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CENTCOM Confirms 11 Bodies Recovered in Nasiriya Hospital

Aired April 2, 2003 - 03:41   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are anticipating another briefing from CENTCOM at 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Of course, CNN will bring that to you live.
For a preview of what we might be hearing, let's check in with Tom Mintier, who is live in Doha, Qatar, CENTCOM headquarters.

Tom -- what's the latest?

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are getting some more details about the raid that took place overnight to rescue Pfc. Jessica Lynch, the 19-year-old Army enlisted person who was apparently wounded seriously, in a hospital, a raid conducted by joint forces, a raid authorized and ordered by General Tommy Franks.

During that operation to recover the POW, CENTCOM is now confirming that 11 bodies of previously listed as missing soldiers were also recovered. No identification yet, but these may be the bodies that were shown on Al Jazeera television about a week ago.

During this operation in the middle of the night, they say they recovered 11 bodies, not saying how they were recovered, but at or around the hospital, where Jessica Lynch was recovered from.

Also reports from CENTCOM that they are engaging the Republican Guard. Heavy fighting reported in at least two areas in and around Baghdad. No discussions, they say, of surrender from the Republican Guard units or any of the engagements that are currently under way. But there are reports of heavy fighting going on.

And again, 11 bodies recovered of U.S. soldiers from the battlefield during this raid to free a POW overnight.

Anderson -- back to you.

COOPER: Tom, I just want to be very clear on this. You said 11 bodies discovered in or around the hospital. Is CENTCOM making a linkage between those and any of those who are listed as missing? Or is there no linkage?

MINTIER: Well, this is a linkage with those listed as missing, because these were not declared as KIAs on the battlefield or POWs recognized from television footage in Baghdad.

So these are 11 who were previously missing, feared dead from this maintenance company, I believe, that have been located. They found 11 bodies in the hospital, where 19-year-old Pfc. Jessica Lynch was rescued by a military operation overnight; now confirming that 11 bodies of American servicemen were recovered also during that operation.

COOPER: So CENTCOM did confirm that they were U.S. personnel. And have they identified, obviously not publicly, but have they, for themselves, identified who these individuals are?

MINTIER: At this point, they have not identified who they are. They are believed to be Americans. They're not fully positive of that. All they're saying is that 11 sets of remains were recovered from this hospital during the raid and brought back. Whether indeed these are all U.S. service personnel, it is still unclear and not confirmed by CENTCOM. They're just saying that they, in the operation, recovered 11 sets of remains from the hospital area.

COOPER: OK, I'm sorry to be so specific on this, but, you know, God forbid, there are families watching who are...


MINTIER: I wish I had specific answers for you on this.

COOPER: Yes, I hear you.

MINTIER: But what I can only confirm is what they confirm, and they say that they found 11 sets of remains.


MINTIER: It may be some time before they're able to make the determination if indeed these are all Americans or not. It would seem likely to me that in the heat of battle they go in, and during this operation and find a situation where they can locate and recover remains, they pick up first and identify later. And now, the process of identification is going on.

COOPER: OK, so just to confirm, they do not know if, in fact, these are all Americans, and they do not know or are not saying whether they are -- any of these ones who are missing from this maintenance unit that went missing?

MINTIER: No, at this point, they're not saying. They're going through the process of identification, notification of next of kin. Possibly by the 3:00 briefing this afternoon we may have more details on this operation that occurred overnight.

What they are saying for sure is that 19-year-old Jessica Lynch, a Pfc. in this maintenance company, was rescued from this hospital inside Iraq. She is in fairly good condition, but apparently seriously wounded, and is now in the custody of coalition forces.

And during that same raid, they now confirm that 11 sets of remains were also recovered from the hospital area.

COOPER: OK, Tom Mintier, I appreciate the clarification. We'll check in with you in a little while for more information. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT

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