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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Another Attack in Baghdad

Aired July 16, 2003 - 08:09   ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Another attack in Baghdad. An American soldier dead today. The total now 33 Americans killed by hostile fire since major combat was declared over. That was back on the 1st of May.
Harris Whitbeck live now from Baghdad to take us through the latest news today -- Harris, good afternoon there.

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Bill.

Good morning.

A couple of incidents to report here. This morning, one U.S. soldier was killed and three were wounded when the convoy they were traveling in on Highway 1 west of Baghdad was hit by an explosion. An explosive device was apparently hidden in an abandoned vehicle and as the convoy drove by that vehicle, the device went off.

The U.S. soldier who was killed was thrown from his truck. There were about -- the other three soldiers who were wounded were evacuated to a military combat hospital nearby and several Iraqi civilians gathered at the site of this attack and cheered when they learned that it was an attack on U.S. troops.

There was another attack on U.S. troops in Baghdad itself. One U.S. soldier and five Iraqi civilians were injured when a grenade was thrown at a truck, at a military vehicle that was guarding a bank in the al-Mansour District of western Baghdad.

As you said, Bill, so far more than 30 U.S. soldiers have died in combat related incidents since President Bush announced the end of major combat operations just a few weeks ago -- Bill.

HEMMER: I don't know how much contact you've had lately with U.S. soldiers there. What is your sense of morale right now, especially when it comes to the 3rd I.D., the 3rd Infantry Division?

WHITBECK: Well, the sense I get is that morale is low and is getting progressively lower as the days and weeks go by. Many of these soldiers have been here in the region for several months and those who are part of the 3rd I.D. actually blazed through the desert on into Baghdad and helped topple the Saddam Hussein regime. Many of the soldiers feel that they, feel that the job that they came to do has been done and that they've now been relegated to simply policing the streets of Baghdad.

This is what some of those soldiers had to say yesterday when they found out that they're not going home any time soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. ERIC WRIGHT, U.S. ARMY: They're exhausted. They're mentally and physically exhausted to the point that some of them hope that they will get wounded so that they could go home. They're really just, hey, shoot me, I want to go home.

SGT. THOMAS SLAGO, U.S. ARMY: And we get these rumors, you know, we're going to hit on this day and hit head back to Kuwait and we all get excited and we kind of start getting our mentality that way. But nobody really wants to commit their emotions that way and for good reason.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITBECK: The fear is that those disappointed troops might not be as focused on their mission, Bill, and that might increase the danger to troops here in Iraq -- back to you.

HEMMER: Harris Whitbeck, thanks.

About 145,000 strong right now, U.S. troops on the ground there working not only in Baghdad, but throughout the country of Iraq.

Now getting word through Barbara Starr at the Pentagon that number -- 148,000, excuse me, right now to be a bit more accurate. We're getting word right now at the highest levels of the Pentagon they're discussing the possibility that anyone dispatched to Iraq right now would be dispatched there for a minimum of one year duty. U.S. military sources telling CNN this, that the Army units in Iraq may be soon told that they will come home only after completing a one year tour of duty.

No final decision has been reached just yet, but again, 148,000 strong U.S. troops now serving on the ground. Some say that number should go much higher. The concern is security on the ground throughout the country of Iraq, especially in the area of Baghdad. If you decrease the number of U.S. troops on the ground, you would probably and quite possibly increase the possibility for more violence. So that's being talked about at the Pentagon.

Much more from Barbara Starr when we get it there from the Pentagon.

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