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U.S. Scrambling to Confirm if Bodies Taken are Hussein Sons

Aired July 22, 2003 - 11:50   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: It's now just been maybe half an hour or so since the first word came of this raid that took place in Mosul, in the northern region of Iraq. This raid now perhaps a most important development in this war in the past few weeks. Right now what's being determined is whether or not two of the four bodies that were taken out of that building in Mosul are those of Uday Hussein and Qusay Hussein, Saddam Hussein's sons.
Now working this story as we see these pictures coming into to us from Mosul is our Barbara Starr who is at the Pentagon, who has been working her sources. We also have Rym Brahimi standing by in Baghdad with perspective from there. We'll go to her in just a moment.

But first, let's start with Barbara. Barbara, begin with the beginning of this story.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, it was several hours earlier today, an intense firefight in a house, in a compound in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Now, apparently, close to 200 U.S. troops from the 101st Airborne Division assaulted this house. We are told an intense firefight broke out. Four people were killed. U.S. sources have told CNN in recent hours that, quoting one source, they are "reasonably optimistic that two of the four killed were the sons of Saddam Hussein, Uday and Qusay."

This source telling CNN, telling CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre just a little while ago, they are reasonably optimistic that the two sons of Saddam Hussein, in his words, have met their maker. Those two bodies, at least are in the custody of the U.S. government in Iraq and they are working urgently to try and make a formal identification of those two bodies.

What we do also know is that U.S. forces were led to this house, we believe, by very specific intelligence, because there had been information in recent days that the two sons of Saddam Hussein were together and they were in the city of Mosul.

And of course, it is worth remembering that northern Iraq, around Mosul, around Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's basic homeland area, there are a lot of people there still very supportive of Saddam Hussein and his regime. It has long been believed Saddam Hussein and his sons were hiding out in that region -- Leon.

HARRIS: Thank you, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Let's go now to Rym Brahimi in Baghdad. Rym, fill us in some more on these two characters, Uday and Qusay Hussein.

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if indeed the reasons for U.S. officials to be reasonably optimistic that they've been caught are true, well that would be very significant for Iraqis at large.

A lot of people here will tell you actually that Saddam Hussein was not very popular, but he was made less popular by his sons. And in particular, by the eldest son, Uday.

Now Uday was a very strange character by many accounts. He was in charge of the journalists' union, for instance. He was also in charge of the Arab photographers union. In charge of the Olympic committee here in Iraq. But he was said to be very ruthless, but in a very strange way. A bit of a loose cannon, no rational, a lot of passion, a bit of a spoiled child, if you will, who just acted on whims more than anything else.

Qusay, the youngest son, on the other hand, was believed to be just as ruthless, but more cold-blooded in his way of dealing with things, less passion. He was put in charge, just shortly before the war, of basically commanding militarily Baghdad and the central region of Iraq. In short, at that point, basically what it meant was that even the defense minister would have to take orders from Qusay Saddam Hussein.

Now both sons -- it was speculated that they would have been together in the past few weeks. But again, that's something that we haven't been able to prove for the time being -- Leon.

HARRIS: Thank you, Rym. Rym Brahimi in Baghdad. We appreciate that.

Let's go now stateside to here Chicago. General David Grange who's a CNN analyst, who's been talking with -- about these matters here with us for months now. General Grange, first impressions right now in the wake of this news coming out of Mosul. Are you surprised at all about this operation and about it taking place in this particular region?

GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, not surprised. I meant there's places to hide all over the country. And this particular town is one that they -- you probably would not think that you'd find the two sons hiding in which makes it a good hideout.

And so having two family members together, and, in fact, if this is the case, may lead to an even bigger prize, because they're together, which is unusual.

HARRIS: Yes, and so that's -- in fact, that is one of the things that struck me as odd about this because considering just how catty they've all been, the Hussein clan, in terms of their hiding and getting away from many authorities right now you would have thought they'd spread out here some.

What do you now about -- do you know anything at all about the possible operation that may have taken place to go in there and secure this house?

GRANGE: Well, you have -- they probably were prepared to do two different types of operations. One in extremists (ph). In other words, you react immediately to the information, the intelligence that you have, because you have a target of opportunity. and usually, these targets are fleeting.

In other words, if you don't account immediately with the forces at hand, you may lose the prize. And so it could have been taken down with 4th Infantry Division Soldiers or 101st Airborne Division Soldiers. Or it could have been done by a special ops units. It just depends who was located where. But they all have the order to be prepared to do that if need be.

HARRIS: I got a big question too about how much resistance they actually did encountered. We hear there was four bodies taken out of there, but it wasn't said hasn't been determined whether or not there were only four people in there, firing back out.

Let me ask you about what this must mean for moral purposes? And we've been talking in recent weeks here about how the troops there have been getting -- the moral lower and lower with their redeployment (UNINTELLIGIBLE) their return to the states here being pushed further and further back. Still lingering questions about the capture of Saddam Hussein. Where is he? And where are these weapons of mass destruction?

If it does turns out to be the case that these two -- or two of these bodies taken out of this home today are those of Uday and Qusay Hussein what do you think this means moral-wise?

GRANGE: It's a wonderful boost in the arm for moral, for the coalition forces. It just shows everybody that's deployed there on this operation that the mission continues. And that it's not over. And that if they get these two key prizes, then that will be a great thing for moral and the conclusion of the operations over in Iraq.

Now, initially, I think there'll be some response from loyalists to the Saddam regime. And I think that coalition forces need to brace for that. But in the long haul, this will start to wane this resistance against the coalition and the transportation of Iraq to a democratic governance.

HARRIS: Well that's good the expectation (ph). We'll see how it all plays out.

General David Grange in Chicago, thank you, appreciate the insight. No doubt, we'll be seeing more of you in the hours to come here on the network.



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