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April 11, 2003
Most Wanted

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks displays a deck of playing-size cards featuring members of the Iraqi leadership sought by coalition forces. (Richard Lewis/AP Photo)
Stacking a Full Deck
‘Most Wanted’ Cards Issued for Missing Leaders; Forces Focus on Tikrit

B A G H D A D, Iraq, April 11 — Military officials literally stacked the deck against the remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime as President Bush today said the war in Iraq would not end until all the coalition forces' goals have been achieved, including accounting for the leaders who have disappeared since their government collapsed.

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Military officials at U.S. Central Command in Qatar displayed a deck of cards that has been handed out to troops, each one bearing the picture of a member of the ruling elite, to help them in their search for the Iraqi leaders who have disappeared in the wake of U.S. forces seizing Baghdad on Wednesday.

The regime members on the cards "may be pursued, killed or captured," Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks told reporters .

"There are jokers in this deck," he added.

Saddam himself is on the ace of spades. His son Qusai appears on the ace of clubs, and the particularly brutal son Odai is the ace of hearts.

President Bush said the war would go on until the regime is completely vanquished.

"The priority of this campaign is to rid Iraq and the Iraqi people of the vestiges of Saddam Hussein's regime," Bush told reporters at Bethesda Medical center in Maryland after visiting injured U.S. soldiers there and at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. "I don't know the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein. I don't know if he's dead or alive. I do know he's no longer in power."

Bush has stopped short of declaring victory and said today the war will end when Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander in charge of operations in Iraq, tells him coalition forces have achieved all the objectives of the campaign, including removing and holding all the vestiges of Saddam's regime accountable for crimes against their people.

When asked if the administration believes that senior Iraqi political and military leaders may have escaped coalition forces and are taking refuge in neighboring Syria, Bush said he hoped officials there would not harbor the wanted regime leaders.

"We expect them [Syrian officials] to do everything they can to prevent people who should be held to account from escaping in their country," Bush said. "And if they [Iraqi leaders] are in their country, we expect the Syrian authorities to turn them over to the proper folks."

Last Town Standing

Since the regime's collapse, U.S.-led forces have taken two cities, the oil-rich Kirkuk on Thursday and Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, today. Mosul fell to Kurdish and U.S. troops, Central Command said, when the 5th Corps of the Iraqi army in Mosul surrendered to coalition forces and agreed to a cease-fire.

This left Tikrit, Saddam's birthplace, as the last major city under the control of what was left of his regime. Iraqi forces loyal to Saddam were heading south toward Tikrit amid reports that thousands of Iraqi army regulars, some of them barefoot, were fleeing south, officials said. However, U.S. military sources told ABCNEWS there was little visible sign of military organization around Tikrit.

U.S. military officials have indicated that coalition troops were likely to launch an attack on the Tikrit region "very quickly" before an organized Iraqi resistance could be put together, said ABCNEWS' John McWethy. Air bombardments have already begun.

Decks of playing cards depicting the most-wanted Iraqi leaders are handed out to soldiers to help identify them.

Speaking about Saddam Hussein, President Bush says: "I don't know if he's dead or alive. I do know he's no longer in power."

Intelligence sources say there are intercepts saying Saddam is dead, but warn the information is coming from the edge of the power structure.

U.S. military officials say coalition troops are likely to launch an attack on Tikrit "very quickly" and air bombardment has already begun.

Aid agencies warn that Baghdad hospitals are unable to function because of looting, and the U.S. military announces a curfew.

Coalition Troops to Combat Looting

In the resulting power vacuum, residents of Mosul began widespread looting as crowds plundered banks, city archives and offices — a scene that had become common in recent days in several Iraqi cities, including Baghdad .

  • Click here for interactive map of Baghdad.

In the capital, Iraqis stripped bare the palaces, residences and offices of senior Iraqi leaders as aid agencies warned that hospitals in the city were unable to function in the resulting chaos. Arab television showed several large buildings in Baghdad burning.

Northern Iraqi cities have been falling to coalition control as the focus of the war moves to Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's birthplace. (Updated 5:30 p.m. ET on April 10,

"While no one condones looting, on the other hand, one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said at today's Pentagon briefing. "We do feel an obligation to assist in providing security, and coalition forces are doing that." Rumsfeld said coalition forces would stop looting where they saw it but bristled at reports that the troops were unprepared to control the looting and that Baghdad and other parts of Iraq were in chaos.

"I picked up a newspaper today and I couldn't believe it. I read eight headlines that talked about chaos, violence, unrest and it just was Henny Penny … 'the sky is falling,' " Rumsfeld said. "I've never seen anything like it. … Do I think those words are unrepresentative? Yes."

Still Fighting and Fear of ‘Unconventional Attacks’

Still, U.S. officials caution that there is still fighting going on in and around Baghdad.

"Baghdad is not yet fully under our control," said Gen. Richard Myers, head of the Joint Chief of Staffs. "There are parts of the city where we're still fighting and killing people."

Coalition forces, officials say, still fear "unconventional attacks" as they try to control and suppress the looting in the newly freed cities. U.S. Marines today said they killed two children at a checkpoint in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriyah, according to Reuters. A spokesman for the 15th U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit told Reuters the incident happened when the driver of the vehicle the children were traveling in ignored warnings to stop.

An Italian news organization said there had been a case of a lynching of Baath Party members in Baghdad, two days after Iraqis rejoiced on the streets of the capital as they tore down emblems of Saddam's power. The report followed Thursday's killing of a senior Shiite leader by an angry mob in the southern holy city of Najaf.

ABCNEWS' Richard Engel and Dan Harris in Baghdad, Jim Sciutto in northern Iraq and John McWethy at the Pentagon contributed to this report.

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