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March 24, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Saddam Appears on TV to Rally His People
Saddam Appears on TV to Rally His People; Iraq Claims to Have Shot Down Two Choppers

The Associated Press


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BAGHDAD, Iraq March 24

Saddam Hussein tried to rally his people Monday in a TV appearance calculated to show that U.S. bombs and missiles had missed him. Iraq also claimed to have shot down two American helicopters and taken pilots prisoner.

With U.S.-forces closing in on Baghdad, the Iraqi president declared that the enemy would be crushed and "victory will be ours soon."

"You Iraqis are in line with what God has ordered you to do, to cut their throats," he said.

Saddam appeared in olive-drab military uniform and looked strikingly more vigorous than he did in the speech that aired hours after the first air strikes on Baghdad last week. At the time, U.S. officials raised the possibility that Saddam was killed or wounded in the attacks and that the speech was taped beforehand.

This time, he referred specifically to U.S. tactics and the fighting around Umm Qasr in an obvious attempt to show that the address was current.

Praising his troops, Saddam said Iraqi fighters are "causing the enemy to suffer and to lose every day."

"As time goes by, they will lose more and they will not be able to escape lightly from their predicament," he said. "We will make it as painful as we can."

In Washington, the State Department had no immediate comment on the speech. U.S. intelligence agencies routinely analyze such addresses to determine from speech patterns and image comparisons whether the footage is, in fact, Saddam.

Shortly after Saddam's address, Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf went on state-run television and announced: "A small number of peasants shot down two Apaches. Perhaps we will show pictures of the pilots."

Iraqi television showed pictures of only one downed helicopter in a field. Men in Arab headdress danced around the aircraft with Kalashnikov rifles. The footage also showed two helmets.

At the Pentagon, Air Force Master Sgt. Grant Windsor confirmed that one Apache was missing but gave no other details. He said the Defense Department is studying the footage.

U.S. forces have begun attacking the elite Iraqi Republican Guard that rings Baghdad. The helicopter on television showed little if any damage, suggesting it had been forced to land by mechanical problems rather than ground fire.

Al-Sahhaf also said that the U.S. bombardment of Baghdad had injured 194 civilians.

The report of the downed helicopters and new prisoners of war came only one day after the Arabic-language TV network al-Jazeera showed video of five American prisoners of war captured in fighting near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.

"Yesterday was a black day and the black days will increase," Al-Sahhaf said.

Muin Kassis, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Amman, Jordan, said his organization had not been given access to the U.S. prisoners as of Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, smoke from fires that were set conceal targets from bombing raids hung over much of Baghdad, giving the city a gloomy, twilight appearance. Iraqi television on Sunday showed footage of several corpses identified as American soldiers, drawing cheers from Iraqis watching TV in coffee shops and hotel lobbies.

Despite the tension, traffic was heavy Monday in parts of Baghdad and people walked around in the streets. But most of the shops that reopened along the commercial Al-Rasheed Street were suitcase vendors.

Announcers on Iraq's two TV stations have started wearing olive-green military uniforms to introduce patriotic songs, archival footage of Saddam and old films with a patriotic message.


photo credit and caption:
Iraq President Saddam Hussein delivers an address in this image from video released on Monday morning March 24, 2003 by Iraqi TV. (AP Photo/Iraqi TV via APTN)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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