Saddam Hussein Appears On Iraqi TV; First U.S. Journalist Killed

Iraqi president references events of conflict for first time, suppressing belief he was wounded, perhaps fatally, in first day's attack.

[This story was updated on 04.04.03 at 5:27 p.m. ET.]

In another one of several TV appearances Saddam Hussein has made since Operation Iraqi Freedom began March 19, the Iraqi president made a reference to events of the conflict for the first time, suppressing the belief that he was wounded, perhaps fatally, in the first day's attack.

While a mention of the U.S. Apache helicopter that had gone down earlier in the war placed the taped message as recent, some suspicion remains that the man in the video is not Hussein but one of the body doubles he's believed to have used in the past.

On Friday (April 4), Iraqi state television aired prerecorded footage of a man purported to be Hussein acknowledging a farmer whom Iraqi officials credit for the shooting down of the Apache. He also urged Iraqis to fight the U.S and British troops "with what you have available," according to CNN. He then contradicted most other news reports by saying only a few coalition troops have passed Iraqi soldiers around the capital of Baghdad. (Click for map of the battlefield)

Most reports have previously confirmed that U.S. troops had devastated at least two divisions of Iraq's elite Republican Guard (see "What Is The Republican Guard?") and were as close as six miles to Baghdad.

This was the second televised appearance for Hussein Friday. Arabic news network al Jazeera, among others, broadcast a tape of Hussein walking down a Baghdad street, smiling and greeting cheering citizens.

Also Friday, Iraq's Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf warned that U.S. forces will "face something that is not conventional" that night, furthering fears that as troops approach the capital, the more likely Hussein's regime is to use chemical or biological weapons.

However, Sahaf claimed Iraq would not use weapons of mass destruction. Instead, martyrs, those who sacrifice their lives for their cause, would be used.

South of Baghdad, U.S. troops discovered stocks of an unidentified white powder, a nerve gas antidote and texts detailing how to conduct a chemical attack at an

industrial facility south of Baghdad.

A top Pentagon official said the facility was a training base for

Iraqi troops, not a location where chemical or biological agents were stored

in large quantities. And he stopped short of saying it represented evidence

that Iraq possesses such weapons.

"Our conclusion at this point is that it wasn't a WMD site," Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said during his afternoon briefing with reporters at

Central Command in Qatar, using the short-hand term for weapons of mass


A short time later, troops in another location south of Baghdad made a

similar discovery, according to Reuters. Further details about what exactly

they found were unavailable at press time.

While the U.S. has yet to uncover large quantities of chemical or biological

agents, Brooks said that the American-led incursion into Iraq has yielded

substantial evidence that the Iraqi regime was violating United Nations

resolutions. President Bush and others justified the current action in Iraq

on the basis that the country's regime poses a threat to global security due

to its possession of weapons prohibited by the U.N.

Brooks said the U.S. has evidence that Iraq has fired missiles with longer

range than was permitted under U.N. rules. He said the Iraqi regime has

used the U.N.'s oil-for-food program to acquire the nerve gas antidote

atropine, which also violated U.N. resolutions.

Brooks expressed confidence that U.S. forces will eventually find stocks of

chemical or biological agents. But he said the first priority was to secure

Iraq for its citizens.

"As time goes on, they will lead us to where the weapons of mass destruction

are located," he said.

Northwest of Baghdad, three American Special Forces troops and two

Iraqi civilians, including a pregnant woman, were killed in an apparent

suicide car bombing at a checkpoint near the Haditha Dam.

The pregnant woman reportedly screamed in distress from the car, prompting

three U.S. Special Forces troops to approach. A moment later the vehicle

was detonated and all five, including the driver, were killed.

Just south of Baghdad, members of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division have for

all intents and purposes secured Saddam International Airport, which they

have renamed "Baghdad International Airport." Sporadic fighting continued

between troops and informal bands of Iraqi forces. American troops were

also in the process of securing a series of cellars and tunnels under the


Explosions lit up a blacked-out Baghdad early Friday local time as U.S.

ground troops moved closer to sections of the Iraqi capital. Power is out in

a large portion of the city, the first widespread power outage to hit the

city since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. Central Command said

the power grid was not among the targets of bombing raids.

Other recent key developments:

  • Washington Post columnist Michael Kelly was the first U.S. journalist to be killed in Iraq.

  • The Red Cross sent more humanitarian aid to Basra to replenish depleted supplies.

  • The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing Friday to investigate whether Iraq's treatment of coalition POWs is in violation of international law. The senate Armed Services Committee is planning a similar hearing, according to Fox News.

  • Although the U.S. Navy's use of dolphins and sea lions to detect floating mines is seen as cute by some, the folks at PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) aren't among them. The animal-rights group complained to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that using the sea mammals, as well as using chickens and pigeons to detect the presence of chemical weapons, was cruel.

  • Rescued POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch underwent her second surgery Friday, a procedure on her spine, according to CNN. Lynch sustained a head wound and fractures in both legs, her right ankle and foot, and right arm. Initial reports that cited gunshot and stab wounds proved to be inaccurate.

  • Approximately 2,500 Republican Guard troops reportedly surrendered to U.S. forces southeast of Baghdad on Friday. The troops were part of the Guard's Baghdad

    Division, which U.S. officials say no longer exists as an effective fighting force.

  • An influential Shiite cleric instructed Muslims not to resist the advance

    of coalition troops through Iraq. The edict constituted a key endorsement

    of the U.S. presence, Pentagon officials said.

  • U.S. troops in the Iraqi city of al Kut discovered a stash of thousands of

    Iraqi rifles, which they later destroyed by rolling over them with armored

    personnel carriers.

  • Two Russian military commanders met with top Iraqi officials just days

    before the beginning of the war to provide advice on how to fight coalition

    forces, according to Russian news Web site One of the

    officials in question was contacted for the story and did not deny the


  • Secretary of State Colin Powell held a whirlwind series of more than 20

    meetings with European leaders gathered in Brussels on Thursday. By the end of

    the day, the U.S. and its NATO allies appeared to reach a broad agreement

    that the United Nations should have a hand in governing post-war Iraq.

  • Elsewhere in Europe, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder appears to be

    softening his stance toward the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Schroeder, a staunch

    opponent of the war before the hostilities began, now says he hopes

    coalition forces win a speedy victory. He also indicated that Germany would

    consider sending peacekeeping forces to a post-war Iraq.

  • At Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Thursday to meet with families of

    Marines killed in Iraq, President Bush vowed, "We will accept nothing less

    than complete and final victory. The course is set. We're on the advance.

    Our destination is Baghdad."

  • The latest casualty toll, according to the Pentagon: 79 U.S. and British

    troops dead, 22 Americans missing. Five hundred Iraqis dead, 8,000 taken prisoner.

    Iraqi officials claim the civilian death toll alone is more than 1,250 and

    more than 5,000 have been injured.

    — Joe D'Angelo, Corey Moss and Ethan Zindler

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