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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Troops Nearly Capture High Iraqi Official

Aired August 4, 2003 - 19:16   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We go from one hot spot to another now, Iraq.
The hunt for Saddam goes on after word an overnight raid just missed catching another senior Iraqi official.

Now, about 300 U.S. soldiers with armored vehicles are fanning out to villages to the north and east of Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.

CNN's Harris Whitbeck brings us up to date now on the hunt for Iraq's most wanted man.

Harris, U.S. forces have conducted, I understand, at least 17 raids in northern Iraq in the last 24 hours, netted more than 80 people. How significant are the raids?

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, they're significant in that U.S. intelligence officials, military intelligence officials, on the ground are getting access to more information that they say might lead them to where Saddam Hussein might be hiding.

The people that have been captured over the last 24 hours have been providing some of that information. We understand that most of the gets have been -- most midlevel or below that, but, again, military commanders on the ground are confident that they are getting access to a lot of information.

We were on one of these more complex operations just a little bit over 24 hours ago that occurred in a field where there were four houses, where the U.S. thought they were going find a meeting of midlevel people, including, however, one top lieutenant of Saddam Hussein's.

However, when the U.S. military got there, those people had disappeared and the search is still on for them.

At this hour, in Tikrit, everything is quiet no major raids to report tonight. But again, we understand that intelligence officials are hard at work, analyzing some of the tips and information they've gotten in the last few hours -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, Harris. Quiet in Tikrit. I understand, though, a violent U.S. demonstration erupted in Baghdad. Are you sensing an increase in any animosity toward U.S. forces since the killings of Uday and Qusay Hussein?

HARRIS: I think the animosity towards U.S. forces in this area, which is Saddam Hussein's hometown, has been at probably a low boil now for several weeks.

However, after Uday and Qusay's bodies were returned here over the weekend, the U.S. military forces here have tried very hard to make sure that that was a low key event, specifically to prevent large crowds gathering that might erupt into anti-American protests or demonstrations or violence related to anti-Americanism.

Now we do know that some of the local clerics and some of the local tribal leaders, the sheikhs, were upset because the United States did not allow them to carry on with the traditions that according to Muslim law would be carried out in terms of the burial of the bodies of these two individuals.

Normally, after a body is buried there are two or three days in which people gather at mosques and pray, for example, and that was not allowed by U.S. forces. So that has people a bit upset. But nothing on streets, nothing to the degree of what is being seen in Baghdad.

COOPER: All right. Harris Whitbeck, thanks very much from Tikrit.

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