LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
Operation Sidewinder Targets Hussein Supporters
Aired June 30, 2003 - 19:19 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: in Iraq, U.S. troops have detained the interim governor of Najaf on kidnapping and corruption charges. He's accused of kidnapping, holding hostages and theft related crimes.
He was detained today as part of Operation Sidewinder.
Well, Operation Sidewinder is in full swing tonight. Its mission: to crush supporters of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who are suspected of deadly attack on U.S. troops.
Today, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said those attacks are expected to continue. But he disputed characterizations that U.S. troops are caught in the middle of a guerrilla war.
Remnants of Iraq's ruling Ba'ath Party and others are blamed for attacks that have killed 23 Americans, six British soldiers, all since May 1.
CNN's Nic Robertson has more.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): North of Baghdad, soldiers go door to door, hunting for suspects in attacks on U.S. troops.
Operation Sidewinder, as this latest effort capture former Iraqi officials is known, is targeting areas believed to be sympathetic to Saddam Hussein.
LT. COL. MARK YOUNG, 367TH, 4TH INFANTRY DIVISION: So far a number of key individuals have been seized. A number of arms and weapons caches have been found and also seized.
ROBERTSON: The U.S. says at least 60 people have been detained in sweeps both north and south of Baghdad in that operation, some searches less successful than others.
SGT. PAUL CLIVERIUS, 4TH INFANTRY DIVISION: We're not catching all the people that we're trying to get to. But we're getting a lot of ammo off the streets, a lot of weapons.
ROBERTSON: Officers hope as they provide security, Iraqis will tell them more.
(on camera) Operation Sidewinder is all about the coalition imposing its will and like operations Desert Scorpion and Peninsula Strike recently, it is designed to show that despite casualties, U.S. troops intend to remain in Iraq.
(voice-over) For many of the young soldiers in these operations, recent attacks giving them their first taste of combat.
PFC. JAMES CONNORS, 4TH INFANTRY DIVISION: I couldn't hear. I could barely see. And all I saw was little red lights flying through the air. And that's where I aimed the weapon and returned the fire.
ROBERTSON: On the street corner in this town, targeted in Operation Sidewinder, residents say they like the U.S. troops.
Storekeeper Famir (ph) appears confident the soldiers can accomplish their mission.
"If they control the whole country," he says, "how come they can't defeat these factions?"
ROBERTSON: At the end of their day, in preparing to head back to base, it's likely a question these troops will also be asking themselves.
ROBERTSON: Now, there is no specific time frame for this operation, but commanders we talked to today said they expect it to go on at least until the end of the weekend, Anderson.
COOPER: Nic, at this point, I mean, do authorities there have, really, any sense of how coordinated the opposition to the U.S. is in terms of these attacks?
ROBERTSON: We asked that question and what we're being told is that there are small groups that are attacking the soldiers. Sometimes somebody will fire up a flare while somebody else will fire rounds at the soldiers passing in their vehicles.
It's being characterized as not intensively organized. But the soldiers are telling us that they're seeing these attacks on a very regular basis, quite often coming from the same points on different nights.
The impression is that there are a number of small groups out there, but nothing that is coalescing and showing itself as being a very large organization at this time.
COOPER: All right, understood. Nic Robertson, thanks very much, live in Baghdad.
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