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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Unidentified Projectile Launched Into Kuwait

Aired March 20, 2003 - 03:30   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We should just remind some viewers that about ten minutes or so ago we got a call from Dr. Sanjay Gupta who was in a bunker in Camp Iwo Jima with some Marines, about 50 Marines, and a CNN crew. Just moments before they had gotten the word, the call went out bunker, bunker, bunker. Everyone sort of dived into the bunkers. They donned gas masks.
Some sort of overhead projectile, a self-propelled missile, unknown at this time exactly, went overhead at a very fast rate making a lot of noise, landed quite some distance away. At this point, we are still not yet clear on what sort of an impact, if any, it had.

Bill, I'm interested in just talking to you a little bit. We're in sort of this surreal time. I mean it's almost six hours now since the -- that -- the cruise missiles were launched. We know they struck somewhere in Baghdad, perhaps elsewhere in the country, and yet we haven't heard much information about what else is happening within Iraq. We don't know if simply nothing is going on, if there is a lull or if there is activity just simply out of the camera range at this point. Does it -- does it feel sort of -- I mean for a viewer here in the United States there was the -- an adrenaline rush perhaps six hours ago, people wondering if this the start of it and now it's sort of this kind of odd time. Does it feel that way in Kuwait?

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: I think you make a great point, Anderson. It almost feels like we're in the between stage right now. We have been told for weeks in the Pentagon that the first 48 hours of this conflict would be led off with 3,000 cruise missiles hitting various parts of Baghdad. Remember that whole shock and awe theory that was put out, that was the phrase from the Pentagon. To this point, that has not started.

What that means, it's difficult to fill in the pieces of that puzzle, but let me sort of offer a bit of clarification that may help us here. We're told from the Pentagon right now that this was a strike aimed at Iraqi leadership. Was it Saddam Hussein, quite possibly, or was it other Iraqi leaders that the Pentagon felt they had a clear shot at that time through their intelligence sources and now is the time for -- go ahead for that attack.

What we know right now, Anderson, clearly the 3,000 missiles have not been launched just yet. Will they come some time soon? Will they wait for nightfall? Will they wait several days after this? I go back to the experience of Afghanistan, when the ultimatum for the Taliban expired by the president, it was a full two weeks after that deadline before the air war truly began, something that we are quite aware of in watching and waiting here. If you go back to the Sanjay Gupta report, though, Anderson, I want to make one thing quite clear. If you go out and talk to these U.S. Marines and you go out and talk to the Army soldiers out in the desert, they will tell you their No. 1 fear of going in to battle is the possibility the U.S. military may experience something for the first time ever, they face the possibility of a chemical or biological weapons attack coming against them.

What have they done in response to this? Deliberate and heavy extensive years of training with equipment and preparations in the event that they may have to face this.

I was talking with some Marines about a month ago and I asked them about this very image and this very prospect. They tell me that they train inside these chambers, whether it's mustard gas, VX nerve gas, sarin gas, they train with equipment inside controlled chambers to make sure that things will work the way they want them to. And they'll come back and they'll tell you they do feel safe, they do feel confident because they believe the training works and the equipment works. And we are told once they cross into Iraq, it's quite likely a number of these soldiers and Marines will be wearing those chemical suits just in case of chemical or biological attack -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, Bill, you know I'm sure all the training in the world, and as good as the training is, I'm sure when that call comes in gas and you have nine seconds to don your mask, while the training kicks in, it has got to be unlike anything any of those soldiers have experienced before.

Bill Hemmer, live in Kuwait, thanks very much -- Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Want to update you now on the news happening at this hour. It is about 33 past the hour. Time to update you on the latest developments in this strike on Iraq.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was the target of the first bombs and missiles to fall on Baghdad. Pentagon sources call it a decapitation attack against a target of opportunity. More than 40 cruise missiles were fired from war ships, and F-117 stealth bombers also joined the attack.

But Saddam Hussein may have survived that attack. About two hours ago, he appeared on Iraqi television in a taped address to his nation. He said his countrymen will be victorious against what he called the criminal acts of the U.S.

President Bush addressed the nation less than an hour after the first missiles fell on Baghdad. He said the only outcome the U.S. will accept is victory. And speaking directly to U.S. troops he said -- quote -- "the peace of the troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depends on you."

We also want to let you know we are just getting reports of significant military action today in Afghanistan. Military sources say more than 1,000 U.S. troops were involved in a raid near Kandahar. The troops were hunting for al Qaeda in an operation dubbed Valiant Strike. It was said to be the largest U.S. military operation in Afghanistan in nearly one year. No word yet on the success of that operation.

We're going to go now live to the Pentagon where we have Chris Plante standing by.

Hi, Chris, what can you tell us?

CHRIS PLANTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi.

Well, I just wanted to run through what happened this afternoon with the strike on Baghdad. This was not as it may have appeared to be, certainly if you were in Baghdad, the opening volley of the shock and awe campaign that's been promised by the Pentagon. This was instead what the Pentagon intelligence community refers to as a target of opportunity situation.

Intelligence detected, or it thought that they had detected, at least the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein. They believed that they knew where he was at a certain point in time. The president was briefed on this and it was decided that the U.S. would go ahead and take a shot at decapitation, as it's called, going after the leader of a country.

Some 40 cruise missiles -- a total of 42 cruise missiles were tasked with going after the targets, at least two targets in and around Baghdad. Six Navy ships were involved. Four surface ships and two submarines spread out between the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea on either side of the Saudi peninsula. And, as you said, also involved two F-117 stealth fighters, the smaller of the two stealth aircraft, and each of these carries two precision guided munitions, bunker busters.

The effort was apparently not successful based on the taped statement that came from President Hussein afterward, but it is the type of thing that you would expect to see in a -- in a situation like this. The Pentagon officials sort of informally waved people off of the big attack starting tonight. And it was really quite a surprise for pretty much everyone around here, including a lot of senior Pentagon officials who were left out of the loop on this operation since it popped up at the last minute.

But final preparations are being made throughout the region with U.S. forces as we've been hearing up along the border. Don't have word yet on when they're going to go, and that, too, is not surprising since a number of factors come into play before the president makes a decision to launch or General Franks makes the decision to move troops.

Weather could be a factor. Sandstorms, as we all know, have been cropping up in the last couple of days. And it's kind of a wait and see for us here, but we're expecting it, certainly if not when night falls tonight, then within the next couple of days -- Heidi.

COLLINS: And, Chris, you know all along in the build up to all of -- all of this that has happened today, or actually it would be yesterday now, we talked a lot about the military strategy and how of course they would have contingency plans. And clearly this could have been one of them that they were planning on. But what I want to know a little bit about from you is the Iraqi capability. We've been hearing about the stealth 117 knowing that it is a stealth aircraft. Do the Iraqis have some sort of capability to detect it on radar? We've heard so much about how dilapidated everything has become since the Gulf War and their capabilities. What are they at this point?

PLANTE: Well it -- to some extent it depends on who you ask and it depends on which units you're talking about. Regarding the F-117 stealth fighter, it is a stealth aircraft, or what they call reduced visibility aircraft. A lot of people refer to it as invisible to radar. It is not technically invisible to radar and there are certain types of radar that can detect movement. It may not appear to be an airplane. It may show up as some sort of an anomaly or as even a bird formation which radar sometimes pick up. So it doesn't -- it doesn't appear to be an airplane, but occasionally it can be detected by certain types of radar.

Now along the stealth aircraft, the 117 and the B-2 bomber, you'll usually find a package of jamming aircraft, the EA-6B, for one, which was used today in today's raids to help shield the F-117. It's always possible. An F-117 was shot down during the conflict with Kosovo. So none of these systems are invisible and you could always be surprised by the capabilities of your enemies.

Back to you.

COLLINS: All right. All right, very good. Chris Plante, coming to us today from the Pentagon, thank you.

COOPER: Interesting, Heidi, you know last we had talked to Dr. Sanjay Gupta he was in a bunker in northern Kuwait, we should say, Camp Iwo Jima, and had just been responding to what was feared to be an incoming round. It actually went overhead, landed somewhere else.

Let's check in with him now.

Dr. Gupta, are you there?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson, right here.

Just as you described, it was about 10:25 this morning. We did hear and see something. It was traveling very quickly. I didn't get a great look at it. I talked to people who did get a better look at it. It appeared to be a missile. It was green. It had three yellow stripes on it from the best description that we've been able to get so far. That happened at 10:25.

About a minute afterwards, we heard the bunker, bunker, bunker call. We all -- and then we heard the gas mask call. We all run into the bunkers. About 50 Marines and the -- and our CNN crew were in one bunker with our gas masks on and all of our gear for about 45 minutes. We were hearing some distant thuds. We did hear a very loud thud. It appeared to be coming from the south direction. About 45 minutes after waiting, we were told that we could take the gas masks off. And about 15 minutes later, just a couple of minutes ago now, we were told that -- to go ahead -- we got the all clear sign, so we are now out of the bunkers and walking around OK.

A marine did come by and alert us before we were let out of the bunkers that there had been -- quote -- "hits." He would not elaborate on that as exactly what that meant. But what he was -- what he had told when I asked him a little bit further was there appeared to be some suggestion, more reliable suggestion the enemy artillery fire that appeared to have actually hit and landed somewhere in the region around here, definitely, again south of us. We're in the northern desert of Kuwait. Somewhere south of us between us and Kuwait City -- Anderson.

COOPER: So right now you are -- it's basically all clear as life has returned to normal, if that's probably an incorrect term, but for all intense and purposes, things are back to the way they were before the incoming call?

GUPTA: Well, yes, I'll tell you, Anderson, this was the first -- I talked to several of the Marines while we were waiting, this is the first real live bunker, bunker, bunker call they've had ever. And you know it's been several months since some of these Marines have been out here. I think a lot of them are -- it was -- it was a pretty scary moment there for a lot of people. I think that it is back to normal in the sense that we're moving around now and they're actually, you know, walking around without their gas masks and things like that. But the mood here is very expectant, to say the least, a little nervous as well.

COOPER: Sanjay, in the people you talked to, the Marines you talked to, how confident are they in the equipment they have? I mean we have heard so much back and forth on different -- difference of opinion on the chemical suits, the gas masks, the quality of the equipment. What are you hearing there?

GUPTA: Well that's a good point, Anderson. We've actually done quite a bit of research on that. The gas masks that they have here are called the M-40 gas masks. The Marines are very confident in this particular gas mask. They have nuclear, biological and chemical trainers on the various camps to actually instruct people how to do it.

I got to see it firsthand just a few minutes ago with and actually getting these masks on and running into bunkers. You hear about the nine-second rule, these Marines had their gas masks on within nine seconds. It was very quiet within the bunkers when breathing through their respirators, hard to talk through those masks, but they seemed pretty confident. I will say in terms of feeling, particularly both in the bunker with their Kevlar helmets and their gas masks on, they feel -- they looked like they were put in (ph) that they were protected.

COOPER: You know, Sanjay, talking to Bill Hemmer a little bit before, he was saying you know that Marines have been training for this kind of thing. They go through this chemical training, this gas training. Just a personal question, when you heard that call, when you got in that bunker and you had to put on that mask in nine seconds, what went through your mind?

GUPTA: Well, I'll tell you, you know it was very scary, Anderson. There's no question about it. The -- you -- a lot of people have prepared. We saw a lot of -- spent a lot of time watching everyone train and trained ourselves, as you know, for these sorts of things. But to actually get firsthand experience, to see it, to feel the sort of nervousness around you, it was -- it was very scary.

At first I wasn't exactly sure what was going on. I heard the noise. I never heard a noise like that before. I'd never seen anything like that before. I wasn't sure what it is, if it was something that was expected or unexpected. But quickly it became obvious that it was unexpected and that we should definitely take cover. We heard the missiles are inbound, coming over.

COOPER: All right, we've lost connection with Dr. Sanjay Gupta who is reporting from northern Kuwait, Camp Iwo Jima, where the all clear has been given -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right now from Kuwait and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, we are going to head to CNN's Jane Arraf who is live from videophone. She is on the northern Iraq -- in northern Iraq on the Turkish border.

Hello to you -- Jane.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi.

Yes, we are near the Turkish border, in between in fact the Turkish border and the city of Mosul, the second biggest city in Baghdad. Behind us is the city of Do Hook (ph), deserted now, but usually a vibrant, bustling and prosperous city. Everyone has headed to the mountains and it couldn't be worse weather, freezing rain, sleet. Humanitarian officials say there are several hundred thousand people who have left for villages and the mountains. And some of them are covered (INAUDIBLE) tents.

Now at least two people have died so far from exposure and officials fear there's a lot worse to come if they don't get emergency aid. Now the aid is in surrounding countries, but it's waiting for a full-blown humanitarian crisis, waves of refugees from the rest of Iraq into Kurdish-controlled territory. But officials here say the time to release that aid is now for their own people who need it -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Jane, what can you tell us about that aid and what these refugees will find? Is there any camp situation set up yet or what will they find?

ARRAF: There are tents that are set up. There are a number of tents, about 10 of them in this region, as well as a couple of camps that are meant for surrendering Iraqi soldiers.

Now this refugee crisis has been widely expected. In 1991 there were horrendous scenes of people freezing to death, being trampled to death, but it's a much different situation now. The area is under control of Iraqi Kurds. Instead of people fleeing Iraqi forces, there are likely to be people moving further north from Iraqi government- controlled territories, fleeing fighting further there. So it's not as dire as it was.

But what officials say has happened is they've had an absolutely unexpected wave of internal refugees, if you'd like, Iraqi Kurds from the area who have just abandoned these cities. Behind me all the shops are shuttered, the schools are closed, there's almost no life in the streets and these people are heading for safety and they fear a chemical attack. And they believe the further away they get from this front line, this would-be front line that's just a few kilometers away from here, the safer they are, even if they are in the freezing mountains -- Heidi.

COLLINS: It was quite a sight just the other night as we saw you standing out there on the street and all of the headlights and the stream of cars behind you as people were leaving.

So, Jane Arraf, we do appreciate your report tonight.

All right, we are now going to go back to Bill Hemmer who is in Kuwait City to tell us more about the -- we were just speaking to Jane Arraf, Bill, about the fear that these people have of a chemical attack. And you have some information on that with the gas masks that you have been provided, right?

HEMMER: Yes, the -- that's right, Heidi. Listen, the area where Jane's reporting from, and she's reported on this earlier, again, it was 15 years this past Sunday when a deadly gas attack hit that part of northern Iraq and wiped out 5,000 Kurdish people. Clearly listening to Jane, there is a lot of concern right now from the people who still live there, memories very fresh from 15 years ago, trying to make sure that they stay out of harm's way in the event that were ever to occur again.

Listening to Sanjay Gupta also, the important thing I think to hear from him is that the all clear has been given and folks right now moving, Marines anyway, out of those bunkers and working around the camp.

What you will find, Heidi, on the hip of every U.S. soldier and every U.S. Marine stationed in the northern Kuwaiti desert, on their hip will be a case just like this. A small bag with a clip around the back. They're required to have it with them 24 hours a day. Inside, just like we carry here in Kuwait City, you'll find what is considered one of the finest gas masks in the world. We told -- we are told, anyway, that these run about $150 U.S. dollars per pop. And we were just told yesterday that the military put in a fresh order for four million more of gas masks just like these. But again, the all clear has been given.

What came flying over Sanjay's head is unclear right now, but hopefully in a few minutes or even over the next couple of hours we might be able to ascertain what indeed flew over that camp, Camp Iwo Jima, about 20 miles south of the Iraqi border.

Kelly McCann works with us here at CNN. He's now live in Washington, one of our security analysts who knows all too well about things like these.

And, Kelly, I think the one thing we should impress upon our viewers is that the military, by no small measure, takes very strong consideration to the possibility of incoming biological or chemical weapons. In fact, if you scour these camps, you know detection devices are set up 24 hours a day, there's different levels of security that are in place in the event they were to detect some of these devices incoming. As you sit there in Washington, shed some more light on what concerns the military at this point.

KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Sure, Bill. You were in Afghanistan, you remember the terminology, the asymmetrical battlefield. That being a battlefield that's -- has a lack of proportionality.

Let me read you something out of the joint publications that has to do with threat and NBC policy. Where the threat of NBC, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, exists, constraints on U.S. retaliation may increase the likelihood of an NBC attack. It goes on to say joint force NBC defense readiness to fight a campaign in an NBC environment is obviously necessary for survivability, but more important, for a deterrence. So what I think the clear message should be to the Iraqi government is that we fully intend, if we are subjected to weapons of mass destruction, to blow through them and kill those who would unleash those weapons.

You've seen that President Bush has never taken off the table, in fact, tactical nuclear weapons, thereby mitigating or inducing symmetry again. We're trying to keep the Iraqis from getting or maintaining an asymmetrical battle space. So I think that everyone needs to understand that there is no more prepared force in the world than the U.S. to operate in that environment.

HEMMER: Yes, Kelly, just getting word here confirmation of the Kuwaiti Defense Minister confirming now with CNN two missiles have landed somewhere in the northern Kuwaiti desert. It could be that very sound and impact that Sanjay Gupta was describing to us.

Kelly, I've got to think this comes as no surprise to the U.S. military. They've been sitting in the desert upwards of two months right now, some longer than that. They've always been concerned about the possibility that incoming missiles could be targeted against those military positions, but whether or not the Iraqis could score a direct hit was the open ended issue.

MCCANN: In the old Gulf War, we used to actually look up at the Scuds when they were flying. It looked like Wrongway Feldman. I mean a lot of these missiles have been altered, they're beyond their usefulness, their shelf life is too extended, they don't have good guidance systems, they've been tinkered with. As you said earlier, the Scud that actually fell in Saudi, most claimed that it was by accident. So again, I mean if you try to look at this as a symmetrical battle space, what we're going to try to do is get the asymmetry to fall on our side. And clearly we have the technology to do that.

Most chemical weapons, Bill, with the exception of biological weapons, pose really an area denial problem, a battlefield complexity, an uncertainly and downwind hazard, but they're not traditionally looked at as a weapon of mass destruction because they're limited in scope. It is the psychological impact. So once the troops have broken the mold, once they've kind of gotten the willies off of them, rest assured, they will race through that if they have to and perform their mission as expected.

HEMMER: Yes, Kelly, listen, if you're on the Iraqi side of the border right now trying to calibrate these missiles, and at some point we do anticipate more to be launched. That's to be expected, we've been told, anyway, by military planners, how likely is it that they're monitoring things like CNN right now to find out where indeed these missiles sit in order to change their course, alter the direction, maybe change the distance to try and increase their chances of a direct hit?

MCCANN: You can bet that they are tuned in to all the major news networks, in particular CNN. We've got such good coverage. You can bet that they are going to adjust things based on what analysts and other experts say.

The other possibility is is that they have forward observers on their side of the border that are actually putting eyes on those areas where people are staged in the attack area. And you can also bet that there will be security patrols out there looking to engage with them. So this is really high stakes chess now, Bill, you are on point.

HEMMER: Yes, Kelly, I don't know how much you can address this, but if you go out to the bases, you will see at nearly every base in northern Kuwait, MOPP levels, M-O-P-P. And you know the military loves their acronyms. MOPP stands for mission oriented protective posture. In other words, it goes, I believe, from one to four, four being the most concerned, one being the least concerned about chemical or biological agents in the air. How much light can you shed for us and our viewers about these MOPP levels for us?

MCCANN: Well it -- there's a whole structure. There's -- on every -- every six hours there's a message generated on the wind speed, on the ground conditions, on what the downwind hazard could be based on the kind of agents that we think the Iraqis may have. I mean there's a whole structure that will actually analyze this threat continuously. There are nuclear, biological and chemical experts who truly are expert. In the last decade, we've put a tremendous amount of training and education towards getting people up to speed. We've got very, very increased capability who will really rudder steer that and make those decisions to provide to the operational commanders on the ground.

HEMMER: Kelly, thank you. Kelly McCann, our security analyst, standing by for us in Washington, D.C. No doubt we'll talk again later today. Kelly, thanks for that. In the meantime, just to confirm again, the Kuwaiti Defense Minister confirming to us here that the two missiles were launched, landing in the northern desert of Kuwait. No reports of injuries; no reports of causalities. And again, the important thing we should underline and highlight right now, Sanjay Gupta, who heard those missiles fly over his camp where he's now stationed with the U.S. Marines, saying the all clear was given possibly 30 minutes or 45 minutes ago. More when we get it.

Anderson, back to you now at the CNN Center.

COOPER: And, Bill, just pointing out to our viewers, that's something was just confirmed by the Kuwaiti Defense Minister, something our viewers learned about from Dr. Sanjay Gupta firsthand about 30 minutes or so ago.

Want to just -- and, Bill, I want to keep you in for this, we're going to show our viewers some of the different kind of missiles that the Iraqis have at their disposal. We don't know what sort of missile or two missiles were fired in this latest round, but these are the missiles they have at their disposal. The Scud-B missile, of course everyone by now knows about the Scuds. Single warhead, 2,200 pounds, very poor accuracy. Missile purchased from the Soviet Union 1974.

I'm just going to run through all three, Bill, and then we can talk about them a little bit afterward.

HEMMER: Sure.

COOPER: Next one, the al-Hussein. It's a ballistic missile able to deliver chemical and biological warheads, 1,100 pounds. It's got a range of about 400 miles. So a pretty good range there.

And the last one, another missile that a lot of viewers to CNN will be familiar with, the Al Samoud, a short-range ballistic missile. That -- of course there are about -- believed to be about 120 Al Samouds. Those were targeted by the U.N. to destroy. Iraq had been in the process of destroying a number of them. It's a missile developed, of course, by Iraq. It's only about 660 pounds with a much shorter range, only 93 miles.

Interesting that I think for a lot of American viewers those -- a lot of those missiles are almost a household name to this point, the Scud, the Al Samoud.

HEMMER: Yes.

COOPER: But again, Bill,...

HEMMER: Yes, I think too.

COOPER: Go ahead. Go ahead -- Bill.

HEMMER: Yes, I was just -- two things that I think that are important to remind our viewers about right now. The Scud missiles that were launched back in the war of 1991, the U.S. military never found and targeted and destroyed a single Scud missile. It was a huge frustration for the Pentagon for that entire conflict. And what they've tried to do over the past 12 years to rectify that, they've tried to send special forces into the desert of western Iraq in the event that Saddam Hussein would have launched Scud missiles toward Israel or also in southern Iraq again toward locations here in Kuwait or maybe even in Saudi Arabia, depending on whether or not the U.S. military was stationed in the northeastern part of that country. But again, not a single Scud launched or destroyed. Many of these facilities can be mobile, which make them very elusive when trying to hit and target from the skies above.

You mentioned the Al Samoud, our viewers very familiar with that. But largely the Scud has been used as a weapon of terror, highly inaccurate. And we're told by some that the Iraqis like to fire as many up in the air to increase their chances of scoring some sort of direct hit.

What we don't know, Anderson, and this is the wide-open question right now in this conflict, do the Iraqis right now have chemical and biological weapons? And do they have them in the way they can be weaponized, attached to the end of a missile or a rocket, sent up into the air toward Israel or possibly toward U.S. troops or citizens here in Kuwait City? If indeed that's the case, it could take this conflict to a level that the world has not seen for many years. We are keeping our fingers crossed that it never reaches that level.

But if you talk to the military, that is their chief concern. They'll tell you they're fine with combat, they feel they are far superior to the Iraqi defenses and will win over time. Is that a week, is that two weeks, is that a month, we don't know. But bottom line is they are afraid the most with the greatest concern about how they respond in the event of some sort of chemical or biological attack. The Iraqis do have missiles, they do have the capability but their targeting right now largely still in question.

COOPER: And, Bill, as Kelly McCann mentioned, in order to make that targeting better, they need a forward observation post. And you can bet at this hour after that attack by Iraq, two missiles fired, you can bet there are some Marine snipers right now searching for that observation post and one can only predict what will happen next.

Bill Hemmer, live in Kuwait City, thanks very much -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. We want to take you live now to northern Baghdad or northern Iraq. That is where we have Brent Sadler standing by to tell us the latest from his perspective.

Hi -- Brent.

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Heidi.

A lot of concern here, obviously, about the possible use of chemical weapons. As in the north of the Kurdish enclave, this area too very close to the Iraqi front lines. Many people have also left the major population center of Arbil over the past 48 hours or so. Throughout the night I was out along the Kurdish front lines. Roads heading to Kirkuk, first of all, at a place called Kashtopa (ph). This road deserted. This road leads straight to Iraqi's front lines. About three miles separate the Kurds from the Iraqis. There was no sign of real extreme tension over night.

We did see the soldiers, the Kurdish fighters, tuned into their radios, been a heavy night of rain so there's a lot of mud around, as they tried to catch up with the news and listening to what was going on thinking that, first of all, it was the beginning of the shock and awe campaign. And then showing some signs of a heightened alert in their status and then pretty soon backing off when they realized it was a one-off strike against a target in Baghdad, a leadership target in Baghdad.

Also, in another area on a road that leads to Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, Etcalut (ph), lines here between the Peshmerga, the Kurdish fighters, and the Iraqi lines very close indeed. No real tension here apart from the moments when it was reported on the radio that a missile strike had begun on Baghdad. We saw fighters collecting their guns in case they came under fire from Iraqi lines. In the event there was no change and the Iraqis, as they have been for the past couple of weeks, clearly seen on the ridge line not doing very much it seems.

Talking of the chemical weapon status and the readiness in places like Kuwait and Israel. The important thing to notice here is that no Kurdish fighters that I've seen so far have any form of chemical or biological protection. Of course, neither do most of the population throughout this Kurdish enclave, so naturally a lot of concern, the reason why people have bolted from the cities over the past could of days.

Back to you -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Brent, it may seem to be an odd question, but I am curious. We haven't talked too much about the weather as of right now. We've heard so much about the sandstorms. It looks to be a very clear day. What is your feeling on that?

SADLER: Well, overnight it was very, very moonlit night. It was clear to see that everybody, the whole area, particularly through our night scope lens.

We did actually pick up some aircraft activity through one of our special lenses just an hour or so before that strike on Baghdad. And, indeed, the weather now, as you can see, is pretty sunny and clear, but it's switching from sunshine and scattered cloud to cold conditions, so we know that people who've been on the move in the north are now suffering from extreme conditions when they've gone to higher mountainous areas for safety.

And indeed, on the ground, in the frontline area between the Iraqis and the Kurds, a lot of mud, which can bog down, obviously, vehicles and infantry -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, Brent Sadler, thanks so much for that update for us from northern Iraq this morning.

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