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CNN BREAKING NEWS

U.S. Captures Iraqi Minister of Higher Education

Aired April 20, 2003 - 16:21   ET

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

SOPHIA CHOI, CNN ANCHOR: Now, we want to turn to the Pentagon and Patty Davis. We have just received confirmation that number 43 on the U.S. Central Command's Iraqi top 55 list is now in U.S. custody. Patty, what do you have for us?
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sophia, the U.S. is making progress in tracking down some of those Iraqis on that most wanted list, that deck of cards that the U.S. has handed out to troops. Now, U.S. Central Command says that yesterday it captured Abd al-Khaliq Abd al-Gafar. He is the minister of higher education and scientific research, as you said Central Command is saying, number 43 on their list of top 55 Iraqi, that it wants to gain control of.

Now, they're hoping with his science background that perhaps he could be helpful in uncovering hidden weapons of mass destruction. The Pentagon says that it is absolutely certain that there are hidden weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Now, the Iraqi National Congress is saying that another individual that has surrendered himself to it is saying Jamal Mustafa Sultan, that is the nine of clubs on the U.S. deck, has turned himself in to the Iraqi National Congress. He had been in Syria according to the INC and the Iraqi National Congress' spokesman saying that they convinced him it would be better for him to turn himself over. He would get a fair process and he would have a better life than being on the run for his whole life. They say that they do plan to turn him over to coalition forces within a few hours today. U.S. Central Command, however, telling us that is has not happened yet, so U.S. Central Command cannot confirm that the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein is in custody or not -- Sophia.

CHOI: Patty, do we have any more details on how this minister of higher education and scientific research came into U.S. custody?

DAVIS: We don't have any more details at this point. This just came over from Central Command just a few minutes ago, but certainly coalition forces have their deck of cards. They're scouring Iraq looking for many of these individuals who are on that most wanted list. We're told that many are believed to be in northwestern Iraq, near the Syrian border, perhaps wanting to go into Syria; perhaps some of them may have already done that. Maybe using Syria as a transit point into Libya, for instance.

But the U.S. government says they have been given indications recently that Syria may be interested in cooperating and turning some of these individuals over. We don't know if that played a role in at least the son-in-law, as the Iraqi National Congress is reporting turning himself over to the Iraqi National Congress. We hope to hear more on that later today -- Sophia.

CHOI: OK. Patty Davis with the latest on the Pentagon, thank you so much.

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