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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Iraqi Governing Council Reporting Izzat Ibrahim Al-Duri Captured

Aired December 2, 2003 - 07:07   ET

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

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's right back to our top story this morning, word coming out of Iraq to us that Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri has been captured.
CNN's Jane Arraf is in Baghdad for us this morning with the latest on this big story.

Jane -- good morning.

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Good morning, Soledad.

You know, as with many things here, this one is really quite murky at this point. Initial word came out from the Governing Council -- this is the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council --with two members saying that they had been told by other members that Izzat Ibrahim had been captured.

Now, the U.S. coalition, the military officials here say they have no word that is the case. They say there were operations in the northern city of Kirkuk. There were some people detained, but they are still trying to confirm or prove otherwise that one of those detained was Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri.

The Iraqi police, which were said to be in on the operation as well, from here, Baghdad, at the highest levels, have no confirmation either.

Now, some of that is natural. Communications are very bad, particularly military communications and communications with the Iraqi police. And we have to remember that in at least one previous case, Saddam's vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadam, he was actually captured by Kurdish forces themselves, who then turned him over to coalition forces.

So, it's not impossible, but we have no confirmation yet. And we should, to be honest, steer clear of this until we do have confirmation that this man, extremely important, has been captured -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: When you say, Jane, "extremely important," he, of course, at one point was No. 6 on that deck of cards list of the 55 most-wanted; then, moved up, of course, as others were captured, to No. 2, with a $10 million bounty on his head.

Jane Arraf for us in Baghdad this morning. Jane, thank you for that. Retired Lieutenant General Daniel Christman is a -- was, rather, a CNN analyst during the invasion. He's currently senior vice president for international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and he joins us from Washington this morning.

Nice to see you. Good morning to you, General.

Let's begin with this information. As we heard from Jane, it's very early, details are murky, not a lot has been confirmed about this story right now. But if it is confirmed, if it does turn out to be true, how big of a victory is this for U.S. forces?

LT. GEN. DANIEL W. CHRISTMAN (RET.), FORMER STRATEGIC PLANNER: It's big. It's not as big as the capture of Saddam, but it's big, Soledad. I think a couple of points here to keep in mind.

First of all, if he's captured or killed, it's not going to mean the end of the insurgency. But apparently we've known over the last month that al-Duri was at the very least loosely connected to some of the insurgents -- many of the insurgent activities in the so-called Sunni Triangle. So, it's very, very important in that regard.

I think also important, Soledad, every time a member of the deck of cards is captured or killed, it's the result of intelligence that the coalition has gained from native Iraqis. That's, I think, the key message here. How did we find this if he is, in fact, dead or captured? What Iraqis were helpful in getting the intelligence?

It just signals that many of the Iraqis perhaps, in the northern area especially, are fed up and are ready to move on to a better life.

O'BRIEN: We were reporting last week that al-Duri's wife and daughter were taken in and being questioned by U.S. forces. Would it be your expectation that they were the ones who provided information about his whereabouts -- again, with the understanding that all of this has not been confirmed at this point?

CHRISTMAN: Well, as Jane said so well, this is terribly murky. I think they may well have contributed. My suspicion, though, is that as a result of actions in and around Samarra and in and around the Sunni Triangle, a lot of intelligence sources have been stitched together, leading to this possible event here in Kirkuk.

O'BRIEN: Let's turn and talk a little bit about some of those actions around Samarra -- of course, Sunday's attack. Different numbers about how many people were killed -- no U.S. forces -- but how many Iraqi civilians or insurgents were killed. Why the discrepancy? And we've heard as high as 54 -- U.S. officials there reporting that. Then U.S. officials reporting 46, the ones who were actually in Samarra. And folks -- the locals in the area say only 10, and they were civilians. Explain to me why there's not a clear number.

CHRISTMAN: Soledad, I think a couple of points here are important to keep in mind. First of all, the coalition, the U.S. forces especially, are very, very reluctant to get into the body count mentality. I'm a victim of a lot of that from the Vietnam experiences in terms of trying to estimate body counts and casualties. The coalition wants to steer clear of that. They gave a very loose estimate initially in the 40s and 50s, and they're going to stick with that and move on.

But I think it's not surprising, on the other hand, that there will be contradictory reports. This is, after all, an information campaign that's being conducted here, really on the part of both parties. And the Iraqis here or the insurgence want to make it clear that as a result of this activity, Iraqi civilians apparently were killed. That's their story, and they'll stick to that as well. So, it's a case of competing information campaigns.

O'BRIEN: The attack took place on a convoy that was carrying currency. Does that indicate to you that there was very good intelligence about what was going on from the perspective of the insurgents?

CHRISTMAN: Soledad, it indicates that intelligence was operating here and apparently somewhat effectively. This engagement in Samarra was a classic good news-bad news story. The good news was that the insurgents attacked the way they did -- lightly-armed, against a very heavily-armored U.S.-reinforced, mechanized company. In that case, the coalition will be victorious every time.

The bad news is that this was a major combat operation by almost any definition, and intelligence did play a role here. This has been set up apparently for days on the part of the Iraqi insurgents, and we see the results of that.

O'BRIEN: Retired Lieutenant General David Christman joining us this morning. Thanks, sir, for your time. We certainly appreciate it.

CHRISTMAN: Thank you very much.

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