VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu visited the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Wednesday, the day after the U.S. military says its forces killed Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, in a shootout. She spoke by satellite phone to VOA's Al Pessin in London.
PESSIN: Alisha, I know that you arrived in Mosul this morning to follow up on the reported killings of the two sons of Saddam Hussein. What did you find when you arrived in Mosul?
RYU: Well the first thing we ran into, of course, was just a gaggle of reporters here. This is a huge, huge story. There must be at least 100 journalists milling about right in front of the house there, [and] at least another couple of thousand spectators out on the sidewalk across the street from the house - spectators and also those who want to say something to the cameras that are here. And when the cameras do come on, these people seem to be quite willing to say very pro-Saddam type of things. We had a little bit of a tense moment a few minutes ago, when they started chanting, "We love Saddam," and the soldiers were forced to take the cameras, and tell them to go away from that area, because it was inciting a lot of emotional response from this crowd.
PESSIN: Well, it's quite interesting, Alisha, that people are chanting for the cameras, "We love Saddam," especially on the day after his sons were apparently killed, and most especially in a town like Mosul, which is a largely Kurdish town.
RYU: Yes, it is a Kurdish town, but the religious make-up of Mosul is mostly Sunni Muslim. They have, I think, rather mixed feelings about the demise of Saddam Hussein's two sons. Many times you would ask a group of people, "How do you feel about this? Do you feel that these were bad people?" And you would get half of them saying, "Yes, they were very bad people," and then the other half would say, "No, they were martyrs and they died for the cause of the Iraqis." And, so, it's very difficult to know exactly what was the actual mood and the emotion of the people here, because of the presence of the cameras. And also it seems to distort a lot of what they are feeling, because as soon as that camera goes on, they want to put on a show, it seems, and they become very vocal and very animated, and it's mostly chanting pro-Saddam type of things. I have not been able to get a very clear picture of what the mood is here.
PESSIN: Alisha, I know you have seen the house where the sons of Saddam were staying, and which was assaulted by the U.S. military. Can you describe the house for us, and tell us what you know about how they came to be there and how the U.S. military found out about it?
RYU: Actually, the military has not been very forthcoming on how they got the information. All we are told is that they received a tip from an informant. Who that informant is, is still a secret. They haven't told us much about the informant. The house belongs to, we are told, not to the cousin of Saddam Hussein, as it was first reported, but to a man who is the brother of a guy who claimed to have been Saddam Hussein's cousin. So, once again, it's one of these very complex situations, where we're not quite sure exactly what the truth is. But, we are told that there was a car that pulled up about a week ago with Arab-dressed-looking men, and the men came about 9:00 a.m., and they went into the house. And, it seems, that that was Uday and Qusay Hussein, that they have been in that house for nearly a week. And, aside from that, we are not really given much more information.
PESSIN: I understand it's quite a grand house. Can you describe the house to us and also the condition it is in after this assault?
RYU: I can't tell what it looked like before, but it does look like a fairly large house. I wouldn't call it a mansion, but it is a two-level house, and it had very ornate pillars, which are now twisted and bent. Most of it has been smashed; the second floor has all been smashed. You can see the smoke still coming out of the windows on the second floor, so something is still smoldering in there. This building has been very heavily hit by some very heavy weaponry, including, we've been told, Mark-19 grenade launchers, Tow anti-tank rounds, as well as missiles from Kaiwa Warrior helicopters. These are army assault helicopters that came in. There were no Apaches or anything like that used, but enough fire power that it did an enormous amount of damage. There are gaping holes everywhere along the sides of the building, as well as to the front. Apparently, there were about 10-14 other houses around the block that were also damaged. A combat engineering team has been out this morning assessing the damage on those houses, and they want to repair the utilities and structural damage, as soon as possible, they say, so the neighborhood can get back into, you know, normal business.