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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Kurdish Forces Moving Into Kirkuk

Aired April 10, 2003 - 06:09   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Things are rapidly changing right now. We were telling you before about the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Well, according to our Brent Sadler and Ben Wedeman, the northern front is fast collapsing, and we understand that coalition forces have taken control of Kirkuk.
Let's get Ben Wedeman on the line right now to tell us exactly what's happening.

Go for it -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Carol, I am in northwestern Kirkuk, where it's something of a scene of pandemonium. You have cars driving up and down this street, people waving, the yellow flag of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, saw a good deal of gunfire but all of this celebratory in the air.

Now, our information is that the attack on Kirkuk began early this morning around 9:00 a.m. local time, and they came from two directions. There was very little resistance by the Iraqi forces. On our way in, we only saw actually one casualty, one dead body. By and large, it seems that it's been something of a cakewalk for these Kurdish forces.

We're seeing here, as we've seen in so many other places throughout Iraq, there's a good deal of looting going on. I am right up the street from a PepsiCola factory, which is being torn to pieces by people who are throwing the files out the window. They are carrying out office furniture. Everybody is making away with whatever they can.

Right now, I've got right in front of me two young men, who are pushing a cart that is full of what looks like bolts of cloth.

So a bit of chaos here, but not much of a fight.

COSTELLO: What about the Iraqi troops, Ben? Do you see many of them surrendering? I mean, what's happened to them?

WEDEMAN: I saw some Iraqi troops on our way here, and they were -- they had surrendered. They had given up. But they were so demoralized the Kurds weren't even wasting their time trying to guard them. These were some very exhausted looking Iraqi soldiers, both of them from the southern part of the country, who were walking aimlessly around the village. No attempt was being made to take them into custody. Now here, where we are in Kirkuk, no sign of soldiers. They may have retreated to another part of the city, where we're told there has been some resistance, where the Kurds have yet to be able to enter. But at this rate, it seems like only a matter of time before they can...

COSTELLO: And we know that there are...

WEDEMAN: ... be able to control the whole city.

COSTELLO: And we know there are a lot of oil fields there, and we'd heard before the war began that many of them might be set on fire, but that doesn't appear to be happening.

WEDEMAN: In fact, we saw several of those oil wells on our way in. One did appear to be on fire, but we all saw others that were flaring off the natural gas. It had a big flame at the top as usual. It doesn’t seem to have any sabotage.

Now, one interesting thing is on the road to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please try again later. Your call could not be completed.

COSTELLO: As you heard, we just lost Ben's transmission, but again, good news for coalition forces. The city of Kirkuk appears to have been taken over, and the northern front is now collapsing, so some success there for coalition forces.

We'll try to get Ben or our Bent Sadler on the phone.

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