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Saddam Hussein May Have Been Captured by Coalition Forces

Aired December 14, 2003 - 05:03   ET


SHIHAB RATTANSI, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to talk to Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon who has some potentially momentous news for us, I believe -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Shihab, let me just underscore that there may have been a huge development today in Iraq. And let me underscore it may have happened today. There -- here's what we do know: there was a raid today in Tikrit conducted by the U.S. military based on intelligence that Saddam Hussein was at a particular location. According to U.S. officials, a number of individuals were captured in that raid and one of them may have been Saddam Hussein. In fact, they believe that one of them is Saddam Hussein. But U.S. officials are being very cautious. They are not yet making an announcement or making a claim that they've captured Saddam Hussein because they want to confirm very carefully the identity of this individual that they have in custody.

But again, after a raid this morning in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, U.S. officials believe they may have captured Saddam Hussein. The raid was based on intelligence that he was there. They believe that among the individuals is an individual who is Saddam Hussein. But they are being very, very cautious.

One official said to me this morning that everything that I just told you was accurate but he said, "I just want to caution you, we're just sorting it out. We don't know for sure what we have." So again, it appears that there's a high likelihood that the U.S. military may have captured Saddam Hussein in this raid. He was the target of the raid in Tikrit conducted by the U.S. military and is believed to be among those captured. No announcement has been made and no confirmation, no absolute confirmation has been given even to the U.S. military that the person they have in custody, who they believe is Saddam, is in fact Saddam. So we're going to see, I think, for a period of a couple of hours here, some extreme caution by the United States before they make any sort of announcement about the result of this raid in Tikrit this morning -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Yes, and I was going to ask that, do we have an indication of when any official announcement might be made one way or another?

MCINTYRE: We don't at this point. I would say I think it's probably going to be at least a matter of hours. And the last thing that the U.S. wants to do is make an announcement of this kind and then discover after the fact to its embarrassment that it has the wrong person. There have been raids in the past in which they thought they captured an individual and it turned out to be somebody else. So they're being very, very cautious, but at the same time, there's a high level of optimism among U.S. officials here in Washington that they may be announcing today sometime that Saddam Hussein is captured.

RATTANSI: But how does the experienced Pentagon -- have gauged this chapter, this excitement? Haven't we had false starts like this since the fall of Baghdad? Is this more than usual or is this -- these sort of alerts been going on all the time, but we just don't usually hear about them?

MCINTYRE: Well, it's more than -- it's obviously more than something routine if I'm talking to U.S. officials at 4:30 in the morning in Washington on a Sunday morning and they're all up. There are a lot of people who have been -- who have gotten the initial report that is positive, that indicates that Saddam Hussein may likely have been captured in this raid. They just -- as understandably you might guess, they want to be extremely cautious about saying absolutely what they have accomplished because that would be a huge psychological lift for the U.S. military. And the U.S. believes it would go a long way for breaking the back of some of the resistance because they think if it's not directed by Saddam Hussein, it is inspired by the fact that he's still around.

RATTANSI: And now -- well, again, on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the fact that we don't know whether Saddam Hussein has been captured, what procedures are in place? What mechanism is in place to deal with his capture if and when it occurs?

MCINTYRE: Well, of course, they've been anticipating this for quite some time. They do have, of course, DNA that they've told us that they can compare in order to make an absolute identification. That was in case there was a killing of the suspect that they needed to confirm. I'm certain they can still use DNA sampling on somebody who is alive. We don't know what condition the individuals are who were captured. And we don't know what is -- what Saddam Hussein's appearance looks like. There have been reports -- they've been really just innumerable intelligence reports about spottings of him. Some have said he lost a lot of weight. Some suggested he had altered his appearance in various ways. So it may be a little difficult to initially confirm this. But the U.S. military certainly has the ability over some period of time to make an absolute identification.

RATTANSI: Jamie, stay with us. I want to bring in our Baghdad bureau chief, Jane Arraf, who's been listening to this breaking news of a possible capture, we don't know for sure, of Saddam Hussein.

Jane, this would be the news, of course, that the coalition has been waiting for.

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: It certainly would, Shihab. And in fact, we're expecting a press conference, a news conference in about two hours. Now, again, as Jamie noted, that we do have to be very cautious about this. This may not be the announcement but we have been told as other journalists have been that there is going to be a news conference here within the Green Zone at the convention center where they have major military and coalition officials speaking in about two hours.

And just another little piece of this -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) our correspondent in Tikrit, Alphonso Van Marsh, last night, actually saw some soldiers come back from a raid and celebrate. They were handing out cigars, handing out coins, obviously, very happy. Now, again, that does mean that they caught Saddam. It simply means that they seem to have caught someone, that celebration would indicate -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Since that raid, have there been other raids in Tikrit as far as we know or would this be the raid that we're discussing if indeed it's confirmed that Saddam Hussein has been captured?

ARRAF: That is a key thing to keep in mind. There are raids going on all the time not just in Tikrit but in almost every area where the U.S. military is continuing to face attacks and continuing to face lawlessness. Now, on an average night, there would be several raids going on at any given time and they may or may not result in different kinds of people being caught. Some of the typical people they've been catching have been what they consider successes would be, for instance, mid-level Fedayeen, those former Saddam fighters, cracking down on cells. A lot of the raids are aimed about and they do detain a lot of people. But the celebratory nature of this one would indicate that it might have been somebody pretty high up -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: And again, help us gauge the information that we're receiving right now given your experience of watching coalition officials, watching the military come back from raids. Does this seem out of the ordinary? Does this seem more than anything you've seen so far?

ARRAF: There's certainly quite a lot more buzz on this one, but we have learned to be very cautious about this because the rumor mill here really spreads beyond your wildest dreams in terms of speed. But the fact that Jamie has pointed out that in Washington we seem to be hearing the same things as -- have been -- we're hearing here although have not been able to confirm. It might point to something being to this, but again, as Jamie said, they still don't know, and we still don't know that even if they have caught a major figure, we still don't know whether it might be Saddam.

And again, we have to remember there are a couple of other people out there that they really do want to catch. One of them is the man who was Saddam's right-hand man, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. And they have been launching just as many raids for him. He's believed to have orchestrated attacks on U.S. forces in the north and they have said in the past that they feel that they've come relatively close to him. But as military officials who actually do these raids, conduct them, and command them, point out, unless you've actually caught the guy, close doesn't count.

RATTANSI: Jane, thank you. Buzz in Baghdad. Buzz in Washington and presumably the buzz is spreading now around the world. And for those of you just joining us, let's return to Jamie McIntyre and get exactly what this buzz is all about. Jamie, just recap for us.

MCINTYRE: Sure, Shihab. Here's what U.S. officials are telling CNN in Washington, that a raid today in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit was based on intelligence that he was at a specific location. During this raid, a number of people were taken into custody by the U.S. military, among them is an individual believed to be Saddam Hussein. But U.S. officials are being extremely cautious, saying they have not confirmed their very strong suspicion that the person they have in custody alive is the former Iraqi leader because obviously it's -- it would be a momentous development if it, in fact, is Saddam Hussein. And they want to be extremely cautious as they sort out exactly who they've captured.

But the initial reports that are coming back to Washington and Iraq -- and again, U.S. government officials getting briefed here at four in the morning, on a Sunday morning, Washington time, indicating this is not just another routine development, is that the initial belief is that Saddam Hussein has been captured in his hometown of Tikrit.

Now, again, U.S. officials are saying they have not confirmed the identity. It's believed that Saddam Hussein had altered his appearance considerably, perhaps losing weight, perhaps changing his hair, perhaps even altering his physical appearance in other ways. And so, it's going to take some time to have an absolute confirmation. And until that point where the United States is not just 90 percent sure but is a 100 percent sure, they will be making no announcement that they have captured Saddam Hussein. But we can tell you that among very senior officials in Washington and among senior military officials, that there is an expectation, a belief, a very optimistic belief that Saddam Hussein has been captured in this raid, and that's why you're seeing some of the celebrating that's going on mixed, again, with the caution that they know that there's always a possibility that this will turn out not to be the case despite what they believe initially.

RATTANSI: All right, Jamie. We're working on strong beliefs and not actual information, I suppose we'll -- we're limited to just going into more of the mechanics of this process.

Jamie, in your considered opinion as a, you know, long-term Pentagon watch and everything, do you think it's a likely assumption that a major announcement would be made by coalition forces in Iraq and not by the president in Washington?

MCINTYRE: Well, it's entirely possible that they would want to have the president make the announcement, and then maybe one reason why they would hold up making any announcement. But also, if they're going to have President Bush make such an announcement, you can bet they want to be absolutely sure. And it's not -- it would not be unreasonable to expect that some considerable length of time might go by before they're willing to confirm what they think they have. It, you know, obviously, would be a major embarrassment to announce that they captured Saddam Hussein only to have to say later that after doing some DNA tests or some other -- using some other means of identification that it was, in fact, not Saddam Hussein. So you're going to see a very, very high level of caution on this all day today until they're absolutely sure of what they have.

RATTANSI: Jamie, we're going to run that tape again from Tikrit that Jane just mentioned, the returning group of U.S. servicemen apparently celebrating after their raid on Tikrit. We don't know whether this had anything to do with what we're talking about, frankly. But Jane did say that these troops were particularly in celebratory mood once they returned.

Jamie, we were talking about the mechanisms that are in place for announcing that Saddam Hussein has been captured. What about trying him? What are the -- what do we know about what would happen if and when -- well, we should say, what if -- Saddam Hussein is captured?

MCINTYRE: Well, at this point, he would be held indefinitely by the United States. At this point, there's no plans to turn him over to any other body. There is talk in Iraq of having a war crimes tribunal that would be handled by the Iraqi government. But at this point he would assume a spot along with the other captured former regime leaders who are being held near the Baghdad airport or at the Baghdad airport for an indefinite amount of time, until the U.S. decides how it wants to deal with Saddam Hussein. But you can bet that they will not be releasing him in any form or fashion.

RATTANSI: All right, Jamie, stay with us.

Jane, our Baghdad bureau chief, is still with us also. And there was hope -- well, there's always been hope that with the capture of Saddam Hussein that at least the backbone of the insurgency against the occupation in Iraq would fizzle at least. Do you think that's true or since the fall of Baghdad having seen a number of very desperate groups fighting against the coalition because -- not necessarily because of their love of Saddam, but because they don't want to be occupied?

ARRAF: Absolutely, Shihab. And that is the very dangerous thing, the fall of Saddam and the intervening time. And we've now had seven months to watch this grow and develop. It has unleashed some forces that have not been seen here before, that are not necessarily connected to Saddam Hussein. And this is partly why it has been so difficult for the U.S. and the coalition to fight this. We have been seeing people who are united -- who are believed to be united in their hatred of Saddam as much as their hatred of Americans. Now, whether Saddam is caught, if he is caught, may not necessarily have a huge impact on the operations. What it would have an impact on is perhaps the sense among some of these Ba'ath Party loyalists, the former fighters, that there is a hope that they could continue to launch these operations and still have that ideal of Saddam Hussein out there. As long as he has not been caught, this has been and could continue to be quite a large embarrassment for the U.S. If he is caught, particularly if he's put on trial, that really must play a demotivating factor in some sense --Shihab.

RATTANSI: But always in these cases, there's always the issue of creating martyrs who will then go on to create more martyrs in the fight against the occupation.

ARRAF: Well, that whole issue of martyrs again is another really interesting one. And what we saw today, that car bomb that exploded at the police station west of Baghdad, this is a totally new phenomenon. There's still no evidence that it is Iraqis who are these suicide bombers. This seems to be something that has merged and developed. And military sources believe that really what's happening are these Fedayeen fighters, these former Ba'ath Party loyalists and former fighters for Saddam, who are using foreign fighters, people from other countries, to act as suicide bombers.

Now, that's something, again, that's very hard to combat, if someone is willing to blow themselves up. But in terms of whether Saddam and -- being caught will help deter these probably -- some people feel anyway that it perhaps has gone a little bit too far for that, that even if you catch Saddam, since he's not believed to be directly responsible for orchestrating many of these attacks, it may not have a huge impact -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Jane, we're going to go now to Tikrit and Alphonso Van Marsh, who's standing by. Tikrit, of course, is the location where this raid has taken place, which has caused so much speculation. And it is, as far as we know, so far still speculation.

Alphonso, what do you know?

ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think it's very important to mention first off that military officials here aren't saying anything. There's no comment so far on this speculation that's going on.

I think it's interesting to share with you some things that I have seen over the past 24 hours. We got some exclusive video; video you'll see on CNN only, of troops coming back late last night. Now, we noticed that some of the Bradley tanks and some other forces had gone out late in the evening. And when they came back, something that hasn't happened in the past, I observed some of these troops, some of these U.S. service members from here taking pictures, getting a pep talk from the leadership and doing that sort of thing, which would lead us to perhaps speculate that something very important has happened.

Now, again, we do want to say that we don't know any specific details from here. U.S. military officials are not commenting as I would believe that this video, some of these exclusive pictures, would certainly lead us to understand that something very big has indeed happened in these last 24 hours here in Saddam Hussein's hometown -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Now, after all you've heard from coalition commanders there, I mean is it just Saddam or -- I mean there are other high profile people who might be based in Tikrit and whom these troops are searching for.

VAN MARSH: Well, what we do know, which has been going on for quite some time now, is this particular area where the 4th Infantry Division has control, is known as Saddam Hussein's hometown, his home area. In fact, from our workspace here, we can see al-Uja, which is the actual specific village where Saddam Hussein is or where Saddam Hussein, I should say, grew up.

There's that kind of theory, that kind of mindset, and we just thought that perhaps if there was a chance, an opportunity to catch the former regime leader, that he would be in this region.

Now, again, it's important to say at this point we're not getting any comment from military officials here. But I do say that these -- this video of what we see -- that came in last night, these forces going out -- tearing out of here at about 7:30 local time and then coming back at about 11:30 at night and looking very celebratory, looking very happy, taking pictures with each other, getting that pep talk from the leadership here, we understand even been smoking some cigars afterwards. So very -- a lot of anticipation here in terms of what did go down last night -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Of course, there's a cerebral void of firm information, this is where the media gets accused of over stepping the map, perhaps. So -- and perhaps you can just give him us some context to these pictures. Is it normal to see troops taking pictures of themselves, smoking cigars and so on after a raid?

VAN MARSH: Well, no, it's not. I have to say that was something that was very unusual tonight. You know I'm embedded here. I'm actually living on the -- very close to the base and following U.S. military movements out there. I've been here for a while. CNN's been out here for a while. And I noticed that the two Bradley tanks that are usually in front of the workspace here were gone, so of course, that would -- we wanted to think that something very important or at least certainly significant was going on -- gone for a couple hours and then at about 11:30, the troops started coming back in and the tanks were parked in front of an area with some lights. And the cameras started coming out. And we noticed the leadership here just taking some photos and certainly giving a pep talk. And a little bit later on in the evening the whiff of cigar smoke was clear and present in the area. So this is very unusual. In the time I've been here, I have not seen that sort of activity after raids.

It's important to remember that these raids do take place all the time. U.S. forces here from the 1st Infantry Division are often going out and about and conducting these raids. We usually do reports on if there are any former regime leaders that have been captured or other Iraqis that have been captured, people that the U.S. military thinks would provide useful information on this war that they're fighting out here. But last night, the idea that these troops would be out and come back and take these pictures, certainly, seems to be some unusual activity.

RATTANSI: All right, Alphonso, thank you. Once again, for viewers just joining us as we get to 22 past the hour, let's get another update on exactly what we know from Jamie McIntyre who's at the Pentagon -- Jamie.

MCINTYRE: And Shihab at this point it really is important to differentiate between what we know and what we don't know. We've been talking about exercising an over abundance of caution here in our reporting. People talked about speculation. But let me tell you what is not speculation, what is confirmed and what we know. And that is that there was in fact a raid conducted by the U.S. military based on intelligence that Saddam Hussein was at a particular location in his hometown of Tikrit. The result of that raid was a number of people were captured, including one individual believed to be Saddam Hussein.

Now, here's where the caution comes in. The U.S. government, the U.S. military is now in the process of confirming what it believes, that one of the suspects is, in fact, Saddam Hussein. But until they've made that confirmation, they're making no announcement because obviously they want to make sure they haven't made a mistake or that they're not overly optimistic. But the briefings that have come back to senior officials here in Washington from Iraq is that they believe Saddam was captured in this raid and they're just being very careful. So we're not speculating about whether he may have been captured. We're reporting what we know at the time, which is that the raid aimed to capture him, did capture someone they believe is him, and it's the U.S. government also that's being extremely cautious before it goes public with any claim of capturing Saddam Hussein. They want to make absolutely sure that the person they have in custody, who they think is Saddam, is, in fact, Saddam and not somebody who looks like him or a double or someone else, or just some other mistake. So a very high degree of caution being exercised by the U.S. military. We anticipate that this kind of news cannot be -- cannot hold for a long time. And that as soon as possible, the U.S. government will make an announcement either one way or the other about whether or not this person that they initially believe is Saddam is, in fact, Saddam -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Yes, it's interesting because you said that the raids, as far as we knew that were in question, actually took place today. This might be a matter of time zone, Jamie, I'm not sure. We keep looking at these pictures from a raid, which Jane has said occurred yesterday -- at these sort of celebratory troops and so on. Have there been further raids from the one that we're discussing with Alphonso and Jane since then or do you think that we're -- this may be the one?

MCINTYRE: Yes, well, it may be an issue of time zone. The people I was talking to in Washington were talking about things that happened today, but they may be talking about today our time. I believe this -- we're talking about the same raid or series of raids that took place about that time.

And of course, one of the other things that's just very telling is the fact that I'm having conversations with U.S. military and government officials at a very early hour on a snowy Sunday morning in Washington. You know that in itself is an indication that this is not just a routine matter. And as we've noted, there have been a number of raids aimed at capturing Saddam Hussein. There have been a number of times when the U.S. military thought it was only a few hours behind Saddam Hussein.

And military commanders in that area near Tikrit where the 4th Infantry Division is headquartered have been optimistic for a long time. I remember when I was visiting the headquarters there in July, they were predicting that the capture of Saddam Hussein could be emanate as they thought he would -- they were hot on his trail. So this is something that the U.S. military has been devoting a lot of time and attention to. They've been saying for weeks now that they've been getting better and better intelligence from Iraqis, that they thought it was a matter of time. But again, they have not confirmed that the individual they have taken in custody is Saddam Hussein to a degree of certainty that they're willing to make any sort of public announcement -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Thanks, Jamie.

Jane in Baghdad, what were the thoughts in Baghdad, in Iraq, generally? Was it thought that Saddam was still in the country?

ARRAF: Sorry, Shihab. Can you repeat that?

RATTANSI: Were there thoughts that Saddam Hussein, for whatever reason, was still in the country and -- from where you are?

ARRAF: It was actually. And it was thought that he was precisely where this information says he might have been, around his hometown. Now, it may seem odd that he would stay so close to home. Tikrit itself is not a huge place and pretty well every family is known there. He was born in a very small town just outside of Tikrit, which is now ringed by barbed wire put up by coalition forces. But the feeling has always been that he and others in the regime, senior members of the regime, were hiding pretty close to home. That is the kind of place where they could blend in and where they have the tribal and the very important family connections for people to shelter them.

And you'll remember, Shihab, that his sons, Uday and Qusay were found in Mosul, not too far from Tikrit, again, in northern Iraq. Generally, in that same area where there has been a lot of support for them, where they have those connections, where they grew up, where they have a better chance in hiding out -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: The Kurdish, an appointed authority, have set up a war crimes tribunal. Has it been the thinking there that if Saddam was captured he would be tried by that tribunal?

ARRAF: Yes, that was -- it seemed to be precisely what that tribunal was focused on. Of course, there are lots of other people who are going to face trial. I mean it's just the U.S. most wanted list that has 55 people on it, but it's going to be a lot more people than that that Iraqis will ask to answer for these three decades of Saddam Hussein's regime. But he would definitely face trial.

When they announced this war crimes tribunal just a few days ago, they said they would try him whether he was caught or not, that they did plan to try him in absentia, and more, they said that they were thinking of restoring the death penalty -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Which led to criticisms though that this is victor's justice and these -- with crimes of such gravity, this will be all handed over to some sort of international tribunal and not left to rage and emotion.

ARRAF: I really don't think Saddam Hussein is going to get a lot of mercy here at the hands of anyone.

Now, I do have to point out that if he is caught that doesn't mean that Iraqis are going to believe it. In fact, in a very informal survey of some Iraqis here where we're working, no one believed that he was even in Iraq. Many people really truly believe -- many Iraqis believe he has been in custody of the United States, that a deal has been struck. And as odd as that might seem and as unfounded as that likely is, people really firmly believe this. A majority of Iraqis perhaps believe that there was deal between Saddam and the U.S. and they have sheltering him -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Jane, thank you. Stay with us as we come up for the half hour.

Let's get a full recap now from Jamie McIntyre as to what exactly we know -- Jamie.

MCINTYRE: Well, Shihab, here's what we're reporting this morning. Based on U.S. officials here in Washington, who again are up early on a Sunday morning, a U.S. military raid in Tikrit within the last 24 hours was aimed at capturing Saddam Hussein. It was based on intelligence that Saddam Hussein was in a particular location near Tikrit or in Tikrit. And according to officials, a number of people were captured in this raid and among them is an individual initially believed to be Saddam Hussein. The U.S. military -- the U.S. government is making no announcement and no confirmation that Saddam Hussein has been captured at this point because they want to be extremely careful in checking the identity of this individual who they believe is, in fact, Saddam Hussein.

It's not clear exactly how they're going to conduct that identification. They do have the means to do DNA testing, but it's not known how long that would take. And it was believed, according to sightings of Saddam Hussein or intelligence reports about him, that he has changed his appearance in some fashion. So a very high degree of caution being exercised by the U.S. government this morning after a U.S. military raid apparently has captured a person that they believe is Saddam Hussein. And it may be a number of -- a matter of some hours before any announcement is actually made.

Of course, it was believed that Saddam Hussein was in the Tikrit area. That's been believed for months. He's been the number 1 high- valued target that's been the object of U.S. military raids. There have been a number of raids in the past that have been aimed at capturing him, a number of raids in which they believe that they were just a few hours behind Saddam Hussein. And in many of those cases, they did DNA testing of things that were found at locations where they thought he left to try to confirm where he was.

So they've been insisting for months they were closing in on him. And this morning, the reports that are coming to U.S. officials from the U.S. military in Iraq are very optimistic in suggesting that they do, in fact, believe Saddam Hussein was captured in this raid. But at the same time, all the officials I've talked to this morning in Washington are cautioning that they are -- that they have not confirmed 100 percent that the person is Saddam Hussein and until they are absolutely sure, they are not going to make that claim -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Did the U.S. officials you've talked to consider the option, that Jane was just mentioning, that even is Saddam Hussein is captured or even if the U.S. claims he's captured, people in Iraq are simply not going to believe it because they don't trust the United States? And this will play terribly well domestically in the United States, but it may not make any difference at all on the ground in Iraq.

MCINTYRE: Well, I think that they believe it will make a difference. I think there's some question to whether or not this will really take all the fight out of the -- out of the resistance. Many of the insurgents who have talked to news media or others have insisted that they're not fighting on behalf of Saddam Hussein, and that Saddam Hussein's capture will not stop the insurgency that's being conducted against the U.S. military.

And of course, there is going to be a high degree of skepticism. That's why the United States needs to be very careful about how it goes about making this claim and how they support it. We certainly saw that with the deaths of his sons, Uday and Qusay, a high degree of skepticism about whether it was really his sons and how they had died. And the U.S. went extraordinary lengths, releasing pictures and documentation that they normally don't do to try to make the case that they really were dead.

And in the case of Saddam Hussein, you would expect that there would have to be some number of people who have seen him. It's not clear whether they would -- whether they would -- he would be shown in public. But people who knew him would have to see him and vouch for the fact that it was him before people began to believe it in Iraq. There is going to be, I think, a high degree of skepticism.

RATTANSI: Thank you, Jamie.

Jane in Baghdad. I mean given the difficulties that coalition forces have had over the past few months, an intelligence gathering and so on, given how close knit Tikrit is as a community, and one would expect then if Saddam Hussein is indeed captured that such a coup would obtained by true intelligence. You wouldn't just stumble on him.

ARRAF: Sorry, Shihab. Can you just repeat the last part of that?

RATTANSI: Yes. I mean you wonder that in -- do you think as far as scenarios goes as being the circumstances in which Saddam Hussein might be captured, and given that there's a great deal of speculation that he may have changed his appearance, given the close knit nature of Tikrit, and so on, you would think though that such a capture would have to rely on intelligence as opposed to simply stumbling upon him.

ARRAF: Absolutely. And they have a couple of kinds of intelligence. The more difficult and perhaps the kind that makes up the majority of most arrests is what they call human intelligence. And that's been the really tricky part. You'll remember that this is a country with not a lot of history. The United States does not have a lot of history in Iraq on the ground. It's been essentially shut out of here for the past -- more than the past decade. So it didn't really have a feel for how things work here. It didn't have a lot of intelligence.

Now, since the end of the war, military officials at least claim that that has gotten a lot better, that they are now able to weed out the difference between people who are telling them things, for instance, out of revenge or retribution, and people who actually have what they call actionable intelligence, which is credible information timely enough that they can act on. There's also, obviously, things like tapping phones and satellite imagery. And all of those go into it. But the main part of it has been that fight to get credible intelligence from Iraqis, a very, very difficult thing. It's something that the U.S. military says that they have improved dramatically -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Yes, that reminds me of what happened in Samara a few weeks ago, that the insurgents who attacked U.S. forces were claiming to be Fedayeen because they were wearing black, that -- and that was about it really. Yes, do they -- I mean these methods of trying to figure out who are Saddam loyalists, who are simply people who don't want the occupation, and who are simply innocent bystander, have improved then?

ARRAF: They do seem to have improved. And one thing that the U.S. military here cites all time is that they never believe the first reports that come out on anything. The uniforms, not a real indication that those actually were Fedayeen. But what they really believe that they have a handle is essentially the basic structure of who's behind these attacks. And they see to be patterned on Ba'ath Party loyalists on former fighters, on people with the intelligence -- sorry, the experienced -- the expertise to put together in some cases rather sophisticated bonds very loosely linked and using people from outside Iraq as suicide bombers. All of this overlaid with common criminals who are doing this for money.

Saddam, before the war, emptied the jails and pardoned everyone in an amnesty to celebrate a referendum. And now, that essentially let loose thousands of people who had been responsible for crimes, including murder and burglaries, explosives, all sorts of things. Those are thought to be a factor as well. So this is all coming into play here -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: A factor in disseminating this information if it's confirmed to be true will be the clerics and religious leaders in Baghdad. If you get presumably the clerics to confirm U.S. claims then there's more likelihood that respective flocks will believe the U.S. Do you -- does the U.S. have enough of a report with the clerics, particularly, for example, the Shi'a clerics in Baghdad and elsewhere to get this kind of cooperation, do you think?

ARRAF: It certainly has a report with some of the clerics. And one of the really interesting things is the alliance between the coalition and Shi'a leaders. Shi'as, of course, the majority here, who one might say are the most -- on the more extreme elements would be opposed to U.S. forces. But it hasn't worked out that way. However, much of a report they have though, Shihab, this is going to be a really tricky thing. This is an immensely complicated country. Even more complicated now that it's been essentially set free. But the thought of clerics explaining that Saddam has been caught by U.S. forces to the peoples in the mosque is just a fascinating one because again, I cannot overemphasize the level of mistrust here of the United States and their U.S. motives. So even if the clerics tell their people, their people won't necessarily believe it -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: And what's your judgment about how people's opinions might change on the occupation itself?

ARRAF: Certainly, there's a wide variety of opinion. But clearly, a lot of Iraqis here, while they initially welcomed U.S. forces, still welcome a -- would be overjoyed, one would say, if Saddam were caught -- are really very tired of seeing U.S. troops here. That doesn't mean they want them to leave immediately. They just want their country back and that is going to be a very long, slow process it seems -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Jane, thank you very much.

Time for another update from Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, who will tell us now, once again, of what we already know and what more we may have learned in the proceeding nine minutes -- Jamie.

MCINTYRE: Well, Shihab, the headline is that the U.S. military believes that it captured Saddam Hussein in a raid in Tikrit. But they are awaiting confirmation of the identity of the individual in custody. But there is a high degree of optimism that, in fact, their belief is correct, that Saddam Hussein is among those captured.

This was a raid, we're told, that was carried in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. It was based on intelligence about Saddam Hussein's location. There have been a number of these raids, probably more than you can count in recent months, all based on intelligence about Saddam's location. But at this raid, they did take a number of people into custody and among them is a person who is believed to be Saddam Hussein. They are awaiting confirmation to make sure that they are a 100 percent certain. The U.S. military does have the ability to use DNA testing. They do have DNA samples that they could use to compare if there's a question because of the person having changed his appearance in any way or perhaps somebody who resembles Saddam Hussein.

So they're trying to be extremely cautious. But at the same time, I can tell you that senior officials in Washington are up very early this morning getting briefings from Iraq. It is a snowy Sunday morning in Washington, a time when most people would be asleep even if you're a senior official. But people are all up this morning, reviewing the reports from Iraq. And they're urging caution because they don't know for sure and they want to make sure they're not caught in a situation where they make an announcement prematurely. But I can tell you that there is a strong belief that the -- that once they're able to confirm who they have, that they believe they've captured Saddam Hussein. So I can tell you they'd be very disappointed if it turns out at this point the person is not Saddam -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Well, we might all look to that, actually. Even us at CNN, I think, given the amount of attention we're giving to this. But Jamie, give us a sense of how this potentially might play domestically in the United States? Will the capture of Saddam Hussein get Mr. Bush clear from the growing disenchantment with the United States, with the war, and with the occupation even if the occupation continues, even if U.S. service people are still being killed in Iraq?

MCINTYRE: Well, there's no doubt that capturing Saddam Hussein would be a huge psychological lift for the U.S.-led coalition, the U.S. military, the U.S. government, you know. People have been wondering why it is so difficult to find an individual, why they can't capture Saddam Hussein, why the U.S. military has not been able to get Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan or in Pakistan if that's where he is. And so, it would be a huge psychological victory. But no one at the Pentagon is under any allusion that simply capturing Saddam Hussein will end the violence in Iraq or significantly shorten the time that the U.S. military has to be there. The insurgency is likely to go on for some time after Saddam is captured. One of his chief lieutenants, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, is believed to be actually running a lot of the insurgency. And he is still at large. And many of the insurgents themselves have said that they're not fighting for Saddam Hussein, that they are fighting against the U.S. military and would do so even if Saddam wasn't around. So it'll be a big boost for the U.S. military and will no doubt take some of the fight out of some of the resistance. But no one believes here that the capture of Saddam Hussein is tantamount to winning the war.

RATTANSI: Jamie, thanks.

Let's return to Jane in Baghdad. I believe gun shots have been heard -- Jane.

ARRAF: Shihab, there is quite a lot of them firing just a few seconds ago, automatic gunfire behind us. Now, we're not sure what it is. This is a problem and a perennial problem here in Baghdad particularly in this neighborhood. It might have been celebratory gunfire, which is quite possible once word starts to filter out that that is the case, that Saddam has been caught. Or it could be just a gunfight, which is conceivable as well.

At this square behind us, it used to hold one of the major statues of Saddam, which was pulled down when Baghdad fell. So it's kind of a strategic location for any celebration -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Jamie mentioned though that a number of Saddam Hussein's lieutenants, possibly even Saddam Hussein himself, remain at large, including, yes, Mr. al-Douri himself, who are believed by the Pentagon to be running at least part of the insurgency. Is that what -- is that the sort of general thinking in Baghdad as well? How many of the playing cards are still on the table? ARRAF: There are still quite a lot, less than half, but still a significant enough number that they are having an affect on these attacks against American targets particularly. Now, Saddam's no. 2 man, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who is also from the north, from that region, is thought by military officials to be orchestrated, directing attacks in the north against U.S. targets, not carrying them out himself but playing a -- if you will, a commanding role. It's not quite as clear -- I'm just going to see where that gunfire is kind of -- and the only thing I can tell you is that is automatic fire and no one's really running behind me. So it may have gone up in the air, but we'll keep you posted on that.

Although we're hearing gunfire from the other direction as well. Again, that's -- if we have any indication this hostile gunfire, we'll let you know. But as for now we have to assume that it is going up in the air because there's no indication that anyone's being hurt -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Of course, satellite dishes...

ARRAF: A lot of fire there.

RATTANSI: Satellite dishes have spread around Baghdad -- and now a siren too -- satellite dishes have spread around Baghdad, so there is a potential that these -- that we're saying right now may be causing this gunfire, this fight, and not necessarily any confirmation -- any unofficial confirmation from people in Baghdad that Saddam Hussein has been caught.

ARRAF: Absolutely. And there is so many stations now that people listen to. Now, of course, under Saddam, they had Iraqi Television and any secret dishes that they might have been able to hide to get information as well as radio, but now, every other store, it seems, is selling satellite dishes. I mean people have a huge and wide access of information, not all of it accurate, we have to say.

I'm just going to take a look at what's going on there. It does sound very much like celebratory gunfire though, that rhythmic element of it, and again, no indication that anyone is actually being hit. That is, of course, the usual way to celebrate here. It has been banned in the past and it's an interesting indication of how many guns that are still out there. The U.S. military, of course, has tried to round up pretty well all the weapons, but clearly there are still a lot out there -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Let's return to Tikrit. Thanks, Jane.

Let's return to Tikrit where Alphonso Van Marsh is standing by. Tikrit is where this raid that we're discussing took place.

Alphonso, remind us of what you know.

VAN MARSH: Sure, Shihab. It's important to remember that this actual area of Tikrit is Saddam Hussein's hometown. And I've been out here a couple of weeks now watching this military movement. And last night, something unusual happened. U.S. forces went out for the usual raids, but when they came back in, there was definitely a celebratory or perhaps a different kind of air when these two Bradley tanks pulled in last night at about 11:15.

RATTANSI: And I think we've lost Alphonso. Yes, that's confirmation we've lost Alphonso. Jane is still with us in Baghdad though.

Jane, given though the hardships of daily life in Baghdad -- oh, I see. We don't have Jane and we're not going to go to Jane. Yes, let's go to Jamie McIntyre again.

Jamie, we were discussing a moment ago the affect this might have on George W. Bush. How serious a problem though were Pentagon planners -- other officials that you've been talking to, what -- how do they gauge the increasingly problematic nature of the occupation with the U.S. electorate? And actually, indeed, how do people in the Pentagon react to the growing disenchantment with what many so-called conservative hawks in the Pentagon have been saying in getting the U.S. into Iraq in the first place? And will this -- will this help their case as well?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, when you talk about the Pentagon you really have to divide it between the military officials who are carrying out the directives of their civilian bosses, and then the -- you know the few people who are part of the administration, Donald Rumsfeld and the political leadership here. Of course, the military is just entirely focuses on accomplishing the military mission as they've been given it. And there's not a lot of questioning of it. It's just a lot of trying to figure out how to carry it out as well as possible.

And as for Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and the other political leaders at the Pentagon, they remain convinced that going into Iraq was the right thing to do. They realize that this is a tough time now and it takes a toll especially when U.S. service members are dying on a daily basis in Iraq. That's something that's very difficult to deal with. And of course, thousands are being wounded as well. So it is -- they know it's a very difficult time. Donald Rumsfeld is convinced that when they can get through this part, if they can continue to make progress, and capturing Saddam Hussein would be progress in getting Iraq to move to a new type of government and ending the insurgency there -- he believes that in the end people will see the wisdom and the fact that this has turned out to be a good thing, at least that's Rumsfeld's belief.

You know maybe at this point we should just recap a little bit about what we know at this point. And that is that we do know that a raid conducted by the U.S. military, aimed at capturing Saddam Hussein, has resulted in the capture of an individual that the military believes is Saddam Hussein and that they are awaiting a positive identification. And obviously, with a high value and highly political suspect like this they want to be absolutely sure that they don't make any premature judgments. But the U.S. government has been informed by the U.S. military in Baghdad that it is believed Saddam Hussein was captured in this raid in Tikrit. This is something that the U.S. military has put a high priority on. In fact, there was a special team, a special operations team, Task Force 121, it's now called, which has been doing nothing but looking for these high-value targets, trying to take every piece of intelligence, build upon it. And they've been saying for months that they've been zeroing in on Saddam Hussein, that they've been closing in on him. But they've been careful not to predict his capture as emanate because they know how difficult that has been. And now they're being very cautious in -- before they claim that they captured him even though they believe that's the case. And as I said, if it were to turn out later today that this person that they thought was Saddam Hussein was not him, there's going to be a lot of disappointment in Washington because expectations are very high among U.S. government officials that they'll be able to make some kind of announcement positively later today.

RATTANSI: Thank you, Jamie. Jamie McIntyre updating us once again from the Pentagon.

We can now return to Tikrit where Alphonso Van Marsh is standing by, this time on the videophone, I believe -- Alphonso.

VAN MARSH: Yes, I'm here with you by videophone here in Tikrit. That's Saddam Hussein's hometown where there's been some very interesting activity in the last 24 hours. I was here -- right here at the Raider base. That's where some of the troops go out on raids in the evenings in the 4th Infantry Division. And last night at about 7:30 we noticed that those troops tore out of here. Bradley tanks and a whole number of troops were out. They came back at around 11:00. And this is what's interesting about this particular time that they come back. When they come back, it's pretty low-key and nobody really does much. But this time, the two Bradley tanks were actually parked in a front area, right out over there on the base, and a lot of the troops kind of came on out. And we saw that the leadership here was kind of giving them a pep talk. And then, afterwards, some of these troops were taking photos.

Now, again, it's purely speculation at this point whether the so- called number 1 has been captured. But what we saw last night in some of this exclusive video; video you'll only see on CNN, it certainly seems that something certainly out of the ordinary did take place here in Tikrit last night. There's certainly a different mood with the troops here. Folks are a little bit more quieter but there are some smiles on their faces. Again, it's purely speculation. Military officials here aren't saying anything at this point, but certainly something big went down last night -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Have there been further raids in the Tikrit area since that one?

VAN MARSH: At this point, we're not aware. What is important to remember is that raids here are ongoing. Daily, we sit down with military officials and they brief us and let us know about some of the military movements anywhere from 87 on upwards, the number of raids that happen on a daily basis. And when we get that information about those raids, sometimes we understand about weapons that have been compensized -- excuse me, weapons that have been taken in and destroyed, RPGs, what they called Improvised Explosive Devices or car bombs. Sometimes we get information about Iraqi suspects, other suspects, suspects that the United States military says are responsible for attacks against U.S. military forces here trying to fight that war, trying to bring peace to Iraq -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: I presume that you're somewhere away from downtown Tikrit. Are you at the U.S. Army base right now? Have you been able to see any reaction from people that actually live there?

VAN MARSH: Well, we have a very unusual position here. I'm at what's called Raider Base. That's where the first raid of the 4th Infantry Division is stationed. Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, is actually kind of spread out. The -- there you see behind me some buildings. This is actually what was a palace complex of the former Iraqi leader. Now, the U.S. military has taken it over and it's a U.S. military base. It's one of at least four military bases in this area where the United States troops are conducting raids and doing what they can, they say, to put an end to the former regime --Shihab.

RATTANSI: What sort of reaction though would one expect in Tikrit of the capture of Saddam Hussein, would you say?

VAN MARSH: Well, the interesting thing about where I am is -- what's really very interesting is to be able to see U.S. forces here, U.S. service members, how they've changed. I'll give you an example. This morning I went into the chow hall where U.S. service members kind of get a bite to eat before going amongst the day's activities, and there was definitely a different mood amongst them today. Now, a lot of them wouldn't necessarily say anything.

A lot of times there's operational security, that's what they call it here. For example, we were unable to broadcast a little bit earlier on today because of operational security. Operational security means that a lot of these troops, they know that something's going on but they also know that they probably shouldn't be talking to the press about it. They want this kind of information to be coming out from the very high levels of the U.S. military here or back in the United States, or in this case, in Baghdad.

But to answer your question, again, here at the -- in Tikrit, there's definitely a different mood. Soldiers -- there's a little bit of an edge to them today. Last night, when I noticed them coming in, there was definitely some buzz going around, something big had come down. Military officials here aren't commenting specifically. But if it something worth taking a picture for, I think it's safe to believe that somebody on the U.S. most wanted list definitely is in custody right now -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: As far as -- as far as the local population goes there, is there much acceptance -- any grown acceptance of the U.S. occupation just on the outskirts of their town?

VAN MARSH: Well, that's an interesting point to bring up. But what I can talk to you about is about these raids that take place in the evening here. It's not unusual in the evening actually, right in this field, a little bit to the left of -- a little bit to the -- my right, rather, of where I'm standing, we'll see these flares going up over night. And at first, I said; well, what's going on? What's happening? And service members were telling me that these flares are just part of an ongoing campaign. They want to be sure that Tikrities -- remember this is Saddam Hussein's hometown, where he grew up, where he's funneled money and business and for lack of a better term, prosperity, to this region -- they wanted to be sure that people in Tikrit know that they are helping or aiding and abetting people that the U.S. military wants, that those activities are not welcome. And it is not unusual to see, for example, over here, there is the Tigris River. Sometimes local populations are up there on their boats or what not. If they get too close to this base, they will hear warning shots from U.S. military here. And a lot of people here know that if they are aiding and abetting, as the U.S. military says, they might have to answer for it on the other side with some U.S. service members with some very heavy artillery -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: As far as that particular raid we've been focusing on that, you know -- where you have the pictures of the various satisfied people coming back and celebrating, was this a raid purely undertaken with U.S. forces or were local forces involved as well?

VAN MARSH: That information is not available to us here in Tikrit as of the moment. Usually, at about 2:00 in the afternoon local time, we get a press briefing explaining what happened, what went down as it were in raids in the previous day or for the last 24 hours. That hasn't taken place yet today. But again, on my own observations here, being here last night, literally standing when those troops came back on in -- if you could have seen the energy, the kind of vibe that these soldiers had when they came in, something different had definitely taken place. But of course, we do have to go step-by-step. And remember we don't want to speculate too much in assuming that the so-called number 1, Saddam Hussein, is in custody. But somebody definitely is in U.S. custody tonight -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Alphonso, just to clarify that point, did you say -- I might have missed it -- did you say that the regular, daily briefing has not occurred yet?

VAN MARSH: Actually, the daily briefing would be occurring about right now. It's approaching 2:00 local time and that's when the military forces or I should say the public spokesman, the military spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division, would be having their press briefing, letting folks know what's going on in the past 24 hours.

This morning, today, the schedule has been a little bit different. Military officials, folks that we usually go to for information here aren't talking as much today. It's clear that anybody who's at this gate where we are, it's clear to see that something interesting is going on, as I heard Jane Arraf reporting -- our Baghdad bureau chief reporting that there seems to be some sort of press conference going on in Baghdad later on this afternoon. I'm sure a lot of questions will be asked then -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Thanks, Alphonso. Alphonso Van Marsh keeping us informed from Tikrit. Jane, Jane Arraf, our Baghdad bureau chief is in Baghdad. Jane, so we do expect a briefing at some point. Do we have any more details on that?

ARRAF: We are expecting some sort of briefing. Now, they have not told us who's going to give it or who's going to be there. But the security is; perhaps, even a little tighter than usual. And it's being held in the main convention center, within the Green Zone, which is where they bring senior coalition officials and senior military officials, including most recently, General Sanchez, the commander of land forces here.

Now, that briefing is going to be -- the press conference, actually, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is going to be in about one hour. But people behind me seem to be reacting to what they believe the news is anyway. You are probably hearing this gunfire here, and it's been going on for quite some time. It does appear to be celebratory gunfire, which is the traditional way of celebrating, firing their guns in the streets. And by the indications of the sounds here there are still a lot of people out there with some very serious guns -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: How many times have you seen anything like this before, this level of excitement, this level of chatter amongst officials, and so on? Is this a common occurrence?

ARRAF: Not so common, no, but again, we do have to wait and see exactly what's at play here. When we're talking about the reaction in the street, it's not necessarily based on concrete facts. And people do it -- obviously, look for an excuse to celebrate. But in terms of the buzz here from officials, the secrecy about the press conference, the security, all of that is not so unusual.

What did appear to be a bit unusual was Alphonso's video of soldiers celebrating after the raid. Now, I've seen a lot of raids. We all have. And that kind of celebration is not quite so common. It would happen if they had achieved their target, if they had been after someone specific and they got him. Again, that's not to say that Saddam -- but clearly there was something there that they had wanted to achieve and did -- Shihab.

RATTANSI: Jane, I just want to share this information with you and our viewers. We're getting information from (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a key member of the provisional coalition authority that Saddam Hussein, according to him, was found in a basement in Tikrit wearing a false beard. This is the information we get from (UNINTELLIGIBLE), formerly a member of the Iraqi National Congress, one of the exiles who's now come back and is part of the provisional authority...


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