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German Police Storm Iraqi Embassy, Rescue Hostages

Aired August 20, 2002 - 14:14   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Also, we want to update a developing story this hour. Just minutes ago, police in Berlin confirmed to CNN that they have stormed the Iraqi embassy and detained five people. Hours earlier, a previously unknown Iraqi opposition group had occupied the compound, and taken several people, including the ambassador, hostage. The group promised its action would be "peaceful and temporary," their words. In fact, we have a live report right now from Michael Holmes with the latest on the storming of the embassy -- Michael.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi to you, Carol. Yes, certainly a very confusing situation here, a German police officer approaching a horde of media here and giving a very preliminary statement. What they said was that German special police forces, the SEK as they are known here, we saw them earlier entering the embassy grounds with balaclavas and submachine guns, they apparently have stormed the embassy, as you pointed out, and have taken five people into custody.

There is a confirmation also on the number of people involved, initially it was four or five of what police describe as hostage- takers. They are in custody.

We are told no injuries during this. We were told initially five or six hostages. We have had no indication that that figure is incorrect. It included the charge d'affaires at the Iraqi embassy. These special forces are trained for this very sort of situation.

The group, as you said, a very unknown group. Nobody has heard of these people, they are not on the Internet, the Iraqi National Congress in London has never heard of them. They are called the Democratic Iraqi Opposition in Germany, and, as you pointed out, their words in a statement to the media was that this was a step -- a first step for the liberation of Iraq.

They said that they would carry this out in a "peaceful and --" their words -- "timely manner."

Well, the timing, as it turned out, was not up to them, Carol. It appears that this is over. We are expecting a news conference in about 45 minutes, where, hopefully, a lot of the details that need clarification will be clarified for us -- Carol.

LIN: Yes, so many questions, Michael, about this group. I mean, did police give an indication as to how heavily armed they were, that might give an idea how organized they are, and whether they might have had some sort of backing. HOLMES: No -- well, first of all, the police -- there were initial reports, as there always are in these situations, rumors more than anything, that there had been shots fired, and things like that. Police say that they have no indication that shots were fired, and in fact, they haven't even confirmed that these people were armed.

When they went in, apparently, two staff members were slightly injured, one due to what police described as a form of tear gas, but no indication that they were armed, no indication as yet how they got in. This embassy is in, really, a residential area of Berlin, in the west of the city, and most of the embassies that are here are really houses more or less, and do have security, but, obviously in this case, not enough -- Carol.

LIN: All right. Happy ending at least. We'll find out more when that news conference takes place in about 45 minutes. Thank you very much, Michael Holmes, live in Berlin.

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