way through the suburbs about 48 hours earlier, one of their burned out Abrams tanks as a silent monument of that battle.

The Pentagon says the skies of Baghdad will now be under constant surveillance called urban close air support. It's designed to provide cover for ground forces as they scout out the capital. The Pentagon says aircraft are outfitted with special ordinance meant to minimize civilian casualties.

National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice is due to arrive in Moscow today with - for talks with top Russian officials. Rice is trying to ease relations strained by differences over Iraq. She's scheduled to meet with Russian foreign ministry officials and President Vladimir Putin.

The U.S. Postal Service says it has chartered two 747 cargo jets to keep huge amounts of mail moving to the troops in the Gulf region. The Postal Service says the military mail volume has jumped from 21,000 pounds a week in October to more than 750,000 pounds a week now.

Talk about sports for a little bit now. It will be a match up between Kansas and Syracuse in the men's NCAA basketball championship tomorrow night. Last night Kansas trounced Marquette 94 to 61 while Syracuse beat Texas 95 to 84 in the semi-finals. The U.S. troops in Kuwait did stay up to watch the game. The first game aired at 2 a.m. over there and they've been following the tournament since it all started when they can.

Coming up this hour, as we continue to follow developments in Iraq, CNN's Kyra Phillips is airborne with the Navy as it provides coverage to the Marines on the ground. We'll have her exclusive report. CNN's Walter Rodgers is reporting U.S. tanks rolled back into Baghdad for a second day of recognizance missions and her brother called her our lady warrior but to Americans she'll be remembered as the first U.S. servicewoman killed in action in the Iraq war. The story of Lori Piestowa also ahead.

HEMMER: I'm Bill Hemmer back here live in Kuwait City getting word again of this friendly fire incident that took place in northern Iraq. Perhaps we're going to learn a lot more when CENTCOM does its briefing in about an hour and 20 minutes from now.

Also, we are getting some reports of about a high, high death rate of Iraqi soldiers in and around the fighting in Baghdad that's taken place today and also yesterday on Saturday as well.

Tom Mintier is keeping close track of these stories. He's live at Central Command in Cutter and joins us with more now.

Tom, good afternoon there.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon Bill. We reported just an hour ago from General Franks' briefing of his staff this morning. I asked the question of Jim Wilkinson (ph) who is the strategic communications director. There had been reports of 2,000 Iraqi casualties on the road into Baghdad. He said that number was low that it was higher than that. So an indication from Central Command that the Iraqi casualties and as you heard Art Harris says it's a very science to measure was higher than 2,000. How they established that count, how it became part of the briefing we simply don't know. One of those casualties apparently was the bodyguard of the man known as "Chemical Ali." Last night on an air strike on headquarters where "Chemical Ali" was believed to be they did go in and find the bodyguard, the body of the bodyguard of "Chemical Ali" but so far no confirmation that they indeed did get "Chemical Ali."

As you also heard in this past few minutes, another report of friendly fire this involving some American Special Forces operating in northern Iraq. Joining me now, Captain Frank Thorp, public affairs officer here at CENTCOM.

Do you have anything on this friendly fire incident where reportedly more than 10 Americans were killed?

CAPT. FRANK THORP, CENTCOM: Tom, we don't have that report in yet. This is one of the challenges with the embeds being out there reporting in real time. Sometimes the reports come in before it can come through the military channels and as time comes - time goes on we'll confirm whether that's true or not. Sometimes the first reports are always wrong. There's a big saying we have in the military so I would encourage folks to take a breath there for a second and take some time and let us confirm a report like that before we talk about it.

MINTIER: A big difficulty with misidentification or not proper identification whether it's British aircraft whether it's Patriot missile battery on the ground, we've had incidents where Challenger tanks have been firing on each other in and around Basra. How serious is the situation involving friendly fire?

THORP: Well, experienced soldiers will tell you that any battle throughout history always has some number of friendly fire incidents. Every single one of them is a tragedy and we go through great training to prevent them at all costs whether it's using the equipment we have, identification friend or foe type of equipment as well as the actual classroom training we have. So we take every one of those seriously because every one is a casualty to a coalition soldier but we have to expect that in a battle of this caliber, a war like this situation we're in right now, friendly fire is part of the battlefield.

MINTIER: Let's talk about Baghdad for a second. There was word yesterday afternoon that this sent a psychological message to the regime that the coalition has the ability to drive into Baghdad turn around and drive back out. Are we going to see similar type operations today?

THORP: Well, we're not going to talk about future operations. What you saw yesterday we may see again as the opportunity arises. Our efforts have been very deliberate. When we see an opportunity like that, like we saw yesterday to take an armored combat formation right through the heart of Baghdad right around into the airport we'll take them as we see them come up.

MINTIER: We heard just a few seconds ago that the U.S. Postal Service has chartered two 747s to bring mail out to the troops in the field. Are these troops getting letters on the battlefield in Baghdad from their loved ones?

THORP: That's part of the tremendous logistics effort that's going on, on the battlefield. Hundreds of miles of supplies flowing to the forces and one things that's a part of that is cards and letters from home and can never underestimate the value of getting some sort of note from home telling us that we're thinking of you. It's great. We're putting great effort to ensure that the mail continues to flow.

MINTIER: So there's daily deliveries of mail even up in and around Baghdad, the airport and elsewhere?

THORP: I don't know about daily. We're trying to get it there as fast as we can. It's not like at home back in the States where you can count on the mailman being there rain, snow, sleet or shine but the effort is tremendous to get it there. Every couple of days there's a mail call and that's one of the highlights for the soldiers and Marines on the battlefield.

MINITER: All right. Captain Thorp, thank you very much.

Again, mail is making its way out to the battlefields so those 747s filled with 700,000 pounds of letters, they'll be delivered soon.

Bill, back to you.

HEMMER: Tom, thanks, Tom Mintier at CENTCOM again. We'll give the main briefing a little more than an hour from now 7 a.m. Eastern Time back there in the U.S.

Also, hear later directly from some of the key players today, Vice Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace will be the guest with Wolf later today noon Eastern on "LATE EDITION." Also Wolf's going to talk with a number of the top members of the Senate Arms Services Committee, John Warner, Carl Levin among the many guests on "LATE EDITION" later today.

We're going to get a break right here. When we come back we're going to talk with the member of the American University here in Kuwait about the project ahead and how you go about rebuilding Iraq. That topic and more when we continue right after this.


COSTELLO: And that statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down in Basra by British forces. I want to show you the first pictures we have into the CNN Newsroom right now of this friendly fire incident in northern Iraq. Apparently a U.S. warplane bombed U.S. Special Forces and Kurdish civilians in a convoy and it killed at least 10 to 12 of them. A reporter on the ground says, you know, this is just a scene from hell here. There are vehicles on fire, bodies lying on the ground. He also says a senior Kurdish political figure was believed to be among the wounded. We don't know that for sure but as you can see, ambulances are arriving on the scene to tend to those wounded who survived this friendly fire incident. When we get more information about this of course we'll bring it to you.

In Germany military doctors say Army Private Jessica Lynch is making a sound recovery from her injuries. With an update, CNN's Matthew Chance live in Landstuhl, Germany, and I understand Jessica's parents have arrived.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Carol. They have arrived and this is an unfolding story of quite amazing heroics. The focus of it has shifted as you pointed out from Iraq to Germany and here at the Landstuhl U.S. Army medical facility, the hospital where Jessica Lynch is being treated and is recovering according to doctors from her multiple injuries and also where we have been told over the few hours she's been reunited with her family, with her mother and her father, her brother and her sister and her cousin who flew in to Ramstein U.S. Air Force Base a short distance from here in the early hours of this morning from their Charleston home in West Virginia via Washington D.C. to that Ramstein base. U.S. military officials here though are not giving the media at this point any access. They're stressing this is an intensely private time for Private Lynch and her family. There may be some kind of media facility later on because there is a great deal of interest in the circumstances of Jessica Lynch's captivity. She's just 19 remember. The exact details how she fell into Iraqi hands and how she was treated while in Iraqi custody is obviously a point of great concern for many people not just at home and in the states but around the world - Carol.

COSTELLO: Matthew, can we talk about her injuries because there have been conflicting reports, different reports on whether she'd been shot or not or just had broken bones. Can you get into that for us?

CHANCE: Yeah. What we know for sure - it is very unclear. You're right but what we know for sure is that she's got a number of broken bones. We're told that her right arm is broken, both her legs are broken, her ankle is broken. She's also said to have quite serious injuries to her back and to her face but there was some confusion initially with reports saying that she had either gunshot wounds or stabbing wounds. Now that was later dismissed by the medical authorities here at Landstuhl who are examined her. They say they found no evidence of any gunshot wounds or stabbing wounds but word coming out of CENTCOM in Doha seems to be you know talking against that. They seem to now be indicating that there may have been some kind of bullet wound, which wasn't previously identified. What we're hearing now is that there will be some kind of statement to clarify her medical condition or what wounds she sustained over the course of the next few hours. Obviously we'll bring that to you as soon as we have it.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. One more question for you though, we understand her dog tags were found in the home of a Baath party member. Do you have an update on that for us?

CHANCE: All I know is those reports we got from one of our embedded reporters with the U.S. Army that indeed Jessica Lynch's dog tags were found as you say in the residence or in the offices of a senior Baath party figure in Iraq. What the significance of this is, is unclear but it does raise important questions about how Jessica Lynch was treated while she was in custody, why it was felt necessary by the Iraqi authorities to take her dog tags from her. These are questions hopefully that Jessica herself will be able to answer when we get the opportunity to speak to her.

COSTELLO: Good enough. Matthew Chance reporting live from Landstuhl, Germany, we'll get back to you as you have more information for us.

Now back to Kuwait City and Bill.

HEMMER: All right. Carol, thank you.

Listen, the fighting is ongoing in Baghdad. We know that and the evidence is on the ground with our embedded reporters but now there is also this focus Carol of starting to shift toward the future and what happens in a post war Iraq? How do you rebuild the country? How do you get these three groups of people the Kurds, the Shiites, the Sunnis to accept a democratic form of government and will it work? Safeeq Ghabra is a political scientist and a columnist here in the Arab world as my guest here in Kuwait City.

As a Kuwaiti yourself and you're going to be president elect of the American University that will open up here in this country in the fall of 2004. What is the impact right now knowing that thousands of Iraqi men, soldiers are dying even as of yesterday on Saturday? How do you start to rebuild a country after such a devastating loss after losing thousands and thousands of men in war?

SAFEEQ GHABRA, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, KUWAIT: Well it hasn't been unusual in history for people to go on. Life will go and the people of Iraq have lost many in the Iraq Iran war and they went on and I think the people of Iraq will go on after this devastating war with all the sadness it entails, with all the mourning that will come and with all the negativity that war brings no matter issues have brought it and I think by the end of the day that people of Iraq will discover how much Saddam has put them at risk, has jeopardized Iraq and is responsible for the agonies that the people of Iraq have gone through.

HEMMER: What sort of timeframe is on that very issue? At what point do you believe the Iraqis will assuming they accept the repression of the Baath party, assuming that they take it upon their own to say you know what, this is not the best thing for us after all. If they do accept that, what sort of timeframe is that?

GHABRA: Well, like any timeframe after war, it's complicated. It's long. It's not immediate and you're going to see a lot of issues and sometimes problems to be addressed as this war ends. So don't look at it as a one month job or a three month job or a two year job and don't look at it as a full responsibility from a to z. Time, the people of Iraq are going to fill the vacuum and the people of Iraq will have to form their government equally. Americans and British and others are responsible for making sure that there is safety in Iraq as this process goes on. It's a parallel process and it will take time to mature. HEMMER: There are people right now as you well know looking at this issue how to build. The Americans are doing it. The British are doing it. The Kuwaitis are doing it. Is there a model upon which people are working?

GHABRA: Well sometimes models don't help and sometimes you have to discover your road, your way just from scratch. You could look at Germany and you could look at Japan after World War II. You could look at Korea after the Korean War. You could look at similar examples Kosovo. I mean there are so many different models that fit different realities. You need to discover your own way.

HEMMER: Here's the thing I find that. You know the Germans were all German. The Japanese were all Japanese but the Iraqis are not all necessarily, well, under the head - all Iraqis but they are very separate in terms of religion, the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shias. Is it possible right now based on what we're collecting on the information of the population to allow them to come together and accept one rule, accept a new government and do it so that all three entities are satisfied?

GHABRA: Well, if the needs are satisfied things could work very well and the needs would basically be an open and a democratic reality treatment on the basis of human rights, respect for the Kurds and for their culture, for their economy, an arrangement that can make them all be part of one government, one country, yes, elements of autonomy in different suburbs and in different areas or neighborhoods or regions of Iraq. It can work if the political will goes in that direction and there are so many issues. I mean, the Shiites of Iraq have come a long way in maturing their political understanding. The model in Iran is not their model. They have really understood different experience and seen authoritarianism from a different angle under Saddam and yet did not look towards Iraq. So there are so many things that could put them together with the Sunnis on a more secular basis and with the Kurds as well on a more open and needing to be together in a united Iraq.

HEMMER: That's what people need and I think there's a lot of people around the world who are hoping you're right if indeed that is the course that is taken. Safeeq Ghabra, thank you. Best of luck with the University here in Kuwait. OK. Nice to chat with you.

GHABRA: Thanks for having me.

HEMMER: All right. In a moment here we'll get you an update on everything that's happening in the battlefield in Iraq. Carol is back, up to the hour developments on this Sunday almost 6 a.m. back on the East coast.

If you did not change your clocks do it now. Daylight Savings Time is kicking back in.

CENTCOM, by the way, will brief in an hour. We'll get you there live down in Qatar.

Back in a moment after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: 5:56 Eastern Time, welcome back.

U.S. Central Command has confirmed that nine bodies found Wednesday during the rescue of Army Private Jessica Lynch were indeed soldiers previously classified as missing in action. The identity of one soldier has not been released but the others are, Sergeant George Buggs of the 3rd Division Support Battalion. The rest were with Lynch's 507th Maintenance Company, Master Sergeant Robert Dowdy, Private Ruben Estrella-Soto, Specialist James Kiehl, Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Villarreal Mata, Private First Class Lorianne (sic) Piestowa, private Brandon Sloan and Sergeant Donald Walters. Piestowa was the only woman among those killed. Our Rusty Dornin spoke with her friends and family.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNNfn CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lori Piestowa was said to have a mind of her own so it was no surprise to those close to her when she joined the Army. Seen here with her family gathered close before she went to Iraq, Piestowa said her biggest concern was about her two young children.

LORI PIESTOWA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like knowing that my family's going to be taken care of.

DORNIN: Rocked by anxiety for nearly two weeks when she was reported missing, Lori's family gathered close again this time to mourn a woman her brother called "our lady warrior."

WAYLAND PIESTOWA, BROTHER: Our family is very proud of her. We know she is our hero as you've heard before. We are continuing to believe that. We're going to hold that in our hearts forever and she will not be forgotten.

DORNIN: Lori Piestowa grew up in the searing heat of the Arizona desert, a Hopi Indian living on the Navajo reservation here in Tuba City. People here joke that everyone in this community of 9,000 is related so when Piestowa was reported missing, the whole town wanted to help. When her death was announced, three Tuba City residents said they wanted to celebrate Piestowa by giving the 23-year-old a walk of life complete with the flag she so loved. Tisha Charley was a year ahead of Piestowa in school.

(on camera): What was Lori like even in high school?

TISHA CHARLEY, FORMER CLASSMATE: She was always energetic. She was always happy. I'll always remember that she was the happiest person that I've ever seen. She was always outgoing you know supporting her friends.

DORNIN (voice-over): Her friends included Jessica Lynch, her roommate at Fort Bliss. Piestowa's family even met Lynch before the two women deployed. The young soldier's body may not be returned for days but when a gentle snow fell as the Hopi chairman spoke to reporters it was a sign to the native Americans here that her spirit was not far away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the Hopi belief, when one is deceased they come back home. They visit the family, their community through the moisture and this was what happened just a while ago and so I think we were very blessed today.

DORNIN: Spontaneous memorials don't often last long here whipped to shreds by the desert wind.

(on camera): But along the highway against the red rock mesa, a more permanent tribute to Lori Piestowa, one that can be seen by all those who enter and leave her hometown.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Tuba City, Arizona.




Baghdad from Southeast>

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