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Nic Robertson: Pressure on Iraq to show Saddam in control

CNN's Nic Robertson
CNN's Nic Robertson

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BAGDHAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. and allied forces launched attacks early Thursday on Iraq in what the Pentagon says was a strike aimed at Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

CNN's Nic Robertson was in Baghdad during the attacks and filed this report shortly after:

ROBERTSON: There was a brief broadcast early on by Information Minister Muhammed Saeed Sahaf, perhaps the first broadcast people would have heard here today. The broadcast from a radio station broadcasting a message from President Saddam Hussein's son -- Uday -- Saddam Hussein saying, "God protect the people of our country. God protect our leader."

We are also expecting a news conference within the next hour to be given by Information Minister Sahaf.

We have not been able to hear on any of the normal Iraqi radio stations or radio station frequencies here -- we have not heard any U.S. broadcasts. We have not heard any radio stations here that appear to have been taken over by U.S. broadcasts.

What appears to be happening is a ratcheting-up of the pressure on Iraq's leadership here. To say that President Saddam Hussein was the target of opportunity and to put it to the Iraqi people that perhaps their leader is dead -- this is something that will put pressure on their leadership to deny it. Pressure to prove it's wrong. Pressure to tell the people that President Saddam Hussein is still firmly in control of the country.

It's certainly not coming alive for a normal Thursday morning here.

I'm on the 11th floor of a hotel. I'm overlooking the Tigris River several miles east. And west of me at this point, I'm looking across to a government part of the city. I can see the Information Ministry from where I stand. There are occasional vehicles going up and down the road. The majority of vehicles we've seen from this location so far -- a tiny handful of taxis, many of them are government vehicles.

No sign of soldiers out in the streets at this time but also no sign of normal life. The stores are closed. There are vehicles parked at the side of the road. Some of the vehicles that came out earlier were screetching around the corners trying to get whereever they were going in a hurry. The only other vehicles apart from the government vehicles and a couple of taxis are a few vehicles belonging to television news agencies. They're marked in bold letters "TV."

It's very quiet. There's no wind at this time. The palm trees that line the river here are hanging limply.

The visibility is not typical for this city. The visibility is quite limited at this time. It's still hazy. It seems some of the dirt that's picked up by the storms in the last few days is still in the air. The skies overhead are clearing a little. It's still mostly cloudy at this time.


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