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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Explosions in Baghdad

Aired April 13, 2003 - 05:21   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go 100 miles up the road to Baghdad now. There have been several explosions this morning.
CNN's Michael Holmes is there to update us on what's going on right now.

Good morning.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Carol. Yes, another explosion just a couple of seconds ago actually. It sounded like a tank.

I want to bring you up-to-date on a very important meeting that has taken place today. It was a meeting attended by just the kinds of people that Baghdad needs to get back to work: civil engineers, civil servants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, policemen; senior policemen, too.

It was addressed by Mohammed Mozun al-Zubai (ph), who is a former exile opposition leader, now back obviously in his homeland. And he was urging people to get back to work, particularly police, to get back to work and stop some of the looting that's gone on and that Marines have been unable or unwilling to get involved in and preventing.

Also, he's particularly urging electricians to go back to the power station. This is still a city without power, and that is something that's been concerning relief and humanitarian officials, too. The power has been out for days now.

Now, there has still been a lot of activity around Baghdad, not as much as in recent days, but still significant. I mentioned the tank firing just a short time ago.

And a few hours ago, a massive explosion about a mile or two from here, west of Baghdad, in the area of Saddam Hussein's main presidential palace. It wasn't the palace itself, but it was in the compound. It appeared to be an airstrike, and a plume of smoke reached into the sky. It was an enormous explosion.

There had been rumors for some time that there is a bunker in that area, and we're yet to get confirmation. Perhaps it was a bunker-busting bomb. Who knows?

There was action also nearby here just last evening, an incredible firefight breaking out. We're told two men with AK-47s fired on Marines, and Marines responded with withering fire, 50- caliber machine guns raking the area about 200 or 300 meters from where I stand now, Marines scrambling down to the area there, M-16s chattering. For about 20 minutes this went on, and we're told the two men with AK-47s are no more.

So certainly an air of tension remaining in Baghdad, Carol. This meeting is certainly a sign of what the U.S. Marines have been wanting for a while, and that's to have the security responsibility, if you like, pushed away from them and onto Iraqis -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And it seems like they're headed in that direction, but we'll just have to see.

Can you update us on this U.S. Marine that was killed at a checkpoint to a hospital?

HOLMES: Yes, Carol, that was another tragedy at a checkpoint, and the tragedies have been on both sides. We have seen suicide attacks at checkpoints, where Marines have been killed and soldiers have been killed. We've also seen Marines, obviously very nervous, opening fire on civilian vehicles, and children have been killed in those unfortunate incidents.

This one you're referring to was a U.S. Marine at a checkpoint. What happened was two men came up to that checkpoint, one pulled out a firearm and shot dead the Marine. Other Marines opened fire. They killed one of the two men. The other one managed to escape.

Now, the dead gunman was carrying identification papers that were Syrian. Whether he was Syrian or not, we don't know for sure, but certainly an indicator that perhaps he was.

So, yes, yet another checkpoint tragedy, and they are very nervous on checkpoints. I spent a large part of yesterday driving around various checkpoints, reporting just this very nervousness. And within hours of returning here, we heard of this latest incident -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes, and no release of the identification of the Marine who was killed.

Michael Holmes, many thanks to you -- reporting live from Baghdad this morning. We'll get back to you.

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