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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Sanchez Confirms Uday, Qusay Hussein Dead

Aired July 22, 2003 - 15:33   ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Confidence is high, resemblance is strong, but DNA will have the final say on the fate of Uday and Qusay Hussein. At this point U.S. are optimistic, at least reasonably certain at most, that Saddam Hussein's sons were killed today in a four-hour firefight in Mosul. CNN's Harris Whitbeck has the latest now from Baghdad -- Harris.
HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello. We're two minutes away from the start of this press briefing with General Ricardo Sanchez. Again, we have been told according to soldiers outside here, that we might hearing some good news tonight in terms of the coalition's efforts to catch those on it's most wanted list, Uday and Qusay.

Saddam Hussein's sons are believed to have been in the house that was attacked this morning in Mosul northern Iraq. There four people considered to be high-ranking members of Saddam's inner circle who were killed. And people both in Washington and in Baghdad are optimistic tonight that two of those would be the numbers two and three on the list of the most wanted people by the coalition forces here in Iraq.

Again, we're just a few minutes away from this briefing, which is taking place at the Congress Center in Baghdad, which has been the headquarters of coalition and military authorities here in Iraq.

GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER, COALITION GROUND FORCES: Good evening. How you all doing this evening? I'm going to give a short statement. I'll answer a couple of questions. And then tomorrow morning Eastern time I will come back and present a detailed briefing on the operation that was conducted today.

Today coalition forces associated with the 101st Airborne Division, Special Forces and Air Force assets conducted an operation against suspected regime members. An Iraqi source informed the 101st Airborne Division today that several suspects, including Qusay and Uday, numbers two and three on the U.S. Central Command's most wanted list, were hiding in a residence near the northern edge of the city.

The six-hour operation began when the division's 2nd Brigade combat team approached the house and received small arms fire. The division subsequently employed multiple weapon systems to subdue the suspects who had barricaded themselves inside the house and continued to resist detention fiercely.

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. Four coalition soldiers were wounded in the operation and I pray for their speedy recovery.

The coalition is committed to working with the citizens of Iraq to maintain a safe and secure environment for all of its people and we will continue to strive for a better quality of life for all Iraqis in this country.

I will now take a couple of questions.

QUESTION: General, could you tell us whether DNA tests on the two bodies you said belong to Qusay and Uday are positive?

SANCHEZ: We are currently continuing to exploit the site and we continue to investigate the elements that were recovered from the scene.

QUESTION: If, in fact, you use DNA to confirm the identities, where would the original sample have come from?

SANCHEZ: I couldn't answer that question.

QUESTION: Did you get any information resulting from today's raid that might lead you to the whereabouts of Saddam himself?

SANCHEZ: We are still continuing to exploit the site and everything that we captured in that raid.

QUESTION: General, how come you confirm that it's Uday and Qusay Saddam Hussein sons was there?

SANCHEZ: Because we're fairly, we're certain that Uday and Qusay were killed today.

QUESTION: Could you be more specific, though? Could you be more specific? How were you able to make a positive identification?

SANCHEZ: We have had, we've used multiple, multiple sources to identify the individuals.

QUESTION: Can you tell us, sir, in what manner they died? Was it...

SANCHEZ: They died in a fierce gun battle. They resisted the detention and the efforts of the coalition forces to go in there and apprehend them, and they were killed in the ensuing gun fight and the attacks that we conducted on the residence.

And tomorrow I'll give you additional details on how that transpired.

QUESTION: Sir, there were two $15 million rewards for information leading to these characters. Were those rewards, will those rewards be paid out?

SANCHEZ: We're pursuing that at this point in time. I would expect that it probably will happen.

QUESTION: Sir, two things. First, do you know who the two other people were. And second, can you just give a little more about what the circumstances behind the informant coming to you this morning?

SANCHEZ: It was a walk-in last night that came in and gave us the information that those two individuals were in that residence, and the other two that were killed in there, we're still working to get final confirmation on who they are.

SANCHEZ: Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Do you think that you are coming closer to Saddam Hussein? And do you have an idea where is Saddam Hussein?

SANCHEZ: Sir, we remain focused on finding, fixing, killing or capturing all members of the high-value target list.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Do you think that the killing of Uday and Qusay, as you put it, is going to have an impact on the guerrilla warfare that's being carried out against your forces?

SANCHEZ: I believe very firmly that this will, in fact, have an affect. This will prove to the Iraqi people that at least these two members of the regime will not be coming back into power, which is what we've stated over and over again. And we remain totally committed to the Hussein regime never returning to power and tormenting the Iraqi people.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Are the bodies still in Mosul?

SANCHEZ: No, the bodies have been brought to Bayji (ph).

QUESTION: Sir, I was on the street a little while ago speaking to people, Iraqis, about this, and they were extremely skeptical and said, Prove it. We have to see pictures. We have to see evidence. They seemed extremely distrustful of this kind of word. Is there something you will do to confirm, in their minds, that this has, in fact, transpired?

SANCHEZ: You can come back tomorrow when we conduct the detailed briefing of the operation, and we'll show you additional details.

Any other questions?

QUESTION: Sir, just on the identification. I mean, were the bodies in such a condition that it wasn't just apparent from looking at their faces who they were?

SANCHEZ: The bodies are in a condition where you could identify them.

SANCHEZ: Any other questions?

QUESTION: Sir, there were reports that there was a teenager among the four who were killed. Any information on who that might have been?

SANCHEZ: We are continuing to work on the other two bodies at this point to get the final confirmation on who they are.

OK, this was easy.

QUESTION: General, we heard shooting tonight in Baghdad and we -- American also shot some bullets. Was it a celebration, or it's some kind of, you know, people who are fighting the Americans and their occupation to Iraq?

SANCHEZ: I couldn't answer that. I don't know, probably a combination. What we've been experiencing here on a daily basis is that we're having engagements. We're still fighting a war. That's likely to be going on out there right now.

And also, given that the Iraqi people have watched CNN, it's probably very appropriate that they would be celebrating about now.

OK, any other questions? If not, I'll see you tomorrow for the detailed briefing on the conduct of the operation. Thank you very much.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We have been listening to Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez confirming what we have been telling you we thought might have been the case all day, which is that six-hour firefight in Mosul was in fact successful and that the coalition forces there, U.S. 101st Airborne and others have confirmed that they killed Saddam Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay, No. 2 and No. 3 in the deck of cards, which we have been telling you about for so long.

In that firefight, based on some information which came from what he termed "a walk-in" the night before, acting very quickly, a fierce firefight in which they apparently perished. There's going to be more details coming out tomorrow, including -- the general seemed to allude to the fact of something in the realm of proof positive for the Iraqi people, for those who remain skeptical about what has happened here.

Harris Whitbeck was in the news conference. You heard him asking a question or two there. Harris, that's some fairly significant news. A bit of stunning news, isn't it?

WHITBECK: That's correct, Miles. No. 2 and 3 on the list of most wanted people by the coalition forces here in Iraq, now confirmed by U.S. forces that they have, in fact, been killed. General Ricardo Sanchez saying that they're confident enough at this point to, in fact, say it was both Uday and Qusay who were killed, although most testing will be conducted.

The bodies were in such a state that it was possible to identify them after this firefight. A firefight which lasted about six hours. A very intense firefight which had participation from the 101st Airborne Division, from special forces and also from units of the Air Force.

We had heard earlier today that air support was called in for this firefight which indicates that they had a certain amount of time to plan for this. And the general said they were acting on intelligence and that he was also asked whether the two $15 million rewards which were offered for information leading to these gentlemen would be paid out. He said that he believed they would, in fact, would be.

That obviously is to be considered a success for the U.S. intelligence work in northern Iraq -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Now, the general said he feels this will, once the Iraqi people become convinced of what he says has occurred here, that it will drastically changes what has become a guerrilla campaign there focused on the U.S. troops. What your sense of that, Harris? Would the fact that Saddam Hussein's sons have been killed change it that much or does it have to be Saddam Hussein him himself?

WHITBECK: Well, you know, Miles, just seven days ago there was a rumor floating around Baghdad that Saddam Hussein had been caught and at that time we heard a gunfire, celebratory gunfire out in the streets. Tonight we heard very intense celebratory gunfire in the streets. And what we heard seven days ago was nothing compared to what we heard tonight.

Both of Saddam Hussein's sons were feared by a large part of the population. One of them was in change of Saddam's Fedayeen, a paramilitary group. The other one was in charge of security for Saddam Hussein. And both of them were considered to be quite ruthless by people within Iraq and by people outside of Iraq.

So if the Iraqi people will believe this confirmation, then, in fact, we might see some celebration. But we could also see some sort of reaction by those who are still loyal to the regime and who have been waging almost daily attacks on coalition forces, specifically on U.S. forces in Iraq.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Harris Whitbeck in Baghdad, thanks very much, we appreciate it.

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