Michael Ware


YWT: Questions about the Najaf raid

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Length: 3:57

HALA GORANI: Well, taking you to Iraq, police there say and tell CNN that two explosions have ripped through a crowded market in the Shiite city of Hilla. Police say that at least now 45 people have been killed and 150 others injured. The blast occurred in a central market around 6 p.m. local time. Hilla is a located about 100 kilometers south of the capital, Baghdad.

JIM CLANCY: All right. Let's get an update live from Baghdad. And our own Michael Ware is standing about there and following developments very closely on this.

Michael, what's the latest you can tell us about what happened there?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, what we understand, as Hala said, at about 6 p.m. in central Hilla, this town just south of the capital, in a crowded market, as people would have been buying their goods for the evening meal, two suicide bombers entered with explosives attached to their chest, according to local police. Now, they say that a police officer noticed at least one of these men and approached him.

Upon confrontation, they say, the man then detonated himself, wounded and killing a number of people. Shortly thereafter, within close vicinity, the second suicide bomber, the officials say, detonated himself.

Like we've been saying, as it stands right now, we believe that there are as many as 45 dead and up to 150 wounded. And the people that we're talking to down there say that those numbers, unfortunately, are expected to rise.

CLANCY: Michael, I want to talk to you a little bit about an incident that happened on Sunday. A major battle developing. Right at the start, it was said -- the reports coming out of the Iraqi, the official version from the Iraqi government -- was that this was a cult who was bent on attacking some of the Shia religious leaders in the city of Najaf. But now there's some cell phone video that is coming out, mobile phone video showing piles of bodies on the ground. Iraq's government spokesperson maintaining that all of this was as a result of the violent messianic cult.

What do we really know? Who's telling the truth here?

WARE: Well, it's very hard to say, Jim. I mean, as you're well aware, I mean, the fog of war shrouds everything. Not just here, but in most conflicts.

What we do know for a fact is that a tremendous engagement took place on Sunday just outside Najaf. It certainly appears that there was quite a fight here.

Now, what the government is saying is that this essentially was a messianic cult, an apocalyptic cult. Just when this war couldn't get any more bizarre, we now start to see the emergence of such things, according to the Iraqi government.

The U.S. military is less clear. Officers I've just been speaking to said the jury is still out on just who these people were.

A military spokesman said that according to military intelligence, we're talking about a Shia splinter group. He wouldn't explain exactly what that meant.

However, what did happen is that Iraqi forces engaged this group north of the city. The government says they had plans to kill the Shia leadership in that city and allow their leader to take over.

Either way, once the engagement began, other Iraqi units were called in and they had American advisers. Those American advisers then called in American air cover, two Apache helicopters. One of them which went down.

As the fight continued throughout the night, F-16s and A-10 anti-tank aircraft and an AC-130 gunship, we're told, were also brought in. By the end of it, according to the U.S. military, there's 250 dead on the side of the faction that was fighting, the so-called sect, and they say that so far there's at least 400 prisoners. But at the end of the day, there's other accounts from locals on the ground, local media. We really don't know what went on -- Jim.

CLANCY: All right. Well, maybe when they get a chance to talk to some of the people who have been captured, they can sort some of this story out.

Michael Ware, as always, thanks to you, for your reporting there from Baghdad -- Hala.