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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Military Continues Hunt For Saddam as Daughter's Express Hope he Will Survive

Aired August 1, 2003 - 15:02   ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Also with us, Harris Whitbeck. He is in Tikrit. He has been accompanying U.S. soldiers as the hunt for Saddam Hussein continues there in his ancestral area.
Harris, you listened to the interview. You heard what the daughters had to say. What's your reaction? What's the from there, where the search continues for their father?

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, the first thing that struck me was that I was sitting on a terrace in a palace that, according to some of the military officers who now occupy it, belonged to one of Saddam Hussein's daughters. He didn't say which one.

But when we first arrived here to this palace outside of Tikrit, we were told that this being was -- had belonged to one of Saddam Hussein's daughters. So it was very striking. It was almost a bizarre experience to be sitting on a terrace on which, perhaps, one of them had been sitting before all this happened, listening to them talk about what had happened in their country, listening to their -- to the memories of their father, to their concept of family.

And another thing that struck me was that, as they referred to their father, I got the sense that there are -- the people in Iraq who have still come out saying that they support Saddam Hussein, they almost seem to have that same image of him as a father figure of sorts as well. And it kind of helped me understand what -- where the people who support Saddam Hussein in Iraq come from.

Now, having said that, I can also tell you a story about having walked through one of these palaces with some of our local staff, some of the Iraqis who are working with the CNN team here in Iraq. And just yesterday, one of our drivers was driving me into one of the palaces. And he was muttering under his breath in Arabic. And I asked our translator what he was saying. And he was cursing Saddam Hussein, because, for the first time, he was able to see the vast luxury that this family lived in.

And he was reacting very negatively to that and very -- it was a visceral reaction that he had to the luxury that this family was living in,when he and his family and many thousands of other Iraqis had been living in very, very difficult conditions for so long. So this interview really helped put into play and put into context, if you will, some of the feelings of just normal Iraqi people that I've been talking to over the last several weeks. PHILLIPS: Well, Harris, it definitely seems like it's coming to a head here with the deaths of Uday and Qusay, now the daughters here of Saddam fleeing to Amman, Jordan, speaking openly for the very first time. You are there in Tikrit, where, day and night, soldiers say, they're on the tail of Saddam Hussein, getting closer.

When we spoke just not long ago, before this interview aired, you were saying you heard more gunfire and there was more action taking place in the area. Do you have any new information on the raids that are taking place there, anything to bring us since we last talked?

WHITBECK: Nothing that I can report, due to the rules that -- the embedding rules under which I am operating now.

But I can tell you that the U.S. military is very active in the area, as it has been for several weeks now. We did learn that the raid that occurred this afternoon at around 4:00 p.m., which we reported, we showed some video of helicopters flying over a couple of houses here on the outskirts of Tikrit, just the other side of the Tigris River here, that apparently there were members of the U.S. special forces involved in that raid.

And we're being told that the two individuals who were caught during that raid are considered to be close associates of Saddam Hussein. So that would lead U.S. military officers and commanders on the ground to think that they would be getting at least closer to information that might lead them to Saddam Hussein.

PHILLIPS: Harris Whitbeck, thank you so much, perfect timing there. We lost the signal.

As the raids continue, the hunt continues for Saddam Hussein. At the same time, we heard from his daughters, saying they continue to pray for his safety, that God will protect him and keep him safe.

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