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Iraq War News Roundup

April 9, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: For the first time in 23 years, residents of the capital city awoke, and found scant evidence of Saddam Hussein’s regime. With security forces nowhere to be found, Iraqis defaced Saddam’s images, and flashed thumbs up at western cameras.

MAN ( Translated ): Saddam Hussein was a coward, he was a murderer, we are on the side of the U.S. I am American.

MAN: No Saddam! No Saddam! Thank you Mr. Bush!

RAY SUAREZ: At times the celebrations turned to looting and destruction. The Iraqis celebrated the increasing American control of the city. Neil Connery of Independent Television News was on the scene.

NEIL CONNERY: Into the very heart of Baghdad, U.S. Troops and tanks finally arrive, spelling the end of the Iraqi regime. The stars and stripes have come to town; Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror is over.

Nearly three weeks after this war began U.S. forces are now coming into the center of Baghdad. This is what regime change looks like.

SOLDIER: Just keep the truck off to the side there’s too much over here already.

NEIL CONNERY: But no one here was taking any chances, checking all the time for possible resistance.

SOLDIER: There’s no barrels, nothing on the roof.

NEIL CONNERY: Pleased to be in Baghdad.

SOLDIER: The satisfaction it’s almost over. Get to go home soon.

NEIL CONNERY: What is it like being in the middle of Baghdad?

SOLDIER: Kind of crazy. Pretty warm welcome from everybody. Kind of —

NEIL CONNERY: Good luck. Thanks.

SOLDIER: All right. Thank you.

NEIL CONNERY: The welcome was definitely warm.

MAN: Welcome to Baghdad our thanks to the American people and thank you for all people in Iraq.

SOLDIER: Thank you.

SOLDIER: Thank you.

NEIL CONNERY: The president’s rule is no more; years of brutality and oppression have been brought to a close.

MAN ON STREET: Everybody here suffered a lot from the empire regime of Saddam Hussein and all his, you know, his soldiers and the others. We just want to get rid of him these days and let’s wait and see what America is hitting for us.

NEIL CONNERY: Saddam’s statue soon became the focus of the crowd’s anger. In front of our hotel, Iraqis were burning pictures of the president. Back at the statue, they found a ladder and a rope; the people were determined to topple Saddam.

Tell me will you bring this statue down? ( Cheers and applause )

A few hours later, they had found a crane to do the job. For decades, his image could be seen at almost every turn in this country, but everything has changed now. And then as evening fell, so did Saddam– removed from power. They are a people free at last to express what they really think: Saddam has gone.

RAY SUAREZ: We spoke to two other reporters, who were at that dramatic scene today. First, Time Magazine correspondent Simon Robinson, who came into Baghdad this morning with the marines.

Simon Robinson, thanks for joining us. After the jubilation around the toppling of that Saddam Hussein statue, what did you see on the streets around that area in Baghdad?

SIMON ROBINSON: Well, people were milling around and they dragged the head of statue up and down the road for a while. So there was — the sense of jubilation continued. Interestingly I spoke later with a marine intelligence officer who believed that there were Ba’ath party officials and even perhaps Republican Guard mixed in with the crowd — obviously very aware, the marines very aware that they might have secured one area of eastern Baghdad but that by no means means that they control the city.

RAY SUAREZ: When you say Ba’ath Party members and Republican Guard still present in the city, present with an interest in disappearing into the crowd and maybe disappearing from the town or present with an eye toward maybe taking names and planning counterstrikes and revenge killings in the future?

SIMON ROBINSON: That’s the great question. It’s difficult to answer. For the last week the marines that I have been traveling with have seen, many, many young men heading south with short military style haircuts and they believe that these are a lot of the soldiers that they thought they might come up against. The question is whether these men are returning home to their villages or leaving Baghdad for a while until things have calmed down because they decided not to fight or whether they are going to blend back in and have some sort of guerrilla campaign. Only time will tell really, I guess.

RAY SUAREZ: From what you have seen it sounds like it’s still a little early to call Baghdad a city pacified.

SIMON ROBINSON: Absolutely. Huge sections of the city still to be secured. Obviously hugely symbolic today what happened, the toppling of the statue, especially will be one of the declining moments of toppling in the regime.

RAY SUAREZ: Simon Robinson in Baghdad thanks for talking to us.

RAY SUAREZ: There was no jubilation in Baghdad’s Sinak District, where Saddam’s Fedayeen fighters were still evident. There, residents blamed American air strikes for civilian casualties.

MAN: The blood of Iraqi family. The clothes of the child, a child of Iraq —

RAY SUAREZ: This family says U.S. warplanes killed four of its members.

FOUAD ZAKI IBRAHIM, Baghdad Resident: The American soldier, they come for our country to get the oil. When we see our family, our child, our peoples killed, the American people in the street, in the home, with the bomb.

RAY SUAREZ: For their part, American army and marine units consolidated their positions, taking Baghdad government security and secret police facilities. Outwardly, they were confident.

SOLDIER: There wasn’t too much resistance. Everyone pretty much liked us as we got closer and closer.

RAY SUAREZ: It was a mixed day for U.S. Marines. One member of this unit described the campaign as anticlimactic. They were near the U.S. Embassy. But just up the Tigris River near Baghdad University, a separate division was trapped in battle this afternoon. CNN’s Martin Savidge was with them.

MARTIN SAVIDGE: We’re way beyond sniper fire. This is all-out complete engagement here. We have mortar fire, heavy machine guns. Fires are burning on the campus. This is Baghdad University and it’s warfare on this campus at this moment. You can hear the heavy machine guns of the personnel careers. They appear to be focused on some lower level buildings both to the right and also towards the center. There’s mortar fire that is also accompanying this and you can see black smoke beginning to rise from a number of the buildings. There’s an explosion roaring fire now starting to come out from one building off on the left. And that sounds look a missile or tank fire.

RAY SUAREZ: Eventually, the marines secured the university area, and Savidge escaped unharmed. Elsewhere in Baghdad, civilian casualties continued to mount.

MUSTAFA ALWARD, Surgeon: Electricity in the hospital is not running all the time, because we can’t afford to work the generator 24 hours a day because we are afraid we might need the generator during operations. It has been like that for more than a week. We hope that the war will end soon.

RAY SUAREZ: Today U.N. health officials said doctors were overwhelmed, and critically low on supplies.

TERENCE SMITH: Elsewhere in Iraq, coalition forces battled pockets of Iraqi resistance, and continued to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraqi civilians. In the north, U.S. troops teamed with Kurdish fighters, who are poised to take over the town of Mosul, while 100 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. air attacks focused in and around the town of Tikrit. At central command, Brigadier Gen. Vincent Brooks showed before and after pictures of the air assault on Tikrit, the hometown and power base of President Saddam Hussein. Military analysts have pointed to Tikrit as the possible site of a last stand by Hussein or any surviving members of his regime. Gen. Brooks was asked when ground troops might move in force on Tikrit.

BRIGADIER GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: We’ve seen that there have been some forces deployed in and around the Tikrit area. I’m not going to predispose as to when we might go in that direction and what we would do. We certainly are focused on Tikrit, as I showed with the weapons system video, to prevent the regime from being able to use it as a place to command and control, to restore command and control, or to hide.

TERENCE SMITH: Central command also reported that an F-15 fighter jet crashed just outside of Tikrit, but it was not immediately clear why the plane went down or what happened to its crew. Further north, the war continued. Kurdish and coalition forces secured a strategic hill just outside of Mosul, an Iraqi military stronghold that has been holding out against U.S. air strikes. (Cheering) In the northeastern towns of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, Kurds chanted “Down with Saddam,” and burned pictures of the deposed leader. At the Pentagon, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Myers was asked how many Iraqi fighters are left in the north.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS: In terms of regular army, there are about ten-plus regular army divisions left in the north, and perhaps as much as one brigade of a Republican Guards division up there, an infantry division, that we think is still left in the north. Now, they have been subjected to bombing by air power, and will continue to be dealt with in that way for some time. (Gunfire)

TERENCE SMITH: South of Baghdad, the 101st Airborne hunted pockets of Iraqi resistance in the town of Hillah. After a shootout with snipers, the troops finally moved in and discovered a massive store of weapons.

SGT. DAN CUMM: I think they had this stockpiled, and they just left instead of fighting.

TERENCE SMITH: Do you think they’ll have other stockpiles elsewhere?

SGT. DAN CUMM: Yes, they’ve had smaller ones.

TERENCE SMITH: The troops later destroyed the ammunition and weaponry in an open field. In Basra, British troops met little or no resistance today, as they continued their efforts to secure the city and its outlying areas. Troops inspected boats and confiscated stockpiles of weapons from bunkers and government buildings. The hospitals in Basra remain overcrowded and short of virtually everything.

DR. ABBAS Z. LJAM, Al-Basra Hospital: The most important thing here, we need electricity and water. Without these two important factors, nothing can function.

TERENCE SMITH: In the streets of Basra, residents were frantic for drinking water.

SPOKESMAN: You will get water. Just calm down, join the queue, and everybody will get water.

MAN: My father is very sick. You understand me, or not?

SPOKESMAN: Yes, I understand, but there is a lot of people who want water. Everybody has got children.

TERENCE SMITH: Nearby, special crews continued to fight to contain the last of several oil wells that were sabotaged by Iraqis in the first days of the war. The huge Rumailia oil field is largely secure, but no oil has been pumped since the fighting began. The U.S. military announced today it’s holding 7,300 Iraqi prisoners, many of them in southern Iraq. The Iraqis have claimed how thousands of civilian casualties but have not released any military numbers. On the American side, 101 troops have been killed; eleven are missing, and seven are listed as prisoners of war. The blood-stained uniforms of some of those prisoners may have been found in Baghdad. The U.S. Central Command said today, the uniforms have names on them, but it did not release the names. No British soldiers have been captured, but 30 have been killed since the war began. Jim.