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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Saddam Hussein's Sons Killed

Aired July 22, 2003 - 19:00   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us. I'm Anderson Cooper, here in New York. This is a special edition of LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES.
Tonight, possibly the most important U.S. victory in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. U.S. military officials today announced that Saddam's sons, Uday and Qusay, his top deputies in maintaining his grip on power, and the second and third figures on the U.S. most wanted list in Iraq, have been killed. Killed by U.S. troops in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

And a U.S. official tells CNN that Saddam's former personal secretary, now in custody, helped identify the bodies.

America's commander of ground troops in Iraq said Saddam's sons were killed in a firefight that broke out as U.S. troops advanced on a home where the two were hiding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GEN. RICHARD SANCHEZ, COMMANDER OF COALITION GROUND FORCES IN IRAQ: Four persons were killed during that operation and were removed from the building. And we have since confirmed that Uday and Qusay Hussein are among the dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: In just a moment, we are going to talk to the U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer. Earlier tonight, he called this, quote, "a great day for the Iraqi people."

And tonight we're going to look at exactly what this day means for Iraq, for U.S. troops and their mission and for the president.

Right now we want to take you live to Mosul, the scene of today's deadly battle, where senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has been gathering details about what happened today.

Nic, what's the latest?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I can certainly tell you it's been a huge morale boost for the troops I've talked to here from the 101st Airborne, who were involved in the battle to get control of the building behind me and to get Uday and Qusay Hussein.

They say that the gunfight was very, very intense. They say it was at moments like all hell breaking loose, that there was no way that Uday or Qusay could have escaped the building.

An eye witness who lives just across the road from this particular building said that he was awoken, his family was awoken in the morning by the sound of gunfire. They couldn't leave their house. Indeed, part of their house was damaged in the crossfire. They say that there was gunfire coming out of the building, being fired by Qusay and Uday.

They say, as well, that the owner of this particular house had always claimed to have been a cousin of Saddam Hussein. But people around here had doubted that a few years ago, because one of this man's brothers had been arrested by Saddam Hussein's regime, put in prison for 10 years.

However, the man who owned this particular house, according to neighbors, was telling his neighbors just last night that Uday and Qusay had come to his house and that they had huge problems. That's what the eye witnesses here are saying.

And they say as well when bodies were carried out of the building, they thought they could see the body of Uday Hussein, Saddam's eldest son. They say that he appeared to have grown a beard. Certainly that was what these eyewitnesses say. We have no way of verifying that.

The building behind me is still very tightly secured. The reason we have the lights down low is the troops here don't want the lights of our cameras to interfere with their night vision goggles -- Anderson.

COOPER: Nic, I understand four bodies were found in all. Do we know who the two other bodies were?

ROBERTSON: Eyewitnesses here say that one of the bodies was Mustapha, the son of Qusay Saddam Hussein, Saddam Hussein's youngest son. It's not -- it's not known for sure if that's the case.

Some of the eyewitnesses here say they don't know who the fourth body may have been -- Anderson.

COOPER: Nic Robertson on the scene in Mosul, thanks very much tonight.

Now exactly how did today's mission come together? Our Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, has that -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this was a result of a tip from an Iraqi informant, what the U.S. military called a walk-in, a local Iraqi who told the U.S. military last night that he believed Uday and Qusay were holed up in this residence in the northern part of Mosul.

What's not known at this point is what role the $15 million bounty on the head of each of Saddam Hussein's sons might have played in that Iraqi coming forward, whether or not he will actually be awarded part or all of that posted reward. But what is known is the United States is hailing the fact that Iraqis are supporting the U.S., apparently celebrating with celebratory gunfire in Baghdad, and providing information that led to this raid, which resulted in the death of Saddam Hussein's sons.

The U.S. is also hopeful that they'll be able to gain intelligence from this site, things that may be recovered in this house, in this residence, that may lead them closer to Saddam Hussein.

And also send a clear message to the Iraqi people that the U.S. is closing in on the so-called deck of cards, the 55 most wanted Iraqis, and that they are hopeful that this will begin to break the back of the resistance that has been providing almost daily attacks and inflicting daily casualties on U.S. forces -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jamie McIntyre, thanks for that report.

Now of course, the big question is how today's events will affect the future of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Joining us now from Washington is the U.S. administrator in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer. Ambassador, thanks very much for being with us. How significant do you think the deaths are of Uday and Qusay Hussein?

AMBASSADOR PAUL BREMER, U.S. ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: I think this is very significant. It's one of the most significant events since April 9 when the regime fell.

It really has the chance to give impetus to a new dynamic that we noticed three or four weeks ago, of Iraqis beginning to cooperate with our forces, with the Iraqi police, in providing us information about the location of Ba'athist and Fedayeen Saddam. In this case, of course, really big fish that they've turned over to us.

COOPER: So you think this is going to make Iraqis less fearful?

BREMER: I think so. I think this shows the Iraqis that giving us information can lead to dramatic changes, that we're prepared to act on it, and that it can affect their security by basically getting rid of these bad guys. And these two were particularly bad.

COOPER: Yes, all the reports certainly indicate that.

You said you believe Saddam Hussein is alive. Do you believe he was in communication or has been in the last several weeks, in communication with Uday or with Qusay?

BREMER: I think it's probable that they kept a distance between themselves. It's unlikely that three of them would be found in any given place. They probably have means of communicating by couriers, which would be the safest way to do it. But of course, we don't know.

COOPER: Were you surprised that these two sons were found together? BREMER: It's somewhat surprises me. I would have thought they would not have wanted to be together just for security reasons, but there they were.

COOPER: Do you -- I mean I've read also that you don't believe that Saddam Hussein is sort of -- on a daily basis has command and control over the almost daily attacks on U.S. forces. Do you believe that Uday or Qusay had any sort of command and control over some of these ongoing attacks?

BREMER: No. The evidence is so far quite clear that these attacks that are happening are not under central command and control by Uday, Qusay or Saddam. They appear to be basically squad level operations, sometimes just individual assassins, who are out operating pretty much on their own, maybe with some sense of regional control, but there seems to be no centralized control.

COOPER: There have been some today who expressed surprise that these two were found so far in the north, in Mosul, close to Iran, relatively close to Syria. Do you have any information or any thoughts on the idea that they may have been trying to escape to one of those countries?

BREMER: Well, of course, it's possible. We've seen action in this area before. In fact just two days ago we had an attack and an American lost his life in an attack in Mosul. So it's not as if we thought this was all peaceful there.

But most of the attacks against coalition forces, something like four out of five, actually take place in the area of Tikrit down to Baghdad, south of where this is.

COOPER: So does the location of these two in Mosul give you any indication about the potential whereabouts of Saddam Hussein?

BREMER: I don't think so. I think we just have to continue to pursue him in every way we can. We will get him sooner or later.

Meanwhile, of course, we've got another job to do. We've got to get on with improving essential services, as we've been doing in the last few months. We've got to continue the political process, which came to a very important point a week ago with the establishment of the governing council. We need to keep pursuing all of those activities while we continue to hunt for Saddam.

COOPER: As good as this news is, I guess a question a lot of Americans would like to know, especially a lot of parents out there who have sons or daughters in Iraq -- there are some 150,000, 147,000 or so U.S. troops there in the country -- are they safer tonight?

BREMER: I think the fact that we got rid of these guys does in the long run improve our security.

In the short run, it, in fact, may lead to efforts at revenge. Actually we could see an increase in attacks on our forces on the coming days. I certainly hope that doesn't happen, but I think we need to be realistic. There will be some people who will be pretty unhappy that we killed these two guys, some of these renegades we're up against, and they could respond.

COOPER: So you think there's a greater chance now, perhaps, of retribution attacks?

BREMER: It's possible. And I'm sure we will be on high security alert against that possibility.

I think the more important thing that will happen is that Iraqis will now see that it is a good idea to inform us when they have suspicions, when they have information, and we will probably see an increase in the number of informants. That, in turn, will lead to us capturing or killing more of these professional killers. So we will be safer as a result of what happened tonight.

COOPER: There was a $15 million on each of these men. Does this walk-in informant who we heard about today, is he going to get that bounty?

BREMER: Well, he certainly will if he's qualified. That's a matter we'll have to look at here in the days ahead. I think it's wonderful. I hope the reward played a part in this.

COOPER: All right. And finally, are you going to be showing proof of the deaths of these two to the Iraqi people?

BREMER: Well, I think I'm going to let the military answer questions about what will happen next. I understand there are plans for them to continue to brief on the subject and on more of the details of the operation itself. I'm going to leave that to the military.

COOPER: But you do want the Iraqi people, I mean, you want this information disseminated widely?

BREMER: Of course. And I have to say that judging from the reactions that -- I spoke to my office in Baghdad earlier this evening and judging from the reactions in Baghdad the people there know these guys have been killed because there was an outburst of delight, celebratory firing at all 360 degrees, I was told, tracer fire and so forth in the city. So a lot of people already know these guys are dead.

COOPER: All right. Ambassador Paul Bremer, appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

BREMER: Nice to meet you.

COOPER: Well, if it was a great day for Iraqis as ambassador Bremer says, it wasn't too bad for the White House either.

White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux has that side of the story -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it certainly was a great day for the White House, as well.

President Bush briefed throughout the day starting early in the morning by his secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, saying it looks like we got Saddam Hussein's sons. And two hours later saying we've got one knowledgeable source identifying the bodies but still looking for additional confirmation.

And then the Pentagon calling chief of staff Andy Card, in fact, saying yes, it is a go. Card delivered that message to the president. An extraordinary development.

The White House releasing a statement just a short time ago saying, "We were pleased to learn from the Department of Defense of today's action against Uday and Qusay Hussein. Over the period of many years, these two individuals were responsible for countless atrocities committed against the Iraqi people and they can no longer cast a shadow of hate on Iraq."

It's also interesting to note, Anderson, that it's somewhat of a low-keyed reaction, a statement from the White House. That is still because the administration acknowledges there's a lot of work that still needs to be done inside of Iraq. Almost on average one American killed a day there on the ground. Still no weapons of mass destruction. And, of course, the big fish still on the loose is Saddam Hussein -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, it also makes sense that it's low key. All along they have been sort of downplaying the importance of these men still on the loose, so if they were suddenly making a huge statement, it would sort of counteract that.

There was something that happened sort of in the shadow of all this today, regarding the State of the Union address. That controversial, the 16 words. Tell us about it. What happened?

MALVEAUX: Well, there was really an extraordinary admission from the White House. Deputy national security adviser Steve Hadley taking in part responsibility for that flap over the claim that the president made in his State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to abstain uranium from Africa.

Now before all of the credit and the blame, you could say, was put on the CIA for that dubious statement, but today Hadley revealed that there were White House memos -- well, actually the White House revealed there were memos from the CIA that were delivered to Hadley, as well as Dr. Rice, national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that, in fact, warned against that statement, that claim from the British, that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from Africa.

This was in regard to the Cincinnati speech in October, speech, saying don't use it. It was taken out of that speech in Cincinnati, but put back in the State of the Union address three and a half months later.

Why did that happen? Hadley said he did not recall receiving those memos at the time that he was working in the speech writing process for the State of the Union.

He takes full responsibility. He told the president that he did. We are told that the president had a conversation with him. He's putting it behind him. He's satisfied with the explanation. He wants to move on -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. We'll see if it ends there. Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much.

The U.S. commander of ground troops in Iraq said today that Iraqis who saw CNN reporting that Uday and Qusay were dead might well be celebrating tonight.

For reaction on the streets of Baghdad we turn to CNN's Rym Brahimi, live in Baghdad -- Rym.

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, indeed.

Actually, even before Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez had confirmed that in the raid in that house in Mosul they had killed Qusay and Uday Saddam Hussein, people were celebrating. At least, that's what it seemed like, that's what it sounded like, although it was pretty scary.

There was gunfire all around, Anderson. All behind me you could even see tracer fire. And it was coming from various directions. It was nonstop for about an hour or so.

Now that's very typical of the region, if you will, in many happy occasions like weddings, for instance, a few people will shoot up in the air a bit of gunfire here and there.

Last week there was a rumor that Saddam Hussein had been killed and there was lot of gunfire, celebratory gunfire then. But not half as much as what we saw a few hours ago here in Baghdad.

And that, of course, Anderson, as you can imagine, because Uday and Qusay Saddam Hussein were very much hated by Iraqis -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, and I've read just some extraordinary accounts of rapes by Uday, tortures by Qusay. They really were hated by just about everyone in Baghdad, weren't they?

BRAHIMI: They were hated, Anderson, and they were feared very much.

You know, as some Iraqis I spoke to just a few hours ago, again, were saying, a pretty girl couldn't walk in the streets of Baghdad. Because if she was spotted by Uday on one of his sort of drives through Baghdad that he used to do in his car he took fancy to her, well, she would be sent to his residence that afternoon, regardless of whether she wanted to or not, regardless whether she was married or not.

And then there were all these reports of torture that Uday would administer to his athletes. You know, he was in charge of the Olympic committees. And athletes who didn't perform well were tortured in the torture chambers that were beneath the building of the Olympic committee.

As for Qusay, he was maybe less flamboyant, maybe less passionate in his dealings but very cold blooded and said to be just as ruthless and said to be behind the execution of many hundreds of Iraqis -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, it is just remarkable some of the things these two got up to. Rym Brahimi, thanks very much for the update.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All right. Welcome back.

Quite a pair these guys. Sons of Saddam Hussein. One was described as a flamboyant womanizer, the other quiet but ruthless towards his opponents. That really doesn't tell you anything about him.

Uday and Qusay Hussein's grip on Iraq was perhaps more violent than their father's, if you can believe it.

Tim Lister of CNN international offers a glimpse into what made these two guys tick.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TIM LISTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Next to Saddam Hussein himself, Uday and Qusay were the most wanted members of the ousted regime. And for good reason. They played vital roles in supporting their father.

For years, it with the older Uday who seemed to be Saddam's chosen successor. As ruthless as his father, he relished violence and cruelty.

Abn Al-Jihadi (ph) worked as Uday's private and press secretary for 15 years before defecting in 1998.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is so aggressive and everybody knows that one day he killed his father's servant and everybody knows one day that he shoot his uncle, his own uncle.

LISTER: An assassination attempt in 1996 left Uday disabled and on constant medication. By then, his excesses, the violence, sexual aggression and corruption left Qusay, two years his junior, the more trusted son.

The quiet Qusay was more intelligent and cunning than his brother. And as the 1990s progressed he won more power in the security and intelligence operations.

One Iraqi scientist told CNN it was Qusay who spearheaded the effort to hide evidence of Iraq's weapons program.

(AUDIO/VIDEO GAP)

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