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Celebratory Gunfire Fills Skies of Baghdad

Aired July 22, 2003 - 14:51   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The story coming out of Iraq which may or may not be good news for the United States, for the Bush administration, post-Iraq invasion. Possibly, possibly after a long fire fight in the northern city of Mosul, the killing of Saddam Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay.
Joining us on the line now from Baghdad, where there has been perhaps a reaction to all this is Rym Brahimi. Rym, what can you tell us?

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, as you were saying quite accurately there have been reports of this long raid in the northern city of Mosul in which U.S. forces say they have reasonable -- they're reasonably optimistic that in that raid they may have killed the two sons of -- the two oldest sons of Saddam Hussein, Uday and Qusay Hussein.

Now this has been reported on the various Arab satellite networks. People have been hearing about it. And that has spread through town (ph) Baghdad. And although it hasn't been confirmed of yet, we've heard a lot of gunfire which we're presuming may be celebratory gunfire. Very, very intense rounds all around the hotel where we are in the Iraqi capitol coming from every single direction. You could see tracer fire coming from owl directions. And we even had rounds falling outside of our bureau door which is why I have to talk to you on the phone from inside the bureau as opposed to our usual live position on the roof of the hotel.

Now, all we know for the time being, Miles, is that four bodies were pulled out of the house in Mosul that was believed to have been hiding Uday and Qusay Saddam Hussein. Only two of the bodies seem to have been vaguely identified. One seems to be a teenage boy, according to senior Pentagon officials. The other body appears to be that of a bodyguard, they say.

Again, they're still trying to fine out whether or not the two other bodies were those of Uday and Qusay Saddam Hussein -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Rym, just try to clarify for me. I know it's difficult from where you are, particularly, since you've had to take cover, but does it appear to be celebratory gunfiring in Baghdad?

BRAHIMI: It definitely appears to be that. I can't confirm that 100 percent because, as you mention, it was so intense we had to be pulled off. We really can't stay outside because it is very dangerous, and especially the intensity of the rounds, it was one after the other. It does appear to be celebratory.

You know in this part of the world, some areas, weddings are celebrated with often gunfire. A lot of happy events also celebrated that way. So it wouldn't be astonishing.

And you know, just last week there was a rumor that Saddam Hussein himself may have been killed. Well there was a lot of celebratory gunfire at that point and it lasted just 15 minutes.

Now this has been going on for more than half an hour now. It's been relentless. And so it wouldn't be surprising at all that word may have spread out and people now believe, although some of them were still very cautious, that this may be the case that Saddam Hussein's two sons may be dead and they are celebrating -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, as long as we're at this point down the road of speculation, suggest for just a moment, what happens on the day after there is confirmation, if, in fact, it comes that the two sons have been killed? Does that radically change the dynamic for the U.S. forces are there in Iraq?

BRAHIMI: It might definitely change the dynamic to a certain extent. Radically, I'm not sure. They might have to find or arrest or capture Saddam Hussein for that to happen.

But when you talk to people here in the streets, and I had the opportunity to talking to people here, Miles, a little before this huge outburst of gunfire, and many of them were holding their breaths, they were saying, My God, that would be fantastic, but we just dare not believe it. And we want to see confirmation. We want to see proof. Either a dead body or see them in jail, because until we see that, we will be very, very worried.

And there is a sense that there has been a lot of people that still feel intimidated. And a lot of people who do not dare maybe denounce acts of violence by suspected members of the remnants of the Ba'ath Party regime because Uday, Qusay and Saddam Hussein are still alive. So it definitely might turn things around to a certain extent for the U.S. coalition forces here -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: But absent the capture or killing of Saddam Hussein, there still is that element of the possibility that he might somehow come into play in the future, thus the possibility that there will be -- that will at least provide some sort of feeling of support for these supporters.

BRAHIMI: Well, exactly. You know, when you talk to people, again, that feeling was until a couple of days ago I was talking to people and quite a few people, although now there's a lot -- the atmosphere is very different to what it used to be, there is still a lot of people who are afraid to talk on camera because they are afraid that they will be intimidated, they are afraid their face will be seen on camera. And some people, remnants from the Ba'ath Party regime will come and tell them, What did you do and threaten them.

There has been a few threats of the kind. I even remember shortly after the war, Miles, I used to know one of the assistants of Uday Hussein, the eldest son of Saddam Hussein, and he had a lot of interesting anecdotes to tell me. But he refused to say anything on camera. He said, Until I know that Uday has been captured and the rest of the family, I won't be able to do that -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Rym Brahimi undercover in Baghdad. Stay safe there, you and the rest of the people there. And keep us posted as to what is going on. And what appears to be celebratory gunfire on the assumption that what we're hearing thus far is true. That U.S. forces have, in fact, killed the two sons of Saddam Hussein. That confirmation still awaits us. If, in fact, it will come, but the minute we hear we're going to let you know about it to be sure.


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