Americans took their first look at the bombing of Baghdad Thursday night when networks broadcast a smuggled television news film showing Iraqi anti-aircraft guns firing into a dark sky and ululating women in a bomb shelter singing their defiance.
The film - which a cameraman for Britain's ITN network said he smuggled out of Iraq under his trousers - showed men in traditional Arab garb running for cover interspersed with eerie bluish views of the Baghdad skyline.The flashes of brilliance from the bombing and the rapid firing of tiny globes into the darkened sky made for the most spectacular pictures in the two-minute piece first broadcast in the United States by ABC News and soon after by Cable News Network.
Morning-after shots showed an Iraqi capital with deserted streets.
Sebastian Rich, an ITN news photographer, fled Baghdad along with crews from ABC, CBS and the British Broadcasting Corp. at about 2 p.m. Thursday (4 a.m. MST).
"The material you've been watching spent 14 hours in my underpants, so it's a little bit sweaty," he told ABC interviewer Ted Koppel from Amman.
Rich said Western TV crews' satellite phones were confiscated and the convoy members were repeatedly stopped by Iraqi authorities. Many had their film taken, he added, including NBC film carried by BBC crew. Film was ripped out of his own camera and that of a French news agency photographer.
Members of the foreign press corps still in Baghdad are "completely trapped because they don't have any communication whatsoever, and I do fear for their safety," Rich said.
The film shown Thursday, shot by Mousses Fabrice, a Frenchman working for ABC, showed Iraqi civilians with no hostility on their faces but evident disbelief that war had broken out.
It showed Iraqis in bomb shelters demonstrating their defiance of the bombers overhead with singing and clapping - some women punctuating their demonstration with piercing wails.
By dawn's first light, the noisy attack and anti-aircraft defense were over.
"This was a city stunned by the gravity and speed of the action," said ITN correspondent Brent Sadler.
"(Baghdad) itself was by no means physically devastated, but it was in mental shock. If Saddam Hussein was not expecting this to happen after invading Kuwait, he made a historic miscalculation," the report said.