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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Iraqi TV Hit by Coalition Missile Strike

Aired March 26, 2003 - 04:16   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: According to a story in "The New York Times" today, one of the ways the Iraqi irregular troops seem to be handling this war is by shooting some Americans who are taken prisoner. This is in "The New York Times," quoting U.S. officials who say this is based on one source of communications intercept.
But apparently they believe, at least this official believes based on this one source, that at least some of the Americans taken prisoner the other day were shot, executed, in some sort of a public forum.

So that, I guess, is one of the ways that the Iraqis are handling this resistance.

Chris Plante is at the Pentagon. He has more on the coalition missile strike on the building housing Iraq TV, as well as other updates about the fighting.

Chris -- good morning.

CHRIS PLANTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.

Just a point of clarification there. I think what "The New York Times" article is saying is that some of the people that were taken prisoner early on, we saw the videotape or still photos of some that were killed early on, I don't think we're talking about the five or seven POWs that we've been videotape of having been executed.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: That is correct. That is absolutely correct, yes.

PLANTE: Just a minor point of clarification.

But Baghdad TV was knocked off the air by the U.S. coalition last night -- pardon me. Tomahawk land-attack missiles and guided bombs from airplanes went in and took them off the air, they say, on their own timetable. The U.S. is saying it's something that they had planned to do at a certain point. As Carol was saying earlier, it was a bit of a mystery that they didn't take them off the air the first night, which clearly they had the capability of doing.

They say that they were learning things from Baghdad TV. They would see who would come out before the cameras, know who was alive and who was not, who is in command and who was not. So they said there was some value in leaving Baghdad TV up for the early stages of this fight. And that they took them off the air when it was convenient for them.

Clearly, as we're seeing, they are back up on the air, but certainly if the U.S. is interested in knocking them off -- pardon me -- knocking them off again, they will knock them off again. They have the technology to locate where the new transmitter is located, and they have high-speed anti-radiation missiles, for one, which home in on television broadcast signals and so on.

So I wouldn't be all surprised if their resurgence was short- lived -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, Chris, I guess the information that U.S. officials were trying to glean apparently from Iraqi TV broadcasts early on, they felt they could get some information, some intelligence from it, whether it was a question of who was suddenly showing up on Iraqi TV, I guess, and trying to determine who was alive and who was dead.

PLANTE: Well, that's right, and also you'll recall that the POWs that we just mentioned were also seen on Iraqi TV first, and that was proof that they were alive. It now gives the United States the opportunity to keep the Iraqi's feet to the fire and the Red Cross regarding those particular POWs.

So there was some value in allowing Iraqi TV to stay on the air. When they decided that that value had run out for whatever reason, they decided to knock them off.

COOPER: Chris, has there been any reaction thus far from the Pentagon about this "New York Times" story? You know, I think anyone who reads -- is going to read this story today, it's very easy to get very upset by it.

PLANTE: Right. There has been no official reaction as of this time, but they certainly saw the videotape when it first aired on Baghdad TV and then on Al Jazeera also. Some of us have also seen the whole tape.

There were indications certainly on the videotape that they may have been executed. It wasn't necessarily conclusive, but there were also rumors flying around that they did execute some of the Americans in a public fashion. And apparently that's what "The New York Times" is hearing from intelligence sources also.

But so far, no official response. I would expect that Secretary Rumsfeld and some of the other leaders here in the U.S. military will have something to say about that when they have the chance.

COOPER: And just to clarify. This is a "New York Times" report that you can see, I guess, on newyorktimes.com. It's also, I guess, going to be in today's paper. But it basically quotes one official, who says this information was based on one source, one source only. Apparently some sort of communications intercepts, and they are trying to get more sources on it to find out whether, in fact, this was true.

PLANTE: Well, very often the case with intelligence information, particularly with intercepts, intelligence is a very dicey game much of the time. But I would expect also that when those POWs, the five POWs that were taken in that incident are returned safely that they will be able to give the full story as to what happened there that day.

COOPER: Chris, just as you were talking, I was just informed that we actually have the satellite version of Iraqi TV that has suddenly reappeared. We're actually just going to show some of what they are showing right now at this hour. So that obviously being significant, because we've just been talking about the destruction earlier of Iraqi TV capabilities. Apparently, it's back on. This is the satellite version, and they're showing -- I don’t know if it's a musical video not, but it's quite interesting.

Chris Plante live at the Pentagon. Thanks very much. We’ll come back to you later.

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