MARGARET WARNER: American forces are intensifying their hunt for Saddam Hussein. Just yesterday they raided a house in Baghdad and three farm houses near his hometown of Tikrit. The U.S. Military says it's been acting on tips that have increased dramatically since the killings of Saddam's sons last week. At the same time guerrilla attacks on American troops have also intensified. Six U.S. soldiers have been killed since Friday. In Baghdad yesterday Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers said the noose is tightening around Saddam Hussein.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS: In my opinion if he's alive it's just a matter of time and again our belief is he's not having a major effect on what's going on right now. He is so concerned with survival he's been through these survival modes before; he knows how to do that. But we'll find him. It's a big country but we'll find him.
MARGARET WARNER: For the latest on the hunt for Saddam we turn to Richard Oppel of the New York Times. He joins us by phone from Baghdad.
Richard, welcome. Let's talk about these raids and the hunt for Saddam Hussein beginning with the one yesterday in Baghdad. Tell us about that.
RICHARD OPPEL: Well, at about 5:30 in the afternoon troops began cordoning off the block around the home where they apparently had information that they believed Saddam Hussein might have been hiding out there, that's according to Iraq police on the scene who I spoke with at the scene yesterday.
Before the raid took place a couple of patrollers went on to a side street which the troops were trying to block off and there were several civilian deaths of -- Iraqi police on the scene said three; some wire services reported it was a high as five. And later on at about probably 6:30 or 6:45, according to the owner of the house, the troops raided the house, according to the owner took one of his guards away, detained one of the guards.
The owner of the house is an interesting guy; it's a tribal leader, very prominent tribal leader, who when we spoke to him afterwards was quite up front about how he was an acquaintance of Saddam's and if anyone had said that Saddam was hiding out at his house, then people would believe it because they knew each other and used to meet when he was president.
So that all went down last night, but it followed the raids in Tikrit, as you mentioned, there were three houses that were raided and a lot of the information on that raid came from - according to military officials - came from the capture of about a dozen of Saddam's personal bodyguards on Thursday night who told the military - gave the military information which the military then acted on. Military officials have said they think they missed the chief security officer for Saddam by only about 24 hours in that raid.
MARGARET WARNER: So when the military says the tips have been really flooding in, what are the sources for those tips?
RICHARD OPPEL: Well, basically, the increased information they say they've received is from different places. One is information gleaned from the home in Mosul where Uday and Qusay, Saddam's two sons, who were hiding out before they were killed last Tuesday. The question is the twelve, the dozen or so bodyguards that were apprehended on Thursday - on top of that according to military officials they just say they've been getting better information from Iraqi citizens; they've been able to find more citizens who they think are credible, who are coming forward, and that's an important element that they say is at work here.
MARGARET WARNER: Do they assume or believe that Saddam Hussein is traveling around, first of all, moving frequently but traveling also with a pretty small retinue, not alike his sons?
RICHARD OPPEL: I have not heard them specify the numbers. What they do say is that he is - this is something that Gen. Myers alluded to when he was here in Baghdad. Basically he is sort of in self preservation mode. Army intelligence are getting - all that he can do right now is just try to keep himself from being - and is in no position - any kind of resistance or activity by Iraqi insurgents or loyalists who may still be in contact with him.
MARGARET WARNER: I noticed yesterday that Gen. Myers said, well, if he's still alive, do you think we'll get him? Are they assuming now or do they really believe, U.S. military that (a) he's alive and (b) he's in Iraq?
RICHARD OPPEL: I think they do. I think they said that several times recently. I think there's a good chance he's probably in Tikrit, which is his hometown and where large amounts of the citizenry is in one way or another related to him, or in that area North or West of Baghdad that has been the focus of so much resistance to American troops.
MARGARET WARNER: You mentioned that some Iraqi civilians were killed around the raid yesterday in Baghdad. Are Iraqis expressing a lot of anger about the civilian deaths that are occurring tangentially to this stepped up hunt?
RICHARD OPPEL: Yeah. I mean, absolutely, as you'd expect, they are very upset. I mean, the people in Mansur today, which is the neighborhood in Baghdad, were - just shocked at what they described as the willingness of - or the eagerness of the troops to open up on civilians.
The military is not saying much about what happened last night, except that Task Force 20, which is the Special Operations team that is leading the hunt for Saddam was involved there last night. What the military, kind of in a more broader sense what the military says is that in trying to explain why there have been so many American deaths, deaths of American troops in the last week or so, and why that pace has spiked suddenly, what the military says is it's simply a matter of beating the bushes.
More people in the field, more raids, more searches and this sort of thing in their view that is going to prompt more retaliation from insurgents who are still loyal to Saddam, people who for whatever other reason are just willing to take a shot at Americans.
MARGARET WARNER: Richard Oppel, thanks very much.