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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Press Conference Announcing Hussein's Capture

Aired December 14, 2003 - 07:00   ET

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

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN ANCHOR: Barbara, we see the room where the news conference is going to take place. Of course, you can't set your clock by these things. Oftentimes, they spend some time tweaking, of course, those comments that they are going to make to indeed the entire world, as they wait to find out if indeed Saddam Hussein has been captured.
But Barbara, tell us from what you know from what the military has said, how did they expect this would play out, if indeed they were able to corner Saddam Hussein and some of his most loyal followers? This is someone very arrogant, someone who has led this nation for close to 30 years. Did they expect his end would come with a whimper, rather than a bang?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Sean, that is a key question that the U.S. intelligence community's going to be looking this morning. Very key. How did all of this go down? Was it purely a raid? What was the intelligence and who gave them that intelligence?

There are a couple of scenarios that have heard recently that caused the military some considerable concern. Now if someone turns Saddam Hussein in just for the reward money, that's pretty clean and simple. But if he was turned in by rivals seeking to gain power in Iraq, in the insurgency movement, and they simply decided to give up Saddam Hussein and hand him over, that is something that's going to cause the military and the intelligence community some concern. They want to know that the turnover of Saddam Hussein or the capture of Saddam Hussein, rather, is not really some effort by some alternative insurgency group or some type of opposition group to gain further power in the insurgency movement.

This is a direct scenario that we have recently heard from senior military officials. So maybe someone just turning him over for the reward money is not as of great concern as if there is some hidden power struggle behind all of this in the opposition in Iraq. And somebody decided to seize power by turning in Saddam.

CALLEBS: Yes...

STARR: That's something they're going to look at.

CALLEBS: ...we should talk about that $25 million, because that is going to be something that people look at, as this day goes on. And Barbara, this may be a somewhat unfair question, but tell us what you think is going to happen once this news conference begins in Baghdad?

Could General Sanchez be the one who tells the world that Saddam Hussein has been captured? Or do you expect that this is going to come from President Bush?

STARR: You're right, Sean, that is an unfair question. I have absolutely no idea. I'm sitting here watching just like everybody else. But it is interesting, so far, that the first scheduled word on any of this is going to come out of Baghdad.

That may be a signal, if you will, that the Bush administration is trying to keep all of this within Iraq, trying to give some further legitimacy, if you will, to the Iraqi governing council, make this an Iraqi issue. Because of course, one of the key things now to be decided is what will happen to Saddam Hussein? Will he be turned over to the Iraqis for some of tribunal? Other Iraqi leaders are expected to face trial in Iraq by Iraqi courts and Iraqi judges. So it would be a real exception if the U.S. were now to take Saddam Hussein into custody.

So it may be somewhat of a fashioning by the administration of trying to keep this as an Iraqi issue within Iraq and show the world that Iraqi leaders in the governing council can take further steps to handle their own problems within that country.

CALLEBS: Well, and how do you keep a lid on a story like this? This apparently went down 7:00 last night in Baghdad time. And at about 11:30, we've seen the exclusive pictures of the troops coming back from that raid, but how do you sit on something like this and word not leak out?

We saw Satinder Bindra in the streets of Baghdad just a short while ago with a spontaneous street celebrations going on?

STARR: Well, you know, there have been literally dozens of raids over the last several weeks, if not more than that. All aimed at the possibility of getting Saddam Hussein. We have all been down this road, this reporting road so many times in the last several weeks and months with the military believing they were close to him, that they were just hours behind him.

We heard that out of the military several weeks ago. So it has become a case, I think, of as Don Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense says you don't have him until you have him. You know, I think at this point, people knew that they're in Baghdad. Journalists knew. Other military officials certainly knew that there was a very serious raid going on in the Tikrit area, that there had been some hope that they would capture high valued targets. But they had been hopeful many, many times before, and had not captured Saddam Hussein.

So we'll also be waiting to see exactly what that intelligence was that led them to this specific location at this time and how it was that they got there quickly enough so that Saddam Hussein did not escape them, as he apparently had so many times before.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And Barbara, you also mentioned some of the other high value targets. Ibrahim al-Dhuri, as a matter of fact, is one name that has come up quite a bit, second hand to Saddam Hussein. Any indication at this point of these who these are other people? We are hearing that other people were captured at the same time? Any indication if in fact this could be one of the other people?

STARR: No, not at this time. We don't know. And you're quite right, Heidi, Izat Ibrahim is -- if Saddam is number on the short list here, Izat Ibrahim is certainly number two. There had been considerable intelligence and considerable concern that he was some of the organizing factor behind some of the attacks on coalition forces and on Iraqi civilian targets. He is someone the U.S. military urgently wants to take into custody.

But it's another case, as so many people have already commented this morning, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the capture possibly of Izat Ibrahim in the near future, it's highly questionable whether at this point that is going to make a real difference to the violence and the attacks on both coalition and Iraqi forces.

The feeling in Iraq at this point is that the opposition is in cells, is in dispersed cells around the country, that they don't necessarily take their orders directly from a central organization. So capturing Saddam Hussein may, in the short run, be a big hype for the U.S. military. Not clear that it's going to make a substantive difference on the ground.

CALLEBS: OK, Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent in our Washington bureau. We're seeing some movement going on inside the briefing room where the news conference is scheduled to begin shortly.

Bringing us up to date, quickly taking stock of things, Saddam Hussein has apparently been captured. It happened some time overnight by U.S. led coalition troops. He apparently was captured in a storeroom without a fight. And now, the big question, what is going to happen next? Heidi?

COLLINS: Of course we are watching this -- a bit of video coming into us from Baghdad, waiting to hear from Central Command. This is a regularly scheduled news conference, although we do expect to hear from General Ricardo Sanchez about the events of the day or overnight, if you will, and wondering still at this time of whether or not it will be the announcement of Saddam Hussein being captured by coalition forces.

To hear more about all of this, we turn now to Dana Bash standing by in Washington, D.C. with the very latest from there.

Good morning, once again, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi. And we are told by a senior administration official that the president was informed yesterday afternoon that Saturday afternoon by the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that a raid in Tikrit had taken place. That, of course, was late at night Baghdad time, and that they were fairly competent, although they certainly had not confirmed yet that in fact Saddam Hussein was captured in that raid.

And we're told that the president has been certainly kept informed about this, about what they were learning from the various tests, including DNA tests of this person who they believe to be Saddam Hussein throughout the night informed about the latest information that they have, even as late as this morning.

Now Heidi, we are expecting to see the president at some point this morning, because he's going to church. We are not, at this point, expecting him to make any statements or announcements at that time, but certainly, as you can imagine, he will be asked questions as much as possible by reporters, who will be outside the church.

We are still awaiting to see what exactly will play out here at the White House, to see if President Bush will make a formal statement. That, as far as the senior official I talked to just a short while ago is also being worked out as they gather more information about what exactly did take place and what exactly they do know. But they are certainly very confident. They say signs are very positive that the man who they have in custody is in fact Saddam Hussein -- Heidi?

COLLINS: What an incredibly interesting journey, a personal envoy of President Bush's envoy, James Baker, will now have this week if in fact this information is true about Saddam Hussein. Think this will change things much for his tour?

BASH: Well, that's a very good question. He, of course, is supposed to leave tomorrow, that's Monday, to go around the world to various capitals to ask world leaders to forgive Iraq of its debt. And that is a very good question. It certainly could have an impact.

But the other interesting question is the impact it will have on this president, of course, and the perception of how things are going on the ground in Iraq. You remember, of course, that when he went to Baghdad on the ground there for just 2.5 hours during Thanksgiving, that he, of course, spoke to the U.S. troops, but he said there the same thing he said over and over again, which is that the regime of Saddam Hussein is no more, and that the people of Iraq are free. And that is something that he has certainly not said by accident over and over again, because they have very much felt that part of the -- major part of the insurgency going on in Iraq is because of Saddam Hussein and that the fear on the ground in Iraq is the fear that Saddam Hussein is still out there.

So this is certainly -- it can't be underestimated how big this would be for the administration, not only in terms of the perception of how it's going, but certainly they would hope in terms of the reality on the ground. But it's obviously too early to tell what that would be -- Heidi?

CALLEBS: Well, Dana, this is Sean Callebs. One thing we have to say, the president has certainly stuck to his guns, despite a world of criticism. I'm sure that he and the administration wishes this would have happened a few weeks ago before his trip to Europe, but Tony Blair this morning saying he very much welcomes the capture of Saddam Hussein, and also going on to pay tribute to the work of coalition intelligence and the military forces in capturing him.

Clearly, the administration had braced for this day. What had they said and what do you think this is going to mean in the future as the U.S. goes around, trying to get countries to forgive their against Iraq, and at the same time, sort of freezing out nations that didn't take part in this coalition in terms of the lucrative rebuilding efforts?

BASH: Well, I think what this will mean will depend largely on, sort of, how things play out over the next few hours, over the next few days, and the effect that it will have on the ground. And here we see, Paul Bremer coming up to the microphone. So let's take a listen.

PAUL BREMER, U.S. CIVIL ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: Ladies and gentlemen, we got him.

(APPLAUSE)

Saddam Hussein was captured Saturday, December 13, at about 8:30 p.m. local in a cellar in the town of Adwar, which is about 15 kilometers south of Tikrit.

Before Dr. Pachachi, who is the acting president of the Governing Council, and Lieutenant General Sanchez speak, I want to say a few words to the people of Iraq.

This is a great day in Iraq's history. For decades, hundreds of thousands of you suffered at the hands of this cruel man. For decades, Saddam Hussein divided you citizens against each other. For decades, he threatened and attacked your neighbors. Those days are over forever.

Now it is time to look to the future, to your future of hope, to a future of reconciliation.

Iraq's future, your future, has never been more full of hope. The tyrant is a prisoner. The economy is moving forward. You have before you the prospect of a sovereign government in a few months.

With the arrest of Saddam Hussein, there is a new opportunity for the members of the former regime, whether military or civilian, to end their bitter opposition. Let them now come forward in a spirit of reconciliation and hope, lay down their arms, and join you, their fellow citizens, in the task of building the new Iraq.

Now is the time for all Iraqis, Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis, Shiaa, Christian and Turkaman, to build a prosperous, democratic Iraq at peace with itself and with its neighbors.

Dr. Pachaci?

ADNAN PACHACHI, IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL (through translator): ... a future of reconciliation so that all Iraqis could focus all their efforts to build the new Iraq, the Iraq of liberty and freedom. I am pleased to announce to you on behalf of the Governing Council that we are moving on the way with our efforts to achieve sovereignty and authority in the proper allotted time, so that Iraq could be returning to the international arena.

And thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, U.S. ARMY: Good afternoon to all of you here. And good morning to all of our fellow Americans.

I'm going to give a short statement, and then I will answer a few questions.

Today is a great day for the Iraqi people and for the coalition.

Last night, at approximately 8:00 p.m. local, forces from the 4th Infantry Division, commanded by Major General Ray Odierno, together with coalition special operations forces, conducted Operation Red Dawn to capture the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

This was done during a cordon and search operation at a remote farmhouse near the city of Tikrit. There were no injuries, and in fact not a single shot was fired. Saddam Hussein, the captive, has been talkative and is being cooperative.

At this time, I would like to provide you with a brief overview of the operation that led to his capture.

For orientation purposes, this is a general map of the region showing western Iraq, the location of the city of Tikrit and the location of the town of Adwar, in the vicinity of which Saddam Hussein was captured.

For the last several months, a combination of human-intelligence tips, exceptional intelligence analytical efforts and detainee interrogations narrowed down the activities of Saddam Hussein. This effort led us to conduct this raid last night on this rural farmhouse where we apprehended Saddam.

At about 10:50 yesterday, we received intelligence on the possible whereabouts of Saddam Hussein. Two likely locations were identified near the town of Adwar, and for operational purposes these locations were identified as Wolverine One and Wolverine Two.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team from the 4th Infantry Division was assigned the mission to kill or capture Saddam Hussein. The forces involved approximately 600 soldiers from the Raider Brigade (ph), the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 4th, led by Colonel Jim Hickey (ph). The force included cavalry, engineers, artillery, aviation and special operations forces.

At about 18:00 last night, under the cover of darkness and with lightning speed, the Raider Brigade's (ph) forces were positioned and began movement toward the objectives northwest of Adwar.

At about 20:00, coalition forces assaulted the two objectives, but initially did not find the target. As a result, the 1st Brigade Combat Team elected to cordon the area and begin an intensive search. Coalition forces subsequently found a suspicious location to the northwest of Wolverine Two.

The area is a small, walled compound with a metal lean-to structure, a mud hut, and during the search a spider hole was detected. The spider hole's entrance was camouflaged with bricks and dirt. After uncovering the spider hole, a search was conducted and Saddam Hussein was found hiding at the bottom of the hole. The spider hole is about six to eight feet deep and allows enough space for a person to lie down inside of it.

Saddam was captured without resistance.

At about 21:15 last night, Saddam Hussein was moved to a secure area, and a further search of the hole and surrounding area was conducted. Results from the raid include confiscation of two AK- 47s, a pistol, 750,000 U.S. dollars in $100 denominations, and a white and orange taxi (ph).

Two other Iraqis affiliated with Saddam Hussein were also detained.

Saddam Hussein is currently under coalition custody and at an undisclosed location.

At this time, I'd like to show you a short video.

Roll the video, please.

What you see here is a short clip of the hole where Saddam Hussein was found. This is the air vent and a fan, a cross (ph) fan, that had been built into the hole to allow him to remain underground.

This is Saddam as he was being given his medical examination today.

(SHOUTS AND CHEERS FROM IRAQI MEDIA)

Saddam's medical examination proved that he had no injuries and he is in good health.

(SHOUTS AND CHEERS FROM IRAQI MEDIA)

What we will see next is a picture of Saddam Hussein at the time he was captured on your left. And on your right is Saddam Hussein after he was shaved.

Next slide. And here you see Saddam, a historical picture, and with him today on my left.

The capture of Saddam Hussein is a defining moment in the new Iraq. I expect that the detention of Saddam Hussein will be regarded as the beginning of reconciliation for the people of Iraq and as a sign of Iraq's rebirth.

Just as importantly, this success brings closure to the Iraqi people. We now have final resolution. Saddam Hussein will never return to a position of power from which he can punish, terrorize, intimidate and exploit the Iraqi people, as he did for more than 35 years. The chapter of Iraq's history that was filled with Saddam Hussein's reign of terror is now closed forever.

I will now take a few questions.

SANCHEZ: Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: It was announced when the war crimes tribunal was formed earlier this week that any suspects would be turned over to Iraqi custody. Do you have plans to do that? And under what conditions? Do certain conditions have to be available in Iraqi prisons before you will hand Saddam over to Iraqis?

SANCHEZ: Ma'am, at this point, that has not been determined. We continue to process Saddam at this point in time. And those issues will be resolved in the near future.

QUESTION (through translator): Regarding Saddam Hussein, how will you be treating him? Is it going to possible that you're going to show him on television? When are we going to see an Iraqi government, a unified Iraqi government, that will rule Iraq without oversight by anyone else? Thank you.

PACHACHI (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Iraq in the transitional period. And before the end of June, there will be an Iraqi government with comprehensive sovereignty to rule Iraq with total independence.

This issue will be discussed further in the future, and there is a special tribunal established for putting to trial those who have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. And we will see how it will deal with Saddam Hussein.

I would like to repeat that I will call upon the Governing Council to declare today as a national day, as a holiday for all Iraqis, to be announced as the official independence day of Iraq.

QUESTION (through translator): In the name of God, the most gracious and merciful, this rejoicing puts me in grave terror of the current situation. I am Iraqi, I am Iraqi civilian, and I worry about where we stand, about where the Iraqi people stand. This is where my question comes.

The government of Saddam was a government that people were jealous of. How will the punishment of Saddam be carried out? The government of Saddam was a government which carried out several crimes against its people. And this new government is a government that will rule against those criminals. In your opinion, have the operations of the coalition forces ended as a result of the capture of Saddam Hussein?

SANCHEZ: Are the operations against the coalition forces going to be over after the arrest of Saddam Hussein? We have repeatedly stated that this is a critical moment in the history of the county, in the history of our attempt to bring security and stability to Iraq. But we do not expect at this point in time that we will have a complete elimination of those attacks.

I believe that those will continue for some time. But with the cooperation of all of the Iraqi people and our coalition, I believe that we are now much closer to a safe, secure environment here in the country.

QUESTION: Can you tell me exactly what Saddam Hussein said when he was captured, what he has been saying since, the state of his medical condition and how long he had been there?

SANCHEZ: No, at this point, I couldn't tell you that.

QUESTION: We're wondering if anyone has come forward to collect any reward money for the capture. And if you could just give us an idea of how he was able to elude capture for so long, and maybe how long he might have spent in this location.

SANCHEZ: No idea how long he had been at this location. How we was able to elude capture, I think this will come out as we conduct our follow-on inquiries in the integrations.

QUESTION: Reward?

SANCHEZ: No, I couldn't give you any further information on the reward.

QUESTION: Can you give us any more information about the other two people who were captured with him?

SANCHEZ: No, I do not have positive ID on those other two individuals.

QUESTION: You said he's cooperating. Does that mean that he's likely to give any kind of statement to his followers to desist? Are you asking him to do that or anything along those lines?

SANCHEZ: No, we have not done that at this point in time. But he was cooperative during the process of being brought into our detention facilities and in the process of being given his medical examinations last night.

QUESTION (through translator): Simply the joy of this has occupied my mind, and it's difficult for me to create a question. And what I have to say is that this joy has made us happier than ever for a new beginning. That's all I have to say.

SANCHEZ: Thank you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SANCHEZ: The question is whether there was any hardware or written documents that were confiscated at the time that we arrested Saddam Hussein. The answer is that the site continues to be exploited at this time. And as the information becomes available, we'll communicate that to the people.

SANCHEZ: All the way in the back. Sir?

QUESTION (through translator): If we find out that the health of the Saddam Hussein does not allow for his trial, are you going to postpone his appearance before a court?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As General Sanchez in answer to an earlier question, the determination about how and when Saddam would face justice, and he will face justice, is a question that still remains before us.

QUESTION: I want to know if it's possible -- something about the possibility that Saddam Hussein had to run the guerrilla from that -- on the ground.

SANCHEZ: I'm sorry. I didn't understand.

QUESTION: If it was really possible that he was leading the guerrilla from this hole underground that we have seen in the video.

SANCHEZ: At this point, we have not been able to determine that. Once again, some of that information, hopefully, will come out during the integration processes.

QUESTION (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Now you have Saddam Hussein in custody. Are you going to be able to transfer him to the Iraqi special tribunal?

SANCHEZ: I think as we answered a couple times now, that's still to be determined, as the case progresses. Undetermined at this point.

QUESTION (through translator): This is a great day of the new democratic Iraq. Today we represent the gratitude and the great affection and love for our brothers who helped us in the coalition, to our dear brother, his excellency, Ambassador Bremer, for all the great efforts and arresting this criminal of the mass-grave era, Saddam Hussein.

My question to the Governing Council, after arresting this monster, what are you going to give to the people of Iraq?

The Iraqis deserve more help and assistance. We need Iraq to be an Iraq of peace and love. We want from you and the coalition that your efforts will be achieved and these promises will be fulfilled.

PACHACHI (through translator): We are at the service of the people of Iraq. We will expend all our efforts to present such services among which the preparation for the transitional period whereby Iraq will have comprehensive sovereignty and will administer the affairs of the country in full freedom.

And we will work to conduct elections, general elections, and provide a civilized constitution for the people of Iraq. And it will be given to the people of Iraq on a referendum, and after approving and ratifying such constitution there will be legitimate government for Iraq. This is our focus. QUESTION: Can you please elaborate a little further on the information that you received yesterday morning that led to his capture (UNINTELLIGIBLE), whether he had been in a house, living in the vicinity? Any further details on that, please?

SANCHEZ: No, we don't have any further details on the amount of time that he had been living in that area.

And in terms of how and where and when the intelligence came from, we just received the intelligence, we communicated it to the division and the brigade commander, and in a matter of literally a couple of hours, they responded. The brigade responded within a matter of about an hour and a half to position those forces and execute...

QUESTION: Was it a tip?

SANCHEZ: It was intelligence. It was intelligence, actionable intelligence that was determined based on the analysts that had been working it for some time. It was great analytical work.

QUESTION: General, when are you going to be meeting with the captive, if you haven't already?

And can you tell us, Mr. Bremer, the progression of phone calls you made once you were told that Saddam Hussein had been captured?

SANCHEZ: In terms of a formal meeting with Saddam Hussein, at this point I do not have one planned. But I was with him when he was brought in last night and through the positive-identification process.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SANCHEZ: No, not directly, ma'am.

Yes, sir?

Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. There was a portion for the ambassador.

BREMER: I think I'll leave for a later date the minute-by-minute activities of the last 14 or 15 hours, but you can be sure it was pretty busy.

(LAUGHTER)

SANCHEZ: Just a little bit of sleep last night.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION (through translator): The forces (ph) said that the DNA test was conducted after the arrest. Do you confirm this? And when are you going to expose him for TV screening?

SANCHEZ: That there was a -- I'm sorry. Please clarify the first part. QUESTION (through translator): DNA, sir.

SANCHEZ: Oh, a DNA test? Yes, OK. We are in the process of doing more conclusive tests on the identification, but we are sure, as you all saw, that we do have Saddam Hussein. And we did get positive identification on him from some of our other detainees.

Yes, sir, in the back?

QUESTION (through translator): After the arrest of Saddam Hussein, do you feel there is a need to keep Saddam Hussein or removing him to outside Iraq? Is it possible that you show us the video again? Thank you.

SANCHEZ: At this point in time, we will continue to hold him in an undisclosed location.

Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: I would like to ask Ambassador Bremer, has he seen Mr. Hussein? Were you both together at that time last night when he was brought in?

BREMER: No, I've not seen him yet.

QUESTION (through translator): Do you believe that the arrest of Saddam Hussein will lead you to the arrests of the other officials, or are you going to stop there?

SANCHEZ: The question is whether I'm going to stop now. Of course not.

(LAUGHTER)

No, of course not. We're going to go ahead. We still have a lot of work to do, in terms of identifying some of the former regime elements that are still operating in the country, that are still creating havoc and attacking the Iraqi people.

SANCHEZ: And we will continue to hunt them down, just the way that we've been persistent with Saddam Hussein.

And as I've told everybody here in my press conferences, that is a mission that's been assigned to us. It's a mission that we pay attention to every single day. And we will not slack off until we, in fact, have brought security and stability to the country.

Yes, ma'am, in the back?

QUESTION: General Sanchez, when you saw Saddam Hussein, what were your impressions of him? Was he surprised, angry, hungry, shocked?

SANCHEZ: I think it was a cooperative posture that he was presenting to us; tired -- he was a tired man and, also, I think, a man resigned to his fate. All the way in the back?

QUESTION: Do you expect any increasing attacks during the following days, as some sort of retaliation for Saddam's arrest? And do you think that today's bombing in Khalidiyah (ph) was this kind of attack?

SANCHEZ: Yes, I think everyone knows that there was a bomb attack in Khalidiyah (ph) that killed 20 Iraqis and wounded -- oh, correction -- wounded 20 and killed 10 in a continuation of the attack on the people, the country by these former regime elements and terrorists.

And do I expect an increase in retaliation? I don't know. I couldn't answer that. But I'll tell you that we are prepared, and we'll defeat those elements if they choose to attack us at that point -- at any point in time.

Yes, sir, right here?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SANCHEZ: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your microphone, please?

QUESTION: I was just wondering if the president gave a memorable reaction when he was informed via (ph) the phone that Saddam Hussein has been arrested.

BREMER: I think you should direct those questions to the White House.

SANCHEZ: In the back, sir?

QUESTION (through translator): These TV channels said that his wife, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), has led coalition forces to the arrest. What is the veracity of this report?

SANCHEZ: Rumors.

Next?

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) take to investigate Saddam Hussein and interrogate him?

SANCHEZ: When will we investigate Saddam and when will interrogate him? Is that the question, sir? How long?

As long as it takes for us to get the information we need.

QUESTION (through translator): My question is, we knew that capital punishment was suspended in Iraq. Will it be possible to sentence Saddam to capital punishment, especially since the court will be -- or is the court going to be open to the public or not? PACHACHI (through translator): This is an issue that we'll be left for special tribunal. But I would like to assure (ph) you all that the court will be open and just (ph), and it will be possible for all accused defendants to have attorneys. It will not be like the courts that was sentencing the ones who opposed the former regime that would sentence and excuse (ph) within minutes.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what Saddam Hussein was doing when your troops arrived? And secondly, does this mean you're going to leave the country quicker than expected, now that you've captured Saddam?

SANCHEZ: Am I going to leave quicker? We're going to leave whenever it's time for us to leave after we've accomplished the mission that we've been assigned, and that's when we bring security and stability to this country.

In terms of what was Saddam doing, he was hiding. That's what he was doing at the time we found him, trying to evade our capture.

Thank you all very much. I believe that was the last question.

And God bless America.

(APPLAUSE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. That was Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, clearly pleased. He says simply, "We are sure -- we are sure we do have Saddam Hussein." "The tyrant," Ambassador Paul Bremer says, "the tyrant is a prisoner."

Good news for the U.S. and its coalition partners, as the United States troops from the 4th Infantry Division, backed up by Special Operations Forces, go and capture Saddam Hussein last night near his home, his hometown of Tikrit. Not in Tikrit, in a farmhouse -- in a hole in a farmhouse, we are told. Not one shot was fired in this carefully laid out operation.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is here in our Washington studio.

Barbara, you were listening very, very closely to the details of this capture. It's been a long time. It didn't happen just Sunday morning. It happened Saturday night Iraq time.

STARR: Indeed, Wolf. And perhaps the most astounding thing is, at the end of the day, Saddam Hussein, the man who lived in guilt (ph) palaces, dozens of them all over his country, was found in the bottom of a hole in the dirt, hiding when U.S. forces finally encircled him and captured him. This, by all accounts from what we've heard this morning, was a classic U.S. military operation to go after a high- value target.

About 600 soldiers total from the 4th Infantry Division, which has responsibility for that area around Tikrit, plus Special Forces, as General Sanchez said. It included cavalry, engineers, artillery, aviation and Special Operations. So clearly, the conventional forces were going in, encircling the area. Special Forces then going in and actually capturing him.

He put up no resistance, not a shot fired. They basically plucked him out of a hole in the ground.

BLITZER: Ken Pollack is also here, our analyst from the Brookings Institution.

Ken, according to General Sanchez, Saddam Hussein is cooperating and he's talkative. What does that say to you?

KENNETH POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: Well, it says that we completely surprised him. He's probably in a state of shock. Look, no one knows how -- or no one could predict how Saddam Hussein was going to act at this moment because it had never happened before. This is certainly not something that Saddam had experienced in his life, and certainly not something we had seen from Saddam Hussein over the last 35 years. And I think it's clear, he was not expecting to be caught on this particular evening.

BLITZER: And Barbara, as we saw the video, the dramatic video of the tongue depressor going in Saddam Hussein's mouth, clearly with a full beard, a beard that showed a lot of gray in that beard, they weren't just checking his tonsils or anything. They were looking for DNA.

STARR: Probably that's exactly what was going on, taking some sort of saliva sample and then doing the DNA testing. But as they said at this presser (ph), they have every reason to believe -- they are convinced this is Saddam Hussein.

They have shown him to other Iraqi captives who have confirmed it. Scars on his body that he was known to have are matched. This clearly is Saddam Hussein.

Perhaps the only question now that we don't know the answer to is, who are the other two people that were captured along with him? Were they other high-value targets, or perhaps just people that were assisting him and protecting him? We'll probably get answers to that in the hours ahead.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by.

Aaron Brown is in New York. He's also joining us in our coverage -- Aaron.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you. Good morning, everyone.

Those pictures you've been looking at of Saddam Hussein will be pieces of video that will be seen for years to come. Not since the fall of the statue back last spring has there been a picture anywhere nearly this dramatic out of Iraq. A man who lived in extraordinary luxury and wealth arrested in a hole in a farmhouse not far from Tikrit.

Nic Robertson is in Tikrit this morning.

Nic, obviously the word has spread now there. This news conference was carried on Iraqi media. In that particular place, a complicated part of the country, Tikrit, where Saddam has many friends and loyalists, what is the reaction this morning?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, it still seems that he does have friends and loyalists, because as we drove into this base, which is the main operating base of the 4th Infantry Division, who were involved in Saddam Hussein's capture, it is one of his former presidential palaces, a large palace, and it dominates the town of Tikrit. But as we drove in here, unlike what we were hearing in Baghdad, which was celebrations and gun shots being fired on the streets, the streets here were very quiet.

The handful of people who were out on the streets looked downcast. There was no celebration here to be seen.

Now, what we have heard from the soldiers we've talked to here, who in the last 20 hours or so, since this operation took place, have been told not to say anything to the media, they're telling us now that they really can't say anything. But now they know what they've been knowing for the last 20 hours or so, that Saddam Hussein was captured.

What they will tell us now with great smiles on their faces, because this was the base which helped launch that operation, they're telling us with big smiles on their faces, "Happy Christmas." So there really is a very good and strong and happy feeling on this particular day that was one of the prime movers behind this capture -- Aaron.

BROWN: Well, I can only imagine that similar words were spoken at the White House today when the president was told. We're told the president does know.

The resistance, the insurgency, while, in many ways, carried out, the U.S. believes, by people loyal to Saddam has never been simply about Saddam. In your reporting, Nic, do you have a feel for how this capture -- and we can only guess on this at this point -- but how this capture will affect the insurgency?

ROBERTSON: Well, one of the things that's been concerning people lately is that part of this insurgency is a re-growth of Saddam Hussein, sort of intelligence and enforcement networks in Iraq. And that has had the knock-on effect of making a lot of people in Iraq very afraid to come forward to the coalition, particularly in communities in like Tikrit, to wager (ph) their town where Saddam Hussein was just outside of Tikrit.

So it is hoped certainly by the coalition, and certainly by the assessments that we've seen talking to people, that that oppressive fear, that Saddam Hussein's henchmen are still waiting to breathe down people's necks if they talk and work with the coalition, some of that will be lifted. But also, what we have learned here the last few months about the resistance here in Iraq, as they call themselves, the insurgents, the former Saddam Hussein loyalists, members of the Fedayeen, members of his intelligence services, is that they are continuing this operation not because they expect Saddam Hussein to come back to power, but because they want to get what they see is this occupying force.

They want to get the United States and the international coalition out of Iraq. So I think, to a degree, the people of Iraq will feel more liberated in some areas to rat, if you will, on these people, to tell on them and give information. And of course that is a key part in the undoing of any insurgency, is the fact that they cannot operate at will from within that community.

But there will likely remain some staunch holes, pockets of people, who will continue what they see as their struggle as an occupation. So I think, Aaron, in all honesty, there perhaps will be a diminish on some of the attacks. Perhaps some of the money flowing down from the top that we've heard about will go away. But I think really we'll have to wait and see how it really plays out on the ground -- Aaron.

BROWN: We will indeed. Nic, thank you. I'll let you start talking to some people, and we'll get back to you shortly.

For those of you around the country who may just be joining us, the United States Army, the 4th Infantry Division has captured Saddam Hussein not far from his hometown in Tikrit. The former Iraqi dictator, to say he looked disheveled would be an understatement. He was, we are told, resigned to his fate. A man resigned to his fate, a tired man.

These are pictures taken sometime after the capture of doctors doing their examinations. This is taking place at a briefing which just ended a short time ago.

Six hundred U.S. soldiers were involved in the operation. And as we heard the description of it, it was put together in about 90 minutes. Human intelligence and analytical work is the way Lieutenant General Sanchez described it. They moved quickly on two locations, and one of them, they found him.

And that pretty much the way it was. "Ladies and Gentlemen, we got him," said Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator.

Heidi Collins is in Atlanta with us this morning. Heidi, good morning to you.

COLLINS: Good morning to you as well, Aaron. And you know, we watched that news conference so closely, and one of the most poignant moments, I believe, was when the Iraqi journalists themselves stood up and reacted to that news coming from Paul Bremer's lips, saying, "we got him," really incredible news.

And we do have Satinder Bindra. He's standing by in the streets of Baghdad, maybe to give us a little bit more perspective on the reaction of Iraqi people. Satinder, I know you weren't there, but at that news conference, we saw those Iraqi journalists jump to their feet and celebrate, some of them even saying "death to Saddam." What is the pulse there now, that this news has been confirmed, that Saddam Hussein has been captured?

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I was standing on the street just in front of a television set here, Heidi, when news came through and when people first saw Saddam's pictures. As soon as they saw his pictures, people started celebrating, they started dancing, they started yelling. And many people started calling Saddam, quote, "the devil." They say he, quote, "went like a woman." They say they didn't expect him to go without any resistance.

As you can hear just around me, there is a lot of noise here on the street, a lot of cars blaring their horns. And in case you're wondering why I am wearing a helmet, it's because hundreds of people here are firing AK-47s in the air. This is a typical Iraqi way of celebrating. And even though there are scenes of great joy here, I must stress it's a bit dangerous because there are a lot of bullets that are flying in the air.

Now, I also talked to some Iraqis about what this capture means for the ongoing insurgency. One Iraqi summed his views up this way. He said, quote, "game over." Other Iraqis, even though it's perhaps too early to be the defining word on it, suggesting the insurgency, the ongoing insurgency against the Americans will be very weakened. All Iraqis on the street consider this to be a defining and a historical moment in Iraqi history. Back to you, Heidi.

COLLINS: They may perhaps not even know how historical, being that Dr. Adnan Pachachi, member of the Iraqi Governing Council, officially declared this day, December 14, Iraqi Independence Day. Any news on that? The fact that we are seeing some of that in the streets, and they may not even know.

BINDRA: There is definitely a sense here on the streets, Heidi, that Iraq will be a different place starting now. Even as I talk, you can hear the celebratory gunfire going off. People are telling me here on the street a quote, "a new Iraq is being built even as we speak."

One of the biggest fears of Iraqis has been they had no security, and now there is a sense on the street that things are turning, things are turning around for the better. There is a sense and a feeling here that they'll have a better life now. Back to you.

COLLINS: We had mentioned a little bit earlier, Satinder, that for some of these people, this is the first time some of them have come out of their homes. They have been frightened, they have been indoors a lot of times. There were curfews in place. This day is very, very different for them now, coming out on the streets.

BINDRA: Yes, I have noticed over the past two hours, more and more people are filling out into the streets. Let me describe a typical street scene here in Baghdad at the moment. People are distributing sweets even as I stand talking to you live on television, people are just stopping by, shoving candy into my hand. Some people are throwing candy up toward the sky. This is, again, a typical Iraqi way of celebrating. People are stopping traffic, people are getting people off buses and putting candy in their hands.

And just about five or 10 minutes ago, Heidi, a group of about 25 or 30 people carrying a huge banner that read, "congratulations to all Iraqis" started moving down in celebration down the street. So clearly, at least in this district where I am, there is a great sense of joy, of celebration. Perhaps the mood elsewhere in Baghdad, which is a city of five million, is different, or the mood is different in other parts of Iraq, but I can report to you from here that there are huge celebrations going on at the moment. Back to you now.

COLLINS: Satinder, can you tell us anything how these people learned of the news? Have they been watching television? We saw a man with a newspaper moments ago. Any idea what those headlines are reading already?

BINDRA: The people here got their news from a television station, which is just about 30 feet down to my right, and there was about a crowd of about 200 people who had gathered around this television. They were hearing a historic statement, as many put it, by the Americans when it was announced, and as they saw pictures of Saddam Hussein being shown on TV, people started dancing in joy, and many people started yelling "Saddam," quote, "the devil," "Saddam the devil. He's gone." Many people telling us here that he did not fight, they were saying, they expected Saddam Hussein to fight. They started calling him a quote, "woman." They said if he had to go without a fight, he should have surrendered to American forces many, many months ago. Back to you.

COLLINS: All right, Satinder Bindra, thanks so much, live from the streets of a very different Baghdad today. Thanks so very much.

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