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Interview With Spokesman for British Royal Air Force

Aired March 27, 2003 - 03:26   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We've heard a lot from British military personnel this morning.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, and Daryn Kagan I think is standing by in Kuwait City with another I think -- do you have Jon Fynes, is that...

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I absolutely do, and as you mentioned, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with us in the last hour, Carol and Anderson, they heard the British military briefing from CENTCOM in Doha, Qatar. We're going to get some more on that, because we do have with us right now the spokesman for the Royal Air Force, and that's Captain Jon Fynes.

Thanks for joining us once again, and becoming a regular fixture with us here, at this hour. A number of topics we'd like to get to that were mentioned in the CENTCOM briefing.

First of all, you've seen a lot of pictures of what's happening in Baghdad with this thing called precision bombing, but it appears, according to the Iraqis, that a number of civilians lost their lives in that attack.

CAPTAIN JON FYNES, ROYAL AIR FORCE: Yes. Something that the coalition has always been very open about is that we will attack legitimate military targets, but we'll use precision, and we'll only attack when it gets absolutely vital. But in any attack, we will do everything we can to minimize civilian casualties, but we can't take away that risk completely.

KAGAN: Is there anything you can tell us about this specific attack that might have put civilians at risk in terms of where the target was located?

FYNES: Unfortunately, the Iraqis have placed these particular targets as close as they could to civilian buildings. So even though we selected the most precise and the right-sized weapon to attack them, there is always going to be a risk to those civilians.

KAGAN: And another big concern when it comes to civilians is getting aid, the huge need for humanitarian aid into Iraq, a slight snag in that in trying to get some of the goods up through Umm Qasr, the port city. I understand the British have discovered that there are even more mines at the bottom of that port.

FYNES: Yes, it's a real frustration to us, because we're desperate to get that humanitarian aid in. The ships are waiting. The food is ready. The medical equipment is ready. But we found some more mines overnight, and we have to be careful. We can't let those civilian ships in until it's cleared.

KAGAN: And how do you clear it? What's the next step once you find a mine?

FYNES: Literally we've got divers down scrabbling in the mud, feeling inch by inch to make sure there are no more down there. I mean, why on earth Saddam has put them into a port where he knew we'd be bringing in humanitarian aid I just don't know.

KAGAN: I want to talk about Basra, the second-largest city in all of Iraq. This has become a very difficult city to get in control and to get a hand on. What's the British perspective on that?

FYNES: The reason it's difficult is because we're being very careful. We still are saying, and we're meaning, we don't want to harm the Iraqi civilians. We don't want to wreck what is a fantastic historic city. Within the city itself, it's interesting that quite a lot of the military now are coming out and engaging our forces, partly...

KAGAN: Was that expected?

FYNES: What's expected and what isn't is difficult to say, but what we do know is that the people, the Baath Party, the revolutionaries inside the city are forcing these soldiers to come out and meet us, which they don't want to do. And as they do meet us, we're engaging them and dealing with them.

KAGAN: And what about the timeline in getting a hold on Basra?

FYNES: There is no specific timeline. We want to get the humanitarian aid as quickly as possible, but it has been reported earlier there are signs of some uprisings in the city, people disregarding what the Baath Party is saying. We hope that continues. But what we're doing is attacking those military units that remain in the city, but in our time.

KAGAN: And just real quickly as we wrap this up, when you were with us here yesterday, we were in the middle of this horrendous sandstorm, the winds were blowing all the sand. That did affect the military action. And this better weather, how is that going to help today?

FYNES: It certainly slowed down the air war. We have to be very careful, not just to not target the Iraqi civilians, but also not get too close to our troops. The weather is clearing, so any of the Iraqis that have slipped out we're going to find today.

KAGAN: Captain Jon Fynes from the Royal Force, thank you for stopping by. We'll be seeing you on a regular basis -- appreciate it. Captain, thank you so much.

And, Carol and Anderson -- we'll toss it back to you. COOPER: All right, Daryn, thanks very much.


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