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CNN BREAKING NEWS

101st to Stay in Iraq Until Next Year; Warships Moved Closer to Monrovia

Aired August 11, 2003 - 13:14   ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: One U.S. soldier is killed, two others wounded, responding to a call from a police station in Iraq. An explosive device went off as the soldiers approached. That brings to 57, the number of U.S. troops killed since the Bush administration declared an end to major fighting in Iraq.
In southern Iraq, the port city of Basra calmer today following weekend protests over power outages. The British military says electricity was restored to most of the city overnight. Some protesters threw stones at British troops and at one point, the two groups exchanged gunfire.

The U.S. is calling in the heavy equipment and the troops for something called Operation Ivy Lightning. The object, capturing former member of Saddam's regime. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now with details of this -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, it is the 4th Infantry Division that has now launched that Operation Ivy Lightning in northern Iraq, a major operation to try to capture some of those believed responsible for the continuing attacks on U.S. forces. Sources say these raids are the biggest deployment, heavily armed raids in the remote areas outside Tikrit since the war ended.

Now, shifting gears just a little bit to the 101st Airborne Division. The commander of the 101st has written an e-mail to all the families of the division, bringing them up-to-date, telling them that the division will now be in Iraq until early next year. So they're going to take a number of steps to try to approve living continues and morale for the soldiers who will now be there a full year.

He says in this e-mail to the families they're going to make to efforts buy more ice, bread, better food, Internet and e-mail access. And the general says for the first time is he now going to make an effort to try to let the troops have two weeks' leave to come home to the United States from their deployment in Iraq, visit their families, take two weeks off and then go back to the war.

But we want to remind everyone that, indeed, as always, there are some soldiers who don't make it home. We want to bring you the funeral of 24-year-old Private First Class Wilfredo Perez in New York on Friday. He was one of three soldiers killed on July 26 in a grenade attack in Iraq as they guarded a children's hospital. At his funeral, his mother was presented with his Bronze Star and his Purple Heart -- Kyra. PHILLIPS: Barbara, in addition to Iraq, as we look at live pictures of the aircraft right now leaving Monrovia with the former president of Liberia, right now we're looking at the pictures of Charles Taylor aboard that aircraft leaving -- U.S., Navy, and marines on the peripheral, I guess of this area. What's the word? Could we see U.S. military entering Monrovia?

STARR: Well, Kyra, there are, indeed, three U.S. Navy warships offshore. They have moved today as President Charles Taylor has left, they've moved within eight miles of the shoreline for one very particular reason, they want to be visible to the people of Monrovia. They believe that their presence offshore of these heavily armed U.S. Navy warships will provide additional calming influence, if you will, as this situation unfolds.

The question is, as you say now, is what will the Bush administration do? Now that this major condition has been met, Charles Taylor leaving the country, will there be any move to put U.S. forces ashore? All of the sources we have spoke on it say that decision simply has not been made, that the U.S. for the moment will stick with its policy of working with the west African nations, having those military forces take the leading role in peacekeeping.

The U.S. will continue to provide liaison and assistance, but no decision yet about whether to put U.S. Marines ashore in Liberia -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Barbara Starr live from the Pentagon. Thank you.

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Closer to Monrovia>


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