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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Mark Kimmett Briefs the Press on Iraq

Aired April 10, 2004 - 11:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Here are the headlines at this hour: an American may have been kidnapped by Iraqi militants. Australian TV aired this footage of a man with armed militia men being held in the backseat of a car. The man told reporters in a slight southern accent that his convey was attacked. The Pentagon is looking for two U.S. soldiers and four civilian contractors from a fuel convoy attack on Friday in Baghdad. We're expected to have a coalition news briefing from Baghdad soon and when that takes place, we'll be bringing that to you live.
Three Japanese citizens are still in the hands of Iraqi kidnappers. A Japanese official arrived in Jordan today to try to negotiate their release. So far, Japan is refusing to accept demands that Tokyo withdraw its troops from Iraq by tomorrow.

And here in the U.S., parts of a presidential daily briefing could soon be declassified. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was grilled about the memo during her testimony to the 9/11 panel on Thursday. Sources tell CNN the August 6, 2001 briefing warns of various al Qaeda scenarios in the U.S. That was about a month before the September 11 attacks.

ANNOUNCER: The following is CNN's coverage of a live event.

WHITFIELD: We will not be joining "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" as scheduled. Instead, we want to bring you the latest developments from Iraq beginning with moments from now, a news conference taking place involving Brigadier General Mark Kimmett. He's expected to have that press conference amid growing concern about so many things going on in Iraq. Let's listen in right now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMETT, U.S. ARMY: ...active, ongoing offensive operations throughout the area of responsibility. In the northern zone of operations, the situation remains stable. Task force Olympia is continuing offensive and security operations. Police and ICDC are very active. The governor and police chief are in control and a present task force, Olympia, is able to maintain control with the cooperation of the police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.

In the north central zone of operations, the past 24 hours have been the most active period since November and continues a four-day trend of increased activity across the area of operations as anti- coalition cells attempt to take minor advantage of Sadr's militia activity and from anti-coalition activity in the Fallujah area. The majority of these attacks remain uncoordinated and ineffective, though there were significant operations yesterday in Baqubah.

In Baghdad, the task force 1st Armored Division continues offensive operations against Sadr's militia in Sadr City, Katamia (ph), and also against Mohammad's army in Otamia (ph) and Abu Ghurab.

The task force 1st Armored Division conducted two intelligence- based attacks to destroy and capture enemy targets while continuing to secure all government facilities and police stations in Baghdad.

In the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force area of operations, the current situation is stable. Today, there have been multiple attacks on infrastructure in the Marines area of responsibility and attacks on coalition forces.

In Fallujah, the situation is dinner control. The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is responding to enemy provocations and attacks, although suspension of offensive operations on the part of the MEF continue.

In Al Ramadi, the situation is under control. First MEF is not engaged with the enemy at this time and there have been no attacks in Ramadi since 8 April.

In Multinational Division, central south, the current situation remains relatively stable.

In Karbala, there are over 1.5 million pilgrims in the city celebrating Arbayin. The city hall in Karbala remains under coalition control but continues to be harassed with small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades infrequently.

In Al Kut, beginning on the night of April 8, offensive operations to destroy Sadr militia in Al Kut and to restore coalition presence in the city were initiated. On the first night, Task Force 26 conducted offensive operations in Al Kut to secure the three bridges and the coalition Provisional Authority Compound. Attack helicopters and AC-130 gunships engaged the Sadr building with prepatory fire before taking the building. Bridges one, two, three and the CPA Compound were secured and 26 continued operations yesterday to restore order in the city of Al Kut.

Last night, forces continued the operations to secure two municipal buildings, a TV station and a fourth bridge. There were three enemy killed and 74 suspects detained. In addition, weapons, ammunition and bomb-making materials were seized.

Future operations in Al Kut will include cordon and search operations throughout Kut to finish the destruction of Sadr's militia activities and seizure of additional buildings.

In Ad Diwanijah, the situation is relatively stable with sporadic mortar attacks against coalition forces.

In An Najaf, the situation remains with Sadr supporters continuing to gather at Al Kufa. Anti-coalition forces continue to conduct night harassing attacks on coalition forces around An Najaf and the attacks in Najaf and Karbala are likely to overshadow, sadly, the significance of Arbayin.

In Multinational Division Southeast, the current situation is stable and remains under control. There have been three coalition forces wounded in action today.

In Al Amarah, the situation is stable and under control. There, too, has been sporadic rocket propelled grenade and mortar attacks that resulted in coalition force wounded.

In Basra, the situation is stable and under control, although there were several reports of RPGs and mortar attacks resulting in no casualties or damage to infrastructure.

In Samya, the situation is under control. Again, several reports of rocket propelled grenades and mortar attacks resulting in no casualties or damaged infrastructure.

If Mr. Bailey has nothing...

GARETH BAILEY, CPA SPOKESMAN: We'll take your questions.

KIMMETT: ... we'll go ahead and take your questions. Sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quinn O'Toole, NPR.

The situation in Kut, if there have been three enemy killed and 37 detained, is that qualifies the destruction of Sadr's army and what would - what, in your mind, qualifies as the destruction of the army, which is your stated aim?

KIMMETT: Well, first of all, the stated aim in the town of Al Kut was to restore coalition control to that town. It is our overall objective throughout the area of operations to destroy Sadr's militia and, frankly, any militia in this country that turns to violence.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General, Kevin Sykes (ph) with NBC News. If we could talk about the hostage situation, two Americans were kidnapped after a convoy was attacked yesterday. Is there a procedure for getting them back or are you going to engage special forces here? What's the next step?

KIMMETT: Yes. I don't think it would be helpful at this point to discuss our ongoing operations or our future operations in this forum.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could both or either of you address - this is Sulo Chan (ph) for "The Washington Post." Could both or either or you address, please, whether this morning's offer of a ceasefire -- of a bilateral ceasefire in Fallujah has gotten any response so far from the other side?

KIMMETT: Yes, I would characterize the response, the enemy would continue -- seems to continue to fight. It does not seem to have either heard or is unable to coordinate true Fallujah with all of its forces on the ground. And as a result, the Marines are still receiving small arms fire, indirect fire attacks from mortar, and when -- as and when necessary, they are responding.

Again, the Marines continue to observe the unilateral suspension of operations, offensive operations, however, still retain, at all times, the inherent right of self-defense.

Now, with regards to the enemy activities -- there could be any other number of reasons why they have chosen to continue to fight. It may be a communications problem that we have not got the message out to the leadership. It may be that there is no leadership there but small clusters that haven't got the word. And it may be that they've chosen to fight. If it is the latter, that's probably the wrong decision to be making.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, just as a quick follow-up, what proportion of the town do the Marines actually have control of presently? And is it true, also, as the "L.A. Times" reported that a third battalion has been moved in around Fallujah?

KIMMETT: Well, there is a third battalion of Marines and there's also a fourth battalion, which includes the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps battalion that is fighting bravely inside the city. Once we suspended offensive military operations, as you know, that precluded us from continuing to move into the objectives throughout the city. We're - had we not made that offer and were we not, at this point, observing the suspension of offensive operations, I think we would have been much further along and could well have been that we'd have had the entire city by this point. But they are well into the city, in fighting positions, and prepared to respond, and as and when necessary, if the decision is made, ready to continue the offensive operations. Sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Finn Shadulski (ph) from "The Chicago Tribune." Would either of you be able to say anything about what come of the negotiations that did take place in Fallujah today?

KIMMETT: Yes, we know that the team is still there. We are awaiting their return this evening. We expect to sit down with the team sometime later today, but they have not sent any advance notice to us about either any results or any discussions they've had. We look forward to talking to them tonight and hearing what they're able to bring back from Fallujah - Gregor (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, General, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), German Press Agency. What are you expecting from the team to hear, to eventually stop the offensive?

KIMMETT: Well, I think what we would like to hear from the team is that the enemy has realized that it's not in the best interest of anyone in Iraq to continue fighting. We would like to hear that they have decided to lay down their arms. We would like to hear that they are prepared to turn over the perpetrators of the attacks on the Americans of 31 March. We would also like to hear that these people are willing to denounce their memberships in extremist groups. We would also like to hear that they are prepared to move forward with justice and, also, prepared to move forward with turning Iraq into a Democratic, sovereign nation of which they are participants in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): General Kimmett, good evening. According to the Geneva Convention, to provide security and stability and not aggress over human rights, where does the security -- where are the rights of the citizens of Fallujah, of the children and the old and the women (UNINTELLIGIBLE), bombing them with American weapons and bombs and planes and killing and wounding and attacking worship places?

KIMMETT: Yes, let's be very clear about some of the assertions that you're making, which are, frankly, unbelievable to hear from somebody who professes to belong to a free and open press. I haven't heard that level of propaganda since Baghdad Bob was standing up here.

Now, let me address the facts. The facts are that the Marines are conducting extraordinarily precise operations. They are avoiding any operations that have a risk of collateral damage. The enemy is not. They're going out of their way to observe the rules of engagement and stay within the strict rules of international law. The enemy is not. We are absolutely respecting religious sites. The enemy is not. The enemy has chosen to use a religious site, in this case, a mosque, to fire mortars from and to fire small arms, to use it as a defensive position to attack, to kill coalition forces. Very simply, when that happens, those Geneva Conventions that you're waving at us, specifically state, and international law specifically states, when the enemy uses a mosque or any other religious structure for the purpose of attacks, and to fire from, that mosque, that church, that synagogue loses its protected status. And if military necessity requires, then the Marines can and will use proportional force to respond to that attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): From Middle East News Agency. I have a question for the General for the cessation of hostilities from the unilateral cessation. Do you have a limited or a specified date that after which operations will continue? The second question for Mr. Bailey, I'm going to the interior minister statement regarding the request of Ambassador Bremer, to ask for his resignation so he would appoint someone because he appointed Defense Minister (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Is this consistent with the fact that this is not a sectarian issue and distribution of positions is not sectarian?

KIMMETT: That's a good question about when we're prepared to start offensive operations again in the city of Fallujah. It is not based on a calendar. It's not based on a clock. It's more based on conditions. As we said, if the discussions do not bear fruit, leading us to a clear path to restore Iraqi control over the city of Fallujah, we are prepared to go back into offensive operations.

Once those conditions are not met, once those discussions do not bear fruit, a decision will be made by military leadership, by the coalition forces and their Iraqi counterparts whether offensive operations will begin again.

BAILEY: As for the decision by Interior Minister Badra (ph) and to resign from his position, that's very much his decision to take. We would not think it appropriate to go into the region behind his decision and we would not think it appropriate to go into details of what he explained in press conference. But we would like to reiterate Ambassador Bremer's remarks, that he did a very good job under difficult circumstances. And we think that he deserves thanks of the Iraqi people and the coalition for doing such a good job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nick Racardi, "Los Angeles Times." General, did the decision to cease offensive activities and to seek a bilateral ceasefire this morning, was that influenced by the reactions to the fighting by members of the Iraqi Governing Council and numerous other Iraqis, many of whom aren't vocally pro-American but appear to be having a negative view of this combat in fear that it's stoking resentment in the country?

KIMMETT: Well, I think it's important that we recognize that as we conduct these operations, we really have two purposes. We not only have to attack, to destroy threats to this nation, such as Sadr's militia, as we're doing now in Baghdad and Al Kut, Nasiriya, Najaf, eventually, Karbala, eventually and a number of other cities in the south. But we also have to keep in mind the purpose of that is also to move forward and get the process back on track, to move towards democracy and sovereignty.

It is important that as we go after the extremist elements throughout this country, whether they're in Fallujah or the rest of the country, that we keep in mind that we must maintain the trust and confidence of the moderates. And if, in fact, the moderates, the majority of this country, and their leadership, has a view in terms of how we are conducting operations, where and when we're conducting operations, it's important for to us listen to those views. So as we balance the need to maintain the trust and confidence of the moderates, as well as conduct precise, powerful, and deliberate operations against the extremists, we must keep those two points in balance in order to move this process forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jerry Ojeff (ph) from AFB. A member of the Dawa Party (ph), Jawa Maliki (ph) tells us that he delivered a letter from the coalition to Muqtada Al Sadr today with a list of demands, including the dissolution of the militia, the withdrawal from the governor position. And he said he got a positive reaction from -- conditional positive reaction from Muqtada Al Sadr. Do you have any comment on that and is it true, for one thing?

KIMMET: Well, I'm certainly not aware of the letter. We're not aware of those reports. We look forward to any positive developments in the situation here in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Saudi newspaper. Yesterday, Ambassador Bremer agreed for the suspension of operations over there, but you have continued the process. Is there something that happened? Now, as to the ceasefire, his words, is this the last chance that are given to the people of Fallujah? Is it the last solution?

KIMMETT: First of all, we are continuing to honor the suspension of offensive operations. We've honored that since 1200 yesterday and will continue to honor that until decisions are made otherwise. We never stopped it. Every one of our military actions that we have taken since 1200 yesterday have been in defense of Marines on the ground and we have not taken new ground or attacked to seize new objectives, somewhat the definition of offensive operations.

The second part of your question would infer that somehow, we are attacking the people of Fallujah, that we are attacking the women and children of Fallujah. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not collective punishment. This is not a punitive operation. Now, I know it is true that there have been some media outlets that would like to paint it as such and what I would suggest and encourage is that we get the free press, the honest press, the open press, embedded in units in Fallujah so you can see for yourself, so you can judge for yourself so you can document for yourself the type of operations that are going on there. It is better for you to see with your own eyes than it is for you to hear it from me or hear it from some of the other media outlets. So go out there, listen to what's being said, judge for yourself and I think you'll come back with a determined conclusion that, one, they're running extraordinarily precise operations there, No. 2, they're going out of their way to minimize the amount of damage that is conducted, because they need to maintain the trust and confidence of the people of Fallujah, but No. 3, when attacked they will respond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Kimmett, Daniel Kerney (ph) from AP. Is the coalition willing to make any concession to the rebels in Fallujah in regards to these ongoing talks at the moment? And then a follow-up question just about the violence that we've seen in Abu Gharab (ph) over the last couple days that have been seemingly continuous or repeated attacks on convoys. Is the military going to take any action to try and secure that area?

KIMMETT: On the issue of the coalition prepared to make any concessions, I would refer you to the IGC members that have gone out, that are, in fact, conducting discussions right now with the people of Fallujah. Let's wait that - wait until they come back and see what they come back with.

BAILEY: We wouldn't want to prejudice the discussions that they are having by speculating about them beforehand.

KIMMETT: And I think your second question was is the coalition military prepared to conduct operations against the insurgents in the enemy vicinity of Abu Gharab (ph). Is that your question?

Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, hello. This is for General Kimmett, one question I've actually been trying for over a week to get embedded in Fallujah, and they're not taking any embeds. I've been here every day trying to do to that, to report what's actually happening and they're not doing that. And I'd like you to respond to that. The second part of the question is I'm following up on the gentleman who just asked the question, I was out at Abu Gharab (ph) yesterday and I'd like to know how you'd characterize the situation. Is the coalition in control of the road between Abu Gharab (ph) and Fallujah?

KIMMETT: On the first question of seat pick, we do an about- face. There are a whole bunch of people that are going. So I suspect they are prepared to help you and facilitate to get your embedding in - out in Fallujah. And they all seem to be nodding their heads and down now. So I think that your request has been granted in.

With regards to the issue of the roads heading out to Abu Gharab (ph) and on to Fallujah, there had been a number of IEB attacks. You can be certain that the military is taking a hard look at that and is going to respond appropriately. We will maintain freedom of movement on the roads in this country.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Betty Heil (ph), "The Pittsburgh Tribune." Can you tell us if you have you captured or killed any of the people who are responsible for the murder of the four American contractors, and if you can also give us a picture of how many foreign fighters there are and from what countries they are from that you might have found in Fallujah?

KIMMETT: Yes, on the - I am not certain right now if any of those persons that have been captured by the Marines up to this point have direct implications or can be directly implicated in the attacks on the four contractors. I think they probably are not going out of their way to admit that up front. And so, I suspect after a time if we have any captured that were involved in the activity, we'll find out.

By my notes here, about 60 anti-coalition insurgents have been detained in the Fallujah area in the past few days. A vast majority of these are Iraqis; five of the insurgents are foreigners, a mix of foreigners, of people holding passports from Egypt, Sudan and Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am -- since the violence in Kut, the issue of this country now is it a crisis and it is causing problems for members of the governing council. Some of them have resigned and some of them have suspended his membership. Are these resignations and suspension due to this crisis?

KIMMETT: We apparently have a new group of reporters that I haven't seen here before. We look forward to having you and I hope that your questions in the future will be certainly more reasonable than they are tonight. To our friends who have been here for an extended period of time from the Iraqi press corps, we enjoy a wonderful relationship and we look forward to that same relationship with you all.

BAILEY: But to try and take your question, members of governing council are, of course, entirely free to express their points-of-view. It is the whole point of governing council. And to set the record straight, one gentleman has suspended his membership. None has yet resigned. And even if they were to do so, they would be entirely free to do that. This is, after all, a new and free Iraq.

KIMMETT: Now, I see my old friends. Why are you all hiding on me tonight? Please. We'll start from the right. Please, come, come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

BAILEY: Clearly, a bit of a late entry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Soto (ph) from a Japanese news wire, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). General Kimmett, today, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the TV station, showed that several armed persons captured many foreign hostages and they're insisting that -- or their demand is complete withdrawal of coalition forces from territory of Iraq. And they call themselves Brigade of Ahmed Yashin (ph). But do we have any kind of information about this kind of organization?

KIMMETT: We don't have a complete picture right now of the groups that are taking hostages. It could be any number of fringe groups. We'll probably have better intelligence in the next few days. But clearly, we will not negotiate with terrorists plain and simple.

In the back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Matt Scofield (ph) of Knight Ridder Newspapers. You just said that we will not negotiate with terrorists. However, maybe I'm wrong. It's only been there for a week. This week, you've been referring to the Fallujah resistance as having a Zarqawi connection. You've been -- referred to them a couple times as terrorists (UNINTELLIGIBLE). What's the difference there? How is this different? How is negotiating right now with the resistance in Fallujah different than negotiating with terrorists given the stance you've taken?

KIMMETT: Well, first of all, I think you may be mistaken. We've talked about Zarqawi but more in the context of the area around Karbala and Najaf. Al Zarqawi is a well-known terrorist who's been operating, who's taken claim for up to 25 different attacks here inside Iraq as recently as February. He wrote a letter back to -- as recently as January, he wrote a letter that we captured, heading back to al Qaeda, requesting additional assistance. In the last week, he's put out a tape that seemed to - by the professional, seemed to be a legitimate copy or a legitimate tape of Zarqawi where he takes claim for many of the most horrendous bombings inside this country. But that's not who we're fighting in our estimate right now in Fallujah.

We believe what we are seeing in Fallujah and Ramadi are former military, perhaps former Fedayeen Saddam, perhaps former Republican Guard. Their training looks very much mike like ex-military. Their operations, their method of handling themselves, how they fight, the techniques that they use indicate military training, rather than terrorist training.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Thank you. There is a problem that we suffer from in terms of issuing our newspapers. There are some areas in Baghdad that are besieged or cannot do that, because today, most Iraqi newspapers were not published because of lack of communications. This is a different situation. What I'm asking for, General, what will happen after the 40th visit? They say the situation in the situation in the street that the situation will be not stable that there are preparations they see from the coalition forces. Is there a vision that you could give us for after the 40th festivities?

BAILEY: On the point about opening up facilities for the force, we've already put in place some measures to try and get that situation resolved for you, because it's obviously very much important that your newspapers and other newspapers come out on time and that they come out and put across a free and fair point-of-view.

On the point of the Arbayin ceremonies, as Ambassador Bremer has made absolutely clear, we have made every effort and continue to make every effort and the General will no doubt add to ensure that the security situation is as secure as possible in these days. And in addition to that, he has made clear, of course, that it is up to each pilgrim who takes part in the Arbayin ceremony to take their own decision as to whether they wish to take part. We very much hope that they will want to make part because that was something that was never possible under Saddam's regime. But it is, of course, a personal decision and we respect such personal decisions.

General, you want to add?

KIMMETT: And with regards to your point about do we expect, after Arbayin, the things to - the situation to become more stable? We certainly are working in that direction. We are certainly working with our Iraqi security partners and the 1st Armored Division to continue offensive operations here in Baghdad to ensure that Sadr's militia is destroyed and anybody else that would attempt to create instability inside this city. There's some belief, as I think one of the questions was asked earlier, that somehow this is going to cause the coalition to rethink its strategy of staying here in Iraq and possibly start pulling out. I can guarantee you that our resolve is fixed. We will continue the mission. We certainly understand that we have a mission to provide a safe and secure environment in Iraq. The recent instability promoted by the types of Sadr and his militia, Zarqawi and his terrorist network, is not affecting either the military resolve nor the political resolve of the coalition.

Despite what you may hear in some of the other media outlets, we believe things are under control. They could spike from day to day. We think that we are making significant headway in the destruction, the complete destruction of Sadr's militia, but we would expect that no matter how much we take it out there may always be some small residual elements left. But it's our assessment that the Sadr militia doesn't have the capability to conduct prolonged offensive operations. And every time his militia is faced with a determined resolve of the Iraqi security forces or the coalition military forces, they typically will shoot a few rounds and run away. So we think that in the near term, that we've made significant headway in starting to reduce some of the tension. We certainly hope that's the case. But in any instance, we certainly plan to continue offensive operations throughout the country at the time and place of our choosing, deliberately, precisely and powerfully, to ensure the security of the people of Iraq.

One more question, somebody who hasn't asked one. Sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Mohammed Ali, "Weekly (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ." Through what you have said, you have talked of Zarqawi and Sadr. Do you consider Sadr to be a terrorist as you consider Zarqawi to be one?

KIMMETT: There's a fine line between terrorism and mob violence, random violence, attacking women and children, attacking legitimate government infrastructure. Clearly, Zarqawi, by using human shields, by using human bombs, by attacking in the middle of the crowds to try to create a spectacular event, killing hundreds of civilians, that is a pure terrorist. Sadr and his militia, at this point, seem to be focusing primarily on attacking coalition facilities, coalition members, Iraqi security forces. His effect may be a little bit different, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you are Sadr or Zarqawi, or former Saddam Fedayeen, former regime elements. I can lump them all together in a group called extremists. Those people who represent an enormously small percentage of the people of Iraq who are trying to make decisions for this country with the barrel of a gun because they're absolutely terrified of a country where the decisions are made by the ballot box, by 25 million people, each who have their own voice, who have their own vote, who have their own freedoms, who have their own dignities, who have their own sovereignty. Those moderates are the ones who will succeed. The extremists will fail. This country will move to democracy and sovereignty, and the coalition stands by to provide the security for that, the assistance for that and the resolve for that.

BAILEY: Thank you, everybody.

KIMMETT: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: You've been listening to a press briefing out of Baghdad involving a CPA spokesman, Gareth Bailey, and Brigadier General Mark Kimmett, reiterating the resolve of the coalition mission there.

A lot happening in Iraq today. For one, some of the trouble areas include Fallujah, where Brigadier General reiterated that coalition forces are asking for a ceasefire there, to allow the Fallujans to bury the dead after a very violent week there.

It's also because an effort is under way involving coalition teams to try to promote talks to get legitimate authority in place. He says the teams are still in place. They're still talking and he hopes to hear a little bit later on this evening just what kind of progress is being made there. However, he wanted to underscore that it not collective punishment, as Fallujans seem to be interpreting the U.S. military, the coalition military buildup in Fallujah. He says operations are precise to minimize damage. In Kut, another trouble spot. Coalition forces have gained control of three bridges as well as a bureau there involving a television and radio station, that in effort to secure that city. All of this taking place under a cloud of concern, considering hostage and missing person cases.

An update now on those missing person cases, some being called unaccounted for. Two U.S. military soldiers and civilians are unaccounted for since their convoy was attacked between Baghdad and Fallujah yesterday. Australian Television has apparently today broadcast images of a man who is believed to be a U.S. -- an American man who is believed to have a Southern American accent, in being held in a backseat of a vehicle. The Australian Television showing this person being held by the captors there, armed gunmen you see right there. U.S. forces are not right now commenting on that image.

And German officials have said today that two of its security personnel are missing. Those personnel members were making their way from Amman, Jordan to Baghdad today to carry out detail outside of the German embassy.

And then, an update on three Japanese civilians being held. Hostage-takers say they will be burned alive. Those hostages will be burned alive if Japan does not withdraw its troops from Iraq. But so far, Japan has said it is not going to withdraw its troops.

So a lot going on in Iraq. The general reiterating that they won't comment on the operations involving the hostages or those unaccounted for, only to say that they will not negotiate with terrorists. We'll continue to update this situation throughout Iraq here on CNN.

In the meantime, let's go now to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS already in progress, profiling Mel Gibson.

ANNOUNCER: This has been a CNN live event.

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