Michael Ware


CNN, American Morning: Fallujah [transcript only]

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Day two for the battle of Falluja, and more than 10,000 U.S. troops, 2,000 Iraqi forces pounding targets in that city. Military officials say as many as 5,000 insurgents may still be inside Falluja, but the whereabouts of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, believed to have been in the insurgent stronghold, are still unknown according to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi says the removal of insurgents in Falluja will help pave the way for the January elections. Let's go right now to Michael Ware. He is "TIME" magazine's Baghdad Bureau chief. He is one of our embedded reporters for us this morning.

Michael, good morning. What can you tell us?

MICHAEL WARE, BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME" MAGAZINE: The U.S. Army is currently leading this assault on the insurgent stronghold of Falluja. The Army units that I'm attached, from Task Force 22 of the 2nd Battalion 2nd Infantry regiment have punched deep (INAUDIBLE) the resistance that was put up by the insurgents through the night and the early hours of this morning. We have reached significant landmarks and now control significant parts of the city.

The advance was plagued by continued attacks from the insurgents, explosions from booby-traps all over the city, and by sustained mortar and rocket-propelled grenade fire. However, the fierce battle that we were led to believe would occur has yet to take place. The insurgents, while resisting in street-to-street gun battles, have yet to organize themselves into a stiff resistance.

So, the question remains as to whether the insurgents can still be rooted out or whether, in fact, they have already fled the city.

O'BRIEN: Michael, can I ask you a question about casualties that you are seeing where you are?

WARE: The U.S. Army unit that I am with has suffered only light casualties, none of them life threatening. The platoon that I have been with has sustained two casualties, one of which was more serious, yet again that one was not life threatening.

However, I believe they have been able to inflict some damage on the insurgents that they have confronted. and certainly there has been considerable collateral damage to the buildings and the mosques and the infrastructure of Falluja.

O'BRIEN: You said, Michael, that you have been seeing street-to- street fighting by the insurgents, not a real organized resistance. Can you give me a sense, a lot of resistance, a minimal amount of resistance -- how would you put it?

WARE: It's been minimal -- that's another explosion. The battle is still continuing as I speak, so you'll have to excuse me. It's been minimal. Perhaps it's been crafted as such by the insurgents. They allowed us to enter the city to a certain degree before they began assaulting our positions.

But once they began attacking, the attacks were fierce, with mortar fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and very, very close quarters, small arms fire. We were literally fighting house to house. So, when they stopped to fight, they really put up quite a battle.

However, the largest concentration of insurgents that I have seen so far has been no more than 20 to 25 individuals. By and large, they are operating in small teams or squads, picking us off with sniper fire and ambushes.

O'BRIEN: Michael Ware is "TIME" magazine's Baghdad Bureau chief reporting for us this morning where he is embedded with the 22nd Task Force. Michael, thank you very much and, obviously, stay safe. Appreciate it.