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CNN's Continued Look at Iraq War

Aired April 12, 2003 - 12:00   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to move things on. Wolf Blitzer is right now on the deck circle and we'll get to him in just a bit. But first, here are the latest developments.
Experts have been summoned to northern Iraq to determine if a warhead found there contains a chemical agent. Authorities tell CNN's Thomas Nybo that preliminary tests show trace amounts of nerve agent on this warhead. It was found at an air base in Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

Saddam Hussein's top scientific adviser has turned himself in to U.S. authorities, this according to a senior official at U.S. Central Command. German TV networks say they have helped arrange the surrender of General Amir al-Saadi. He told the network that he has no information about other members of the Iraqi regime and he repeated his insistence that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. intelligence officials are questioning a man who says that he performed plastic surgery on Saddam Hussein and Hussein family members. CNN's Martin Savidge says this man turned himself in to U.S. Marines and he told the Marines that he knows where members of Saddam's family went. But he didn't say that he knew the whereabouts of Saddam himself.

A chilling discovery by U.S. Marines. A spokesman says they found 300 suicide vests hidden inside a Baghdad school. U.S. forces in Iraq have been high, on high alert, rather, trying to guard against suicide attacks. Several troops have been killed by suicide bombings at military checkpoints in the recent days.

A rescued POW on her way home now to the U.S. We brought you pictures, live pictures earlier of Private Jessica Lynch as she left Germany on a plane carrying some 49 other injured troops, as well. Lynch, you may recall, was captured by Iraqi forces on March 23rd and rescued in a dramatic raid and she's expected to continue her recovery at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington.

And our apologies for not being able to provide the interview the with pilot of one of the helicopters involved in that raid, but the pilot is busy right now and doesn't have time to talk to us. We can understand that.

Coming up in this hour of CNN's coverage of the war in Iraq, we'll take you to the streets of Baghdad, where U.S. troops are trying to slow down the looting. And we'll take a look at some of the casualties of war, including a damaged Baghdad hospital. And in our Through The Lens segment, we'll show you the images of war as captured by photographer David Turnley.

This and much more is coming up right here on the network.

Now, let's go to Wolf Blitzer and our continuing coverage of the war in Iraq -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Leon.

We want to show our viewers live pictures of Baghdad. Just after dark right now here in the Persian Gulf, once again, an Iraqi capital very much on the edge, very nervous, as the looting has continued. In fact, there have been fires that have been breaking out, apparently as a result of some of that looting.

We want to show you these pictures of the Ministry of Information, a key Iraqi building, at least it used to be a key Iraqi building, fire that broke out there, as well.

We're watching all of these developments in the Iraqi capital.

A lot going on elsewhere around Iraq, as well. A military official, indeed, at the U.S. military headquarters Central Command tells CNN a top science adviser to the former President Saddam Hussein has turned himself in to U.S. forces earlier today. If he talks, it could be a windfall for the United States as it scours Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Baghdad right now as nightfall sets in -- Marty, what's happening right now?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you're talking about Lieutenant General Amir al-Saadi, and he is believed to be the senior weapons adviser to the regime of Saddam Hussein. And he would be the man, if there were weapons of mass destruction, who would certainly know about them. That's why his surrender to U.S. authorities is being considered to be such a significant point.

The way his surrender came about is a bit unusual. It was apparently mediated by a German television network. Now, the reason for that maybe is, well, he is married, Mr. al-Saadi, to a German woman. So that may have been the reason why German television became involved. And he turned himself over to U.S. authorities right here in the city of Baghdad.

While he was turning himself over, he made a statement on German television saying to the effect that Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction, did not have weapons of mass destruction and he said that the whole U.S. invasion of Iraq was totally unjustified.

He's now in the hands of U.S. authorities. They are no doubt asking him a lot of questions, not just about the issue of weapons of mass destruction, but also about the issue of what happened to all the other regime leaders. There are said to be about 55 regime leaders that are on the most wanted list, if you want to call it that, and al- Saadi would be the first of those to be captured. In fact, so badly are they wanted, they have printed up almost trading cards or playing cards that they are putting around this country, hoping that people will identify and point out where these regime leaders may be.

And you mentioned the firefight. We've been talking about security here in the city of Baghdad and how tenuous it is. Well, while we were talking about it, there was a major firefight that broke out right behind the Palestine Hotel, which is, of course, headquarters to the international media here. It lasted for about 10 minutes. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the noise that you're listening to was outgoing fire from the U.S. Marines that have ringed this hotel to provide security, as they have in all of eastern Baghdad. There was a sound of M-16s, heavy machine gun fire, even occasionally the sound of mortars going off.

And on the subject of security, again at the Palestine Hotel earlier today, who walks in but one of the generals of the Iraqi police force. He didn't come in to surrender. He came in to start talking about how to get police officers back on the street, which is right up the alley of what the U.S. Marines and military forces here in Iraq want to start doing because, as you know, the soldiers and Marines are not police officers. They want the Iraqis to get their own civilian police force back on the street. That's why the general was reportedly here, to begin negotiations on just how to do that. And the military is also reporting a lot of other people are showing up here to begin getting the city back on line with power, water, sewage and medical personnel.

So there were some optimistic signs despite all the dark news coming out of Baghdad today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Marty, that would be very encouraging if they could do that together with the U.S. military, working cooperatively. I know that they've been trying to do that in Basra in the south, the British and local former police authorities, retired police officers, bringing them back to see if they can restore some sort of order.

Now, has the looting gone down, the fires gone down? Not the firefights, but the fires gone down? And how much at liberty are you, our journalistic colleagues from CNN and the other news organizations, to leave the area, the very secure area where you are, at least relatively speaking, where the Marines are in control and roam around the Iraqi capital?

SAVIDGE: Well, I mean even to say that this hotel is secure, just by that firefight a short while ago, is, calls it into question. You're free to go anywhere you want in this city. You're not necessarily free of running into harm or danger. A number of CNN crews have been out and go out usually every day circulating in the city. And what's interesting is that yes, when there is U.S. military personnel on the street, things seem to be fine. The moment they leave, though, is when the trouble starts. There was one crew that went over by the Ministry of Information today. It was supposed to be secure. They got over there, suddenly bullets are flying over their heads.

So that gives you an idea that now you see it, now you don't as far as safety and security in the city of Baghdad. Now it's dark. Very few people like to venture out in Baghdad after the sun goes down, at least for the time being -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Marty, before I let you go, let's get back to the lead story, a potentially huge development, the decision by Amir al- Saadi, the chief science adviser to Saddam Hussein, to effectively turn himself in and go under the control, if you will, of the U.S. military. He presumably knows all the secrets as far as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability, even if he's continuing to insist on German television right now that there are no weapons of mass destruction. That may not necessarily be the case as far as his willingness to cooperate during an extensive debriefing, if we want to call it that, with U.S. military authorities.

SAVIDGE: Well, right. And one of the things you have to keep in mind is that the lieutenant general could have been, especially in these shaky times here in Baghdad, in fear for safety of his own life and the life of his family. So the reason he may have turned himself in is because of those personal security concerns.

And then, as he goes to turn himself in to try to perhaps protect himself even more, he comes across on public German television to say he's defiant, that the Iraqi government had no weapons and that this whole invasion by the United States is unjustified. What he says behind closed doors with the protection of the U.S. military now could be a whole different story -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Marty, you know, you mentioned that playing card that the Central Command released. He was one of those 55 or so top Iraqi officials on that playing card, the Central Command saying these are the most wanted of the Iraqi leaders, al-Saadi. Marty, what about that? Are those playing cards effectively being distributed around Baghdad for some of the other most wanted Iraqi advisers to Saddam Hussein, of course, the ace being Saddam Hussein himself?

SAVIDGE: Well, I haven't seen them myself on the street. We are told that they are being circulated, both amongst U.S. military personnel and certainly amongst the Iraqi population. Now, a lot of these people in Iraq already know what these people look like. However, will they be willing to explain or come forward and say well, this is where they're hiding or this is what I know about them? It's unclear at this time. There are a lot of people who are just afraid to get out on the street.

But the cards are reportedly being circulated. I haven't seen one yet, though, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Marty Savidge, our man in Baghdad, part of our team of reporters and producers, technical personnel. We're establishing a significant journalistic presence in the Iraqi capital as well as elsewhere around Iraq.

Thanks, Marty, very much.

It's, of course, been a very busy day for two brigades from the 101st Airborne Division on patrol in southern Baghdad. They're conducting what's being described as cleanup operations and following leads, one of which resulted in a sad discovery. CNN's Ryan Chilcote is with the 101st, has been from day one, and he's joining us now live from Baghdad -- Ryan, tell us about it.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a very busy day, indeed. As you know, the 101st Airborne has two brigades in Baghdad, the 2nd, its 2nd and 3rd Brigades. And they are responsible for almost all of south Baghdad -- of southern Baghdad west of the Tigris River. East of the Tigris River, of course, the Marines.

Well, the day began very sadly. The soldiers being led by an Iraqi to a shallow grave, if you could even call it that, of a U.S. serviceman that had been killed in action in some fighting here but up until today had been missing. The soldiers prayed at that site for the serviceman and then placing an American flag over the body of the U.S. serviceman, they evacuated the remains, first on a helicopter and now the remains of that serviceman are on what will, I'm sure, amount to be a very long trip home back to the United States.

Wolf, just less than an hour later, again, on a tip from an Iraqi, they were raiding a mosque. They were told that inside the mosque they would find 30 paramilitary fighters, some of which, according to their informant, would be injured and inside that mosque. Well, they raided the mosque. They didn't find those 30 Fedayeen fighters. What they found instead were 15 men, most, all of whom said that they had been praying there at the afternoon prayer. They also found some suspect things. They found an AK-47. They found some military garb. And they found a very elaborate first aid station.

Now, I spoke with one man there at the scene who asked not to be identified, who wanted to remain anonymous. He described himself, identified himself as a doctor. He said the only reason that the first aid station was at that mosque was that simply during the bombing it was impossible for the people of that neighborhood to get to downtown Baghdad so they set up a first aid station at the mosque.

As for the military garb, the boots and the uniforms that were there, he said well, there -- some Iraqi soldiers were brought to the mosque already that had been killed in the fighting. He disrobed them and prepared them for burial. Now the 101st, of course, scratching its head, trying to make sense of it all, finding its new job in here in Baghdad having as much to do with detective and police work as it does with active military operations -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ryan Chilcote with the 101st in Baghdad.

Thanks very much, Ryan, for that comprehensive report.

CNN's Thomas Nybo, meanwhile, is in Kirkuk. That, of course, is in northern Iraq. He's got new developments in the weapons hunt.

He's joining us now live via videophone. He's been embedded with the 173rd Airborne -- Thomas, tell us what you have.

THOMAS NYBO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm here at the Kirkuk military air field about a couple hundred feet from what the U.S. military says might be a suspected chemical warhead. They say that initial tests show trace amount of a nerve agent. Earlier I spoke with Major Rob Gallen (ph) about the situation.


MAJOR ROB GALLEN: Elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade were clearing the air field, going from building to building, facility to facility. And they came across a weapon. They checked it. It appeared as though it had some markings that indicated it was, could be a chemical weapon.

They came back later and checked it with some technical instruments and it did test positive for a nerve agent.


NYBO: Now, just a couple of minutes ago, another team showed up with one of these testing devices. It's called the ICAM and it's very specific. It's a handheld battery powered device and someone wearing full chemical protection just went in moments ago into this storage facility behind me. He is probably at this very moment crouched down testing this device, this warhead. It's essentially about as long as a baseball bat, as thick as a can of coffee and as important a development as this might be for the U.S. military, there was another development as far as chemical weapons goes, and I spoke with Major Gallen about that, as well.


GALLEN: An Iraqi gentleman has come forth claiming to have some specific knowledge about possible chemical weapons that may be stored here on this air base. It appears as though the air base was evacuated hastily. A lot of indicators seem to say that the Iraqi forces that were here left very quickly.


NYBO: Now, I was at battalion headquarters earlier and I was privy to a U.S. military intelligence summary and it basically said that this Iraqi gentleman that Major Gallen talked about was a former commander of this base here, a colonel in the Iraqi air force, and he had been imprisoned. And with the fall of Kirkuk, he was liberated and essentially showed up at a security gate and said he had some important information. He was brought in and what he said specifically was that he knew in a radius of about 18 miles or so, the presence of 120 missiles. Of these 120 missiles, he says, about 24 have chemical munitions. Now, that's the big question that the Army has to answer, is this man telling the truth?

And that's the story here at the Kirkuk military air field in northern Iraq.

BLITZER: Thomas, before I let you go, what did they say, because we've heard about initial reports of some suspected weapons of mass destruction, nerve gas agent, mustard gas, V.X. Those turned out to be what are called false positives. Did they say this initial test that they had was pretty good or do they need to do a significant amount of additional testing to really get a hard positive? NYBO: Well, a lot of the false positives that you talk about are from the N22s. These are very kind of genetic chemical tech -- generic chemical detection devices. And you recall, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of false alarms during the first Gulf War.

The ICAM is a lot more -- I'm sorry, there was just a very large explosion in the distance here. But the device they use now is a lot more specific. It has a range of zero to six, six being the strongest presence of chemical agents, zero being none at all. This one rated one, although that is on the lower end, there were two spots that indicated the presence of nerve agent, one in the middle. There was a spot about the size of a quarter. It had a couple of screws and that, you can put stuff into the warhead. I'm not suggesting -- who knows what's inside? But that's where one of the elements was found. And the other one was near the rear of the warhead.

BLITZER: Well, Thomas Nybo reporting. I assume they're going to be doing a lot more checking on this before they come to any hard and fast conclusions.

But thanks for that report.

Thomas Nybo is reporting for us from Kirkuk, until recently under the control of the Iraqi Army. No longer the case.

We will be following up all of these developments tomorrow. An important programming note for our viewers, I'll have a special interview tomorrow on CNN's "Late Edition" with the commander of the Central Command. General Tommy Franks will join me for an interview from the Central Command headquarters in Doha, Qatar. We'll talk about that. We'll talk about all of the other issues.

I'll also ask him about the surrender, if you will, of al-Saadi, the chief scientific adviser to the Iraqi president, the former chief scientific adviser, that is, to the former Iraqi president, someone who became a familiar face to many of our viewers who used to watch those press briefings during the U.N. inspections process inside Iraq. He was consistently denying, apparently still denying that Iraq has any weapons of mass destruction. But in the case, in the course of U.S. interrogation, perhaps he'll change his tune. I'll ask General Franks about that, as well. That's tomorrow at noon Eastern, 9:00 a.m. Pacific.

The final chapter, meanwhile, for Jessica Lynch. She and her family are in a plane now headed for the United States.

Our Elizabeth Cohen is live from Walter Reed Hospital, where the 19-year-old war veteran is expected to arrive.

And the new world order, our Bill Schneider looks at global opinion of the U.S. now that the Iraqi regime has fallen.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: What a remarkable journey. In just a few hours, Private Jessica Lynch should be back in the United States. The rescued POW left Germany earlier today, heading home. Private Lynch is expected to continue her recovery at the Walter Reed Medical Center. That's in Washington, D.C.

Our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is there right now. She has more on Private Lynch's homecoming and what's ahead as far as her road to recovery -- Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Jessica Lynch is on that plane with 49 other people who were wounded in the war and with her own family. She's due to arrive at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland at 4:30 this afternoon and then she'll come right here to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she will continue to receive treatment for her injuries, which include two broken legs and a broken right arm, also a broken right foot, a broken right ankle and an injury on her disc on her lower back.

She, the family had a statement earlier today that says she is in great, that she is in pain, but that she is in great spirits. And they said that she is looking towards this long road to recovery.

A military spokesman read the statement from the family.


MAJ. MIKE YOUNG, U.S. ARMY SPOKESMAN: It is almost impossible to express how grateful we are to the brave American service members who participated in Jessie's rescue and to the courageous Iraqi citizens who risked their lives to make her rescue possible. Jessie is alive because of their sacrifices.


COHEN: I was speaking to a rehabilitation specialist earlier and he said that given the kinds of injuries that Private Lynch has, her rehabilitation will be a matter of months, not a matter of just weeks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The whole mood over there at Walter Reed, I'm familiar with that hospital. It's an Army hospital, excellent treatment there. How many, do you have any idea how many wounded U.S. soldiers are now at Walter Reed and how basically they're doing, what kind of reception they're getting?

COHEN: Wolf, I don't know the exact number, but I do know that the injuries, there is a wide range. There are some people with relatively minor injuries. There are some people with more serious injuries. And, again, she's on the plane with 49 other injured people who will be on their way here to Walter Reed.

BLITZER: I know that she will, I'm sure, get an exceptionally warm welcome once she gets there.

Elizabeth Cohen will be there, as well. She'll be reporting extensively from the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth, thanks very much.

And for much more on Private Lynch's journey home, tune in tonight for a CNN special, "The Rescue of Jessica Lynch." That will be hosted by Anderson Cooper tonight, 8:30 p.m. Eastern, 5:30 p.m. Pacific.

When we come back, even though the Iraqi regime is gone, sporadic fighting continues in Iraq. Our Ben Wedeman is live in the northern part of the country.

We're bringing you complete coverage of the war in Iraq.


BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures of a demonstration in Washington, D.C. near the Washington Monument. Protesters gathering to oppose the U.S. military, what they call occupation of Iraq. This is called an anti-occupation rally of Iraq. This is clearly those who opposed the war to begin with.

There are other demonstrations going on elsewhere, pro-troop, pro-U.S. troop demonstrations around the country. We're watching those, as well.

Meanwhile, leaders of the anti-war bloc wrapped up a summit today in St. Petersburg. Leaders from Russia, France and Germany are calling for the United Nations to play the central role in rebuilding Iraq, saying that would make a new Iraqi regime legitimate. They also pushed for a world order focusing on the United Nations and international law.

More now from our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The war has generated a huge amount of anti-American sentiment in the world. Russians insult the U.S. flag and in a poll taken just before the fall of Baghdad, favor Iraq over the U.S. by a wide margin. Anger is especially intense in the Muslim world. Political experts say many Arabs were dismayed by the outcome.

MOHAMMED KAMEL, CAIRO UNIVERSITY: The sudden collapse of the regime has disappointed people, has angered people.

SCHNEIDER: All that anti-U.S. sentiment could reshape world politics.


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