U.S. To Scrutinize Saddam Tape

Saddam on Abu Dhabi TV
Abu Dhabi TV
U.S. experts planned to examine footage released Friday that suggests Saddam Hussein survived a second airstrike aimed at killing him and was in Baghdad the day the city fell.

The footage was released by Abu Dhabi television and immediately carried by CNN. The television said it was taken April 9 as U.S. forces moved into the Iraqi capital.

In Washington, a U.S. intelligence official said it was too soon to tell if the broadcast was authentic and when it was recorded. Officials will review the broadcast to try to determine its authenticity.

Clad in a beret and olive military uniform, Saddam moved through the crowd as people cheered: "With our bloods and souls we redeem you, Oh Saddam." Helped by guards, Saddam ascended the hood of a car and appeared a bit embarrassed as he took in cheers. Some of those cheering him held AK-47 assault rifles.

Though there was nothing to indicate definitively when the footage was taken, haze was visible in the background that could have been dust — but also could have been smoke from U.S. bombardments.

In other developments:

  • Coalition forces have nabbed another wanted Iraqi: Samir Abd al-Aziz al-Najim, the Baath Party Regional Command Chairman for east Baghdad.
  • Iraqi opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi said he expects an Iraqi interim authority to take over most government functions from the U.S. military in "a matter of weeks rather than months."
  • Coalition forces released more than 900 Iraqi prisoners, a U.S. defense official said Friday. Coalition forces now hold 6,850 prisoners.
  • American officials are examining a tract of about 1,500 unmarked graves near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq.
  • The seven American soldiers freed from Iraqi captivity last weekend made a brief public appearance on the balcony of their military hospital in Germany. They are expected to leave for the U.S. on Saturday.
  • The total number of U.S. soldiers killed during the war is now listed at 133, along with 30 British soldiers. Two Americans are listed as missing in action.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross reports that some patients at a Baghdad psychiatric hospital were raped as looters ransacked the building during a three-day spree.
  • A State Department official indicated Thursday that Syria may be prepared to hand over Iraqi regime leaders believed to be hiding there.
  • British Prime Minister Tony Blair tells the London Sun he was so worried he might lose a crucial parliamentary vote before the war that he told civil servants he was ready to resign.

    In Baghdad, the 10-story Ministry of Information building was on fire at mid-afternoon, flames shooting from the top. U.S. soldiers surrounded the building as looters tried to carry off remaining booty.

    U.S. Marines with machine guns and tanks stood guard Friday over what they estimated was $1 billion in gold — safeguarding nine still-unbreached bank vaults that had withstood direct rocket-propelled grenade hits by robbers determined to fight their way in.

    Elsewhere, a contingent of five Marines was guarding a looted laboratory near the Ministry of Health for a third day Friday; they said they've been told anyone who enters could catch diseases because of broken bottles. A sign in Arabic warned, "Danger, Danger Keep Out. The ground is infected with HIV, cholera, polio and other diseases."

    At a Baghdad mosque, thousands of worshippers protested the U.S. military presence in Iraq. They chanted both anti-American and anti-Saddam slogans and calling for national unity among the country's Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and Kurds.

    "No to America, No to Saddam! Our revolution is Islamic," chanted the demonstrators. Some carried banners; one read: "Leave our country — we want peace."

    As the demonstrators moved forward, they encountered a dozen U.S. Marines. The protesters began waving fists in the air and chanting, "America is God's enemy." The troops went into an alley and the march continued without a confrontation.

    Iraqi electrical workers now say they hope to have Baghdad's biggest power plant back online by Saturday.

    North of the city, Central Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks reported that a unit of the 4th Infantry Division destroyed eight vehicles and captured more than 30 paramilitary fighters in an attack Thursday night.

    In another battle involving a 4th Infantry armored unit, one U.S. officer was injured in fighting Friday at an airfield called Balad, 45 miles north of Baghdad, according to Col. Don Campbell. He said six MiG fighter jets were found concealed under camouflage.

    Abu Dhabi TV's correspondent, Jaber Obeid, said the person who handed the tape of Saddam to the network assured them that it was shot in Baghdad on April 9.

    On April 7, a man identified as Saddam was shown on Iraqi TV in the streets of Baghdad being greeted by people. However, that footage showed a Saddam who appeared leaner and somewhat younger than the man who had been giving speeches in recent weeks.

    Later that day, U.S. forces bombed the upscale al-Mansour neighborhood after being tipped off that Saddam had entered a building there. U.S. warplanes also targeted him the first night of the war.

    Besides Saddam, the U.S. is also still looking for weapons of mass destruction, and is under increasing pressure find proof of its prewar allegations against Iraq.

    Security Council members, like Russia, who opposed the war now want the United States to back up its charges before they vote to lift sanctions, as the Bush administration has requested.

    As many as 1,000 people are now believed to be involved in the U.S.-led effort to find illegal weapons in Iraq. U.S. troops have found suspicious chemicals and facilities at several sites, but tests on the materials have proved negative or inconclusive.