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Air-Raid Sirens Sound, Antiaircraft Fire Seen Over BaghdadAired February 16, 2001 - 1:27 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's 9:30 at night in Baghdad. And CNN has just learned that antiaircraft fire has lit up the sky there.
We have CNN's Jane Arraf on the phone with us now to tell us what has happened -- Jane.
JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, the air-raid sirens have sounded here for the first time in a long time. Just about half-an- hour ago, on this quiet Friday night -- the regular Friday holiday -- air-raid sirens were activated.
At first we were told it was a test. But then, about 10 minutes later, I heard the sound of a loud explosion. In other parts of the city, people heard similar explosions and the sound of antiaircraft fire. The government has issued no statements. They say they have no word yet on what's happening.
But the semi-official TV run by the son of the president, Saddam Hussein, here, has switched from normal programming into military music, which generally indicates a state of aggression or a military event going on, as has official Baghdad Radio switched suddenly to military music as well. In the streets, there more security forces out in force. The explosions have stopped. And the government says it is not clear yet what's going on. But there has been the sound of explosions and of antiaircraft fire -- Natalie.
ALLEN: How many explosions did you say? And what do they -- how large did they sound to you?
ARRAF: I heard one large explosion on the edge of town, which followed the air-raid sirens by about 10 minutes. Other people in another part of town heard similar loud explosions and the sound of antiaircraft fire. That's a sound that hasn't been heard here in some time. The last time Baghdad was bombed in December of 1998.
Now, antiaircraft sirens are activated only when Iraq's air defenses are breached. Those indicate that something has happened in the air and possible retaliation by Iraqi air defense forces -- Natalie.
ALLEN: How much time between when you heard an explosion and then saw the antiaircraft fire?
ARRAF: Antiaircraft fire was heard, but not seen in a part of town that I was in. The Iraqi forces were obviously reacting to their air defenses being broken, if you take the air defense sirens going off as warning, which it always is. At first, they had said it was a test, but that obviously is not the case.
It's not clear what has happened, but all indications are that there has been some sort of attack here in Baghdad. It's not going on at the present. But there is heightened security and military music being played, which indicates that a significant military event has happened: some sort of air attack. We don't have the details yet -- Natalie.
ALLEN: And no sirens anymore? Things are quiet now?
ARRAF: Things are quiet now. Everyone is just trying to find out where the missiles have hit -- if anywhere -- in Baghdad, and waiting for the government to tell them what exactly happened, as they will.
ALLEN: Well, we will wait to hear back from you, Jane Arraf in Baghdad -- thanks, Jane.
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