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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Officials: Saddam Not Among Those Killed in Mosul

Aired July 22, 2003 - 13:08   ET

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

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All this afternoon, as the story has unfolded, we've been turning to CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, who has been working the phones pretty hard to try to get some confirmation. Of course, the White House not confirming anything for us on camera, Barbara, as you saw.
Nevertheless, why don't you tell our viewers what your sources are telling you thus far about what we know, what we suspect, what we don't know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT; Well, Miles, this story, still sorting out on all fronts, here in Washington, and in Baghdad, of course.

Now, on camera, as you say, administration officials will not say that they can confirm anything, but off camera, there's a bit more information. U.S. government officials have told CNN over the last couple of hours that they are reasonably optimistic that at least two -- that two of the four dead bodies are the sons of Saddam Hussein, Uday and Qusay.

Now, as to the other two bodies, what they believe at this point, one of them appears to be a teenage boy, and we are reminded that Qusay does, in fact, have a teenage son. The other one possibly a bodyguard. But a hint about who that bodyguard actually might be -- of course you will remember that Uday was injured very severely several years ago in an assassination attempt. U.S. intelligence sources have long believed he is unable to move around on his own. So if he was in this house in Mosul and there was another person, this may have been someone who was a personal aide to him, to help him with his requirements in moving around.

We can tell you all four bodies have been flown out of the Mosul area. We have not been told where they were taken.

But clearly, the Bush administration, the U.S. military and intelligence community now working urgently to make a formal identification of those four bodies. We don't know how tough that's going to be, because we're not sure what shape they are in after this intense firefight in this house in Mosul.

But at least one official said they do hope they can make some sort of announcement by the end of today here in Washington, but even that is not certain.

Nonetheless, this intense firefight -- the U.S. military, the 101st Airborne Division, apparently drawn to this house in Mosul by very specific intelligence. They did not just stumble across it. There had been intelligence in recent days that the two sons were together, that they were in Mosul, and there was intelligence about this site. And the 101st Airborne, about 200 troops, moved in, and by all accounts moved very quickly before those who were inside house could realize what was happening, so there could be no chance they would be warned and that anybody would then be on the run.

Intense firefight breaking out, again, four dead, and we're waiting word to see exactly who they are.

Now also, U.S. intelligence finding it just a bit curious. They're not too sure what the two sons -- if it proves to be them -- were doing in Mosul. That's a bit further north than they might have thought they would have been in the places they thought these people were hiding out. Mosul, quite close to some borders. So they don't really know why they were up there, as they say, but they're looking here at some of the key smuggling routes, trying to see if it was possible that the two sons were moving north to try to get themselves smuggled out of the country -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: There's Lots to consider here. But before we get to that, because I want to talk a little bit more, Barbara, about that geographic issue there, the fact that this is a Kurd-controlled city, not necessarily friends of the Baathist, Saddam Hussein at all.

But quick question, do they have DNA samples of all the Hussein family?

STARR: I don't think we really know the solid answer to that. There has been some indication over the months that they do have some DNA samples.

I have to tell you, we hear varying reports here, and that may something deliberate by U.S. intelligence. But of course if they have to go some sort of DNA matching, that's going to take a considerable length of time. One can only assume what they will do first is look for some sort of identifying marks on the bodies, something very unique that might lead them to be able to confirm the identities, then perhaps going to dental records, if there is such a thing for these people, if it is not hands of the U.S. government.

DNA would probably, one can only suspect, be a last resort, because that does take some time. And if they have confirmation, every reason to believe the Bush administration wants to get it out there quickly. They want that word to the Iraqi people, because they believe it will be very much well received by the people of Baghdad, as our reporters there have been saying. So DNA would probably be the last resort.

O'BRIEN: Let's give people the lay of the land a little bit better, Barbara, if we will. We're going to go to some our satellite imagery. And first of all, big, wide picture here. We'll bring you in on the northern portion of Iraq for just a moment and just give you a sense, the distance between Baghdad and Mosul is approximately 200 miles. What's interesting, you pointed out, Barbara, this distance to the border, that's the border to Iran. That's approximately 117 miles. The border to Syria, which, as you say, those smuggling routes will be focused on, that is approximately 106 miles.

So if the idea was to flee in some way, perhaps a good location to do that. But as we move in here, and I'll bring you to kind of a wide picture of Mosul and what Mosul looks like, along the edge of these mountains. This is Kurdish-controlled country. Let's remind our viewers about the history of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds.

Highly unlikely there are a lot of friends in the Kurdish enclave, given the fact that the Kurds were gassed by the Saddam Hussein regime several years ago. Nevertheless, all you need is one wealthy benefactor, right?

STARR: Well, that's true. We've asked that question, and there's just no real solid answer to it at this point. Some officials say here that there were enclaves in that general region that might have been friendly to them, if they were paid off or if they had some sort of tribal loyalty. It also may be that they were in the place they thought the U.S. would be least likely to find them. There just isn't a good answer at this point.

But officials here are certainly looking at the map with some interest, noting how close those two borders are. They had had information that the two sons had basically split up from their father, Saddam Hussein, and that they had all basically split after the war. But they, interestingly, also had intelligence information, we are told in recent days, that's as much fidelity that we've been given, recent intelligence that the two sons were together in Mosul.

So somewhere -- and that it came from a human source. So somewhere, somebody has, indeed, apparently offered up some pretty good intelligence about their location.

Now one of the things that will be interesting, as we've said earlier today, is whether or not that $15 million reward on each of their heads has been an incentive for someone to offer up that information.

O'BRIEN: Now, while you were talking there, I showed it's along the banks of the Tigris river, and this is a VIP residence, which presumably, prior to the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, would have been those loyal to that regime. We haven't been able to pin down the precise location of where this safehouse if it is, in fact, that might have been. I guess it is probably unlikely that it would be in this walled compound that we're seeing here, Barbara.

STARR: I have to tell you, Miles, all we have seen here, in fact, are the pictures of the aftermath that, in fact, CNN, and other news agencies are running on their broadcasts.

It looks, at least from the pictures we've seen, is that it's in a bit more of a populated area. But when we get some sort of briefing by the Pentagon, by the White House, we do expect to learn more about where this location actually was. But whether we get any intelligence about what drew the U.S. to this specific location may be unclear, and what we'll be doing is watching to see how much they say, because they may have a source out there that still has even better information to offer in the days ahead.

O'BRIEN: All right, CNN's Barbara Starr, thank you very much.

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