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Whitbeck: 'A lot of people will be happy'

CNN's Harris Whitbeck
CNN's Harris Whitbeck

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Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez confirms Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed in a fierce firefight with U.S. troops in Mosul, Iraq
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Hours after a firefight in the city of Mosul in which four Iraqis were killed Tuesday, U.S. officials confirmed that two of the dead were Uday and Qusay Hussein. CNN's Harris Whitbeck was at the briefing and spoke to CNN anchor Judy Woodruff afterward.

WOODRUFF: People weren't expecting the confirmation of the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons, were they?

WHITBECK: Not so soon. We had heard several hours ago, Judy, that this might have occurred. We heard about the incident in Mosul. This very, very fierce gun battle that had resulted in the deaths of four very high-ranking members of Saddam Hussein's inner circle. And then we started hearing versions that in fact two of those dead might have been Saddam Hussein's sons. But when he said that in this room tonight, there was certainly a sense that we were hearing some pretty intense news. Let's listen to what he said.


LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER, COALITION GROUND FORCES: Four persons were killed during that operation and were removed from the building, and we have since confirmed that Uday and Qusay Hussein are among the dead. The site is currently being exploited.


WHITBECK: Again, Uday and Qusay, numbers two and three on the list of most-wanted persons by coalition forces here, Judy. So that certainly takes -- it's basically two-thirds of the top -- of the top of this list.

Saddam Hussein's two eldest sons, probably the two most powerful people in Iraq after Saddam Hussein. One of them in charge of Saddam's Fedayeen, the paramilitary forces that in some cases continue to launch attacks against U.S. forces here. The other son in charge of a special Republican Guard.

Both of them for many years jockeying for power. There's an incredible amount of tension between these two brothers as to who would be the eventual successor -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Harris, you have been on the ground there, you've been covering the aftermath of this war in recent days. What is your sense from having talked to people there about any effect this is going to have on, you know, the attitude towards Americans and frankly toward the overall aftermath of the war?

WHITBECK: Well, I think, it will be very interesting to go out to the streets tomorrow, Judy. Earlier tonight we heard an intense amount of gunfire. People apparently celebrating, firing their weapons into the air as this news started trickling out.

Now it's curious, but just about seven days ago ... a rumor started floating around that Saddam Hussein himself had been either captured or killed. At that time, gunfire was also heard at night. But tonight it seemed like it was much more intense.

In talking to some of our local staff members here and talking to people that we've met in the last several days it seems that Saddam Hussein's older sons were almost feared even more than Saddam Hussein himself was. They were considered to be ruthless, they were considered to be responsible for many deaths, for much suffering here. So just judging from the gunfire tonight, I'm sure a lot of people will be happy.

On the other hand, a lot of people still support Saddam Hussein. And some of those who have been launching these attacks against military forces here might try to step those attacks up as a form of retaliation.

Now I can tell you that in the days that I've been here I have sensed that there is still a lot of mistrust. I don't really get a sense yet that the Iraqi civilian population is entirely comfortable with the fact that there's an occupying force here. And we'll just have to see if this news, number one, if it is believed. And it might take a few days for people to [start] believing it. And after that if it will have a more positive effect on relations between the coalition forces and the Iraqi civilian population.

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