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News Transcript

Presenter: Senior Advisor to the CPA, Daniel Senor and Deputy Director for Coalition Operations Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

MR. SENOR: The coalition always makes every effort to issue rewards to those Iraqis who have provided us information leading to the capture of one of the 55 "most wanted" high-value targets from the former regime and others we are pursuing even beyond the list from the 55, from the deck of cards.

Last month the coalition announced the capture of Khamis Sirhan al-Mohammed, the Ba'ath Party regional chairman for Karbala, for the Karbala governate. And just last week, we issued a reward of $1 million to an Iraqi who had provided critical information that led to Mr. al-Mohammed's capture.

General Kimmitt.

GEN. KIMMITT: In line with that, today the Coalition Provisional Authority and Combined Joint Task Force 7 announces an enhanced reward program. The initiative introduces a significant increase in rewards available for information leading to the capture of terrorists and non-compliant members of the former regime not currently in custody.

The enhanced reward program is broken down into three tier groups. Tier one consists of the 10 outstanding members of the strategic blacklist. One million dollars is offered for the capture of any of these personnel.

Tier two contains members and personnel formerly associated with the regime who had regional responsibilities. Two hundred thousand dollars is offered for information leading to the capture of any of these personnel.

Tier three is individual operatives with local terrorist cells. Fifty-thousand (dollars) will be offered for information leading to the capture of any of these personnel.

A current listing of wanted personnel groupings will be available after this press conference in the CPIC [Coalition Press Information Center] office.

Additionally, a reward of $1 million is announced for information leading to the capture of Mohamed Yonis al-Ahmed al-Muallah (ph), also known as Mohamed Yonis (ph), also known as Khadir al-Sabyhee (ph). And we would also remind you that $10 million is offered for information leading to the capture of Ibrahim Izzat al-Douri and Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi. Anyone who has information regarding the whereabouts of these individuals or their associates should contact Iraqi security force authorities or the coalition.

With regards to the area of operation, it remains relatively stable. Over the past week, there's been an average of 17 engagements daily against coalition military forces, just over 4 attacks daily against Iraqi security forces, and less than 2 attacks daily against Iraqi civilians.

The coalition remains offensively oriented in order to proactively attack, kill or capture anti-coalition elements and enemies of the Iraqi people; to also obtain intelligence for future operations; and to assure the people of Iraq of our determination to establish a safe and secure environment. To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 1,482 patrols, 27 offensive operations, 10 raids, and captured 61 anti-coalition suspects.

In the northern zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 53 patrols, three offensive operations, and detained 10 anti-coalition suspects. Last night, coalition forces detained two individuals at a traffic-control point in Mosul. One of the individuals had 50,000 U.S. dollars sewn into his jacket and an unregistered pistol. The individual had a temporary weapons permit and claimed to be a politician by the name of Pashan Hadoom. Upon further investigation, it was determined that neither of the individuals were government officials, and both individuals are detained and are being held for questioning.

Two days ago, the Striker Brigade Combat Team executed a cordon and knock in Mosul in search of a unit target Hashim Mohammed. Mohammed is suspected of supplying weapons to anti-coalition sympathizers, and was captured and detained without incident.

Today coalition forces accepted the surrender of a high-value target, Abed Nasheed, who turned himself in. Nasheed is a suspected Wahhabist and a weapons dealer from the town of Muhallabiyah. He is currently in the Task Force Detention Center undergoing questioning.

In the north-central zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 407 patrols, four raids and captured five anti-coalition suspects.

Two days ago, an unmanned aerial vehicle observed three individuals loitering in a field that had been a firing point for mortar fire north of Baqubah. An AH-64 was sent to the area to assist the contact, and the unmanned aerial vehicle reacquired the individuals where they were joined by an additional seven men. Coalition forces fired at the individuals and sent a quick reaction force to the area. Coalition forces searched the field and discovered one enemy killed in action, two mortar tubes and ammunition. The body has been transported to the Baqubah police station.

Two days ago, coalition forces conducted a raid near Muqadiyah. The targets of the raid were weapons dealers who sold weapons to a HUMINT [human intelligence] source, and coalition forces captured three targets in conjunction with that operation.

Today, coalition forces conducted a raid near Baiji. The targets were four individuals suspected of conducting attacks against coalition forces, and three individuals -- three of the targets were captured. No weapons or contraband were found and no injuries or damage to personnel were sustained during that operation.

In Baghdad, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 565 patrols, 38 missions and captured 11 anti-coalition suspects.

In the western zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 217 patrols -- 207 patrols, including 15 independent Iraqi Civil Defense Corps patrols, and captured 16 anti-coalition suspects. Additionally, 2,705 persons and 51 buses crossed back into Iraq at the Arar crossing as returning from the Hajj. To date, 31,416 persons have returned from Saudi Arabia through this region.

Early yesterday morning, coalition forces in the west conducted a cordon-and-search south of Fallujah, targeting two individuals believed to be anti-coalition cell leaders operating in the region. The operation resulted in a significant direct-fire contact with enemy forces. One enemy was killed, nine were captured, including one of the primary targets.

Two days ago in the west, the coalition forces' observation post was attacked with small-arms fire from two boats on the Euphrates River north of Ar Ramadi. The observation post returned fire and used aircraft to track the boats to an island in the river. The pilots made visual identification of five personnel on the island unloading mortars, crates and small arms weapons. The Iraqi police were contacted; they cleared the island while coalition forces provided overwatch. The police identified two enemy killed in this operation.

Yesterday, coalition forces conducted a cordon and search of two target houses suspected of housing foreign fighters in Ar Ramadi. The target houses were also believe to contain a cache of small arms weapons and contraband. The operation was conducted without incident and resulted in the capture of five personnel.

In the central-south zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 80 patrols, established 35 checkpoints, and escorted 41 convoys. Yesterday, an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldier was run over by a car that ran a checkpoint in al-Mulhalwal north of Al Hillah. He was transported to a local hospital and is reported to be in stable condition and the driver of the car escaped.

In the south-eastern zone of operations, explosive ordnance personnel discovered significant amounts of munitions south of An Nasiriyah two days ago. The team found and destroyed two 82 mm mortar shells, five 60 mm mortar shells, a rifle grenade, 87 120 mm mortar rounds, and eight 120 mm smoke shells. Yesterday, there were four explosions in the captured enemy munitions depot at Tallil. A patrol responded and detained 15 Iraqis with ammunition and all of the detainees have been handed over to the Iraqi police.

MR. SENOR: With that, we'll be happy to take your questions.

Yes, sir?

Q Gregor Mayer from the German Press Agency, the DPA. General Kimmitt, my question is about Mohammed Yonis. How does he come into the picture? What is his background -- because we are hearing his name somehow the first time here.

GEN. KIMMITT: He is one of the personnel that we suspect of significant anti-coalition activities. We have reason to believe that he has been running cells in certain parts of this country, and as a result of his activities, we have raised the bounty for information leading to his capture of $1 million. And that's all we're prepared to say at this time.

Q Is he an Iraqi citizen?

GEN. KIMMITT: Again, that's all we're prepared to say at this time.

Q Oh.


Q Hi. Guy Henchwood from CNN. The mayor of Fallujah was detained directly after the attack on the police station. Is he suspected of being involved directly with the attacks or what's the reason for his detention?

GEN. KIMMITT: He is being -- he was being detained, and I believe he is still detained -- he was after two hours ago. He is being questioned with regards to activity surrounding the attack on the police station, yes.


Q To General Kimmitt. (Continues in Arabic.)

GEN. KIMMITT: Excuse me, please. We need to get a channel for the translation.

Q (Through interpreter.) You mention about your -- that your -- when your forces is used and pilot airplanes. Did you cover all the Iraqi regions, especially the borders?

GEN. KIMMITT: We do have the capability with the unmanned aerial vehicles --

STAFF: We lost him. I don't know why.

GEN. KIMMITT: -- we currently have in the region to cover the entire width and breadth of Iraq.


Q Miriam Fam, Associated Press. There were reports this morning about an IED [improvised explosive device] attack on a U.S. convoy in Ar Ramadi, and I was just wondering if you have any details on that? Thank you.

GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, we have many IED attacks every day. Let me see if I can find the specific one that you're referring to. If there was an IED attack in the vicinity of Ramadi today, it did not result in any coalition casualties.

MR. SENOR: Yes, sir?

Q Hi, my name is Kimura from Kyoto News. Sir, I have a question about the Fallujah incident which happened Saturday. My point is, how did the U.S. troops respond to this fighting? Did you arrive there quickly enough to help police and ICDC officers fighting against insurgents?

GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, the closest base that we have to Fallujah is forward operation -- Forward Operating Base Volturno. It's within five to 10 minutes from that location.

As I mentioned last night, the attack was made on a police station. There was a supporting attack that was made on the local ICDC station just down the street, and the purpose of that was, for a period of time, to hold the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps persons inside their compound so they could carry out their main attack at the Iraqi police station. When the ICDC was able to break free from their contact, they actually came back to FOB Volturno, requesting additional ammunition and support, and at that time it was specifically asked if coalition assistance was needed. At that time, the battalion commander, I understand a Lieutenant Colonel Suleiman, said no, we've got this under control, we do not need any additional coalition assistance at this point.


Q Tom Lassiter, Knight Ridder. I was listening to the rewards program, the rewards for the former regime members with regional responsibility. I was wondering if that speaks at all to sort of evolving understanding of anti-American elements sort of hierarchy? I know, you know, it's sort of a diffuse lot, but I was just wondering if you could speak for a moment about you-all's sort of, you know, understanding about these guys, about how they're evolving, about how they're reacting to -- you know, as you push them, you know, they reorganize, just sort of where that stands.

GEN. KIMMITT: Well, first of all, these people have been targets for quite a period of time. This is not something new, it's just that we have now started to offer significant amounts of money for their capture.

With regards to why we're coming after them, clearly we have seen over the last few months, as we get closer and closer to a full understanding of the cellular structure of, for example, the former regime elements, some names keep popping up in terms of association, in terms of providing support, in terms of providing other forms of assistance. And those are the targets that we're going after. And that's one of the reasons that we're raising the price for the rewards.

Q If I could follow up. How centrally organized are these guys? I mean, is it -- you know, are these different cells, you know, sort of vaguely aware of one another? Or are there, indeed, you know, regional structures in which a group of commanders --

GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. We have seen -- as we've talked about in the past, Tom, we've seen no great centralized command and control system. It's more like a series of cells with loose association between each other. Many common goals between the different cells, many common interests, trying to -- sort of a return to the Saddam days or other goals such as that. But in terms of a hierarchy, I don't think we'd be describing it as a series of cells if we thought there was some sort of pure middle, up at the top you have a leader, he talks to a series of leaders under him, he talks to a series of leaders under him. It's more like a cellular structure, which the Ba'ath party was formed under and operated for so many years before they came to power here in Iraq. So I think that's probably a better model to look at.

MR. SENOR: Mark?

Q Thanks. General, Sadun Hamadi, a former parliamentary speaker, was released recently.


Q Can you tell us why?

GEN. KIMMITT: He was no longer seen as -- he was being held as a security internee. He was no longer seen as a threat to the security of Iraq.


Q (Through interpreter.) (Name inaudible) -- from BBC Arabic. My question is for Kimmitt and then Dan Senor.

General Kimmitt, you have no information on the release of Dr. Omed Medhat Mubarak. And when we asked you yesterday regarding Sadun Hamadi, you said that you have no information to confirm that. Can you give some information about Omed Medhat Mubarak -- has he been released? -- who was the ex-minister of health.

My question to Dan Senor is regarding the -- Ambassador Paul Bremer yesterday, he did not consider the Islamic religion as -- will it be the base of the law in Iraq. Can you just inform us or give us some information on that?

GEN. KIMMITT: As for the first question, I have no information regarding the release of the ex-minister of health. I was referring to -- I think the question was asked about Sadun Hamadi. I have some information on that.

Q (Through interpreter.) But I have talked to some sons of Omed Medhat and they mentioned that he has been released today.


Q (Through interpreter.) No. I mean Omed Medhat Mubarak. I talked to his sons and he has been released today.

GEN. KIMMITT: If his sons have said that he was released today, that very well could be. We are -- as a regular process, those prisoners, those detainees that we are holding, security detainees that we're holding under the Fourth Geneva Convention, if they are no longer considered a threat to the safety and security of Iraq or individuals, then we will release them.

So, I have no specific information about the release of Mr. Mubarak. But it would not surprise me that if he is no longer a threat, that he's gone through the Article 78 review process outlined in the Fourth Geneva Convention and has been released.

MR. SENOR: To your second question, what Ambassador Bremer said yesterday in Karbala at the opening of the Women's Center was that Islam should be a source of inspiration for the interim administrative law, but not the only source used for the interim administrative law. Which is consistent with the principle agreed upon between the coalition and the Governing Council in the November 15th agreement. They agreed on a number of principles that should be enshrined in the interim administrative law, which include separation of power, equal rights, freedom of speech, federalism, civilian control of the military, and a recognition of the Islamic identity of the majority of Iraqis while at the same time protecting complete freedom of religion and the freedom of religious worship and expression for all Iraqis. So what he said yesterday is consistent with what was agreed upon with the Governing Council.

And really the focus of yesterday's event was on the opening of this center, which is an incredible achievement, certainly in this part of the world, where a center is dedicated exclusively to training women with professional skills, computer skills, language skills. It is something that we -- the kind of centers we are building all over the country and look forward to continue moving forward on.

Someone who hasn't asked a question. Yes, sir?

Q Yeah, Ned Parker with AFP. Just today, I guess in Najaf, a representative of SCIRI was criticizing Bremer for his remarks yesterday about the basic law, that ultimately he had a final say on what goes into it. And I guess the wording of the -- this member of SCIRI [Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq] was just that the people should be allowed to choose what they want and that it would be a mistake to not allow Iraqis to, if they want Sharia law for a fundamental law or for it to be the basis of the fundamental law, then that's how it should be, and to not allow that would be dangerous I guess were the words from the SCIRI representative in Najaf, is my understanding.

MR. SENOR: I don't -- I didn't see the exact statement, so I'm reluctant to respond to something I haven't read. But I will tell you that Ambassador Bremer feels strongly that Iraqis should be directly involved in this process, and they are involved. And there are a number of women today that sat in -- organized sit-ins at the various government offices across the country, lobbying, arguing, organizing for a 40 percent quota requirement in the transitional national assembly. So that's one group of Iraqis that's speaking out.

It's not necessarily our position, but I'm just saying individuals from across Iraq are speaking out on all these issues, and the Governing Council certainly took those issues into consideration when they agreed upon these principles in the November 15th agreement. So we have a framework that was agreed upon with Iraqi leaders and with the input of Iraqis, and now we're just working on its implementation.

We'll get you a mike.

Q A follow-up, sir. Just, one, there is -- a photographer today said there were about 100 prisoners released from Abu Ghraib. Do you get -- do you -- is that part of the guarantor program by chance, or just a regular --

MR. SENOR: I wouldn't think it was part of the guarantor program. The numbers that we are releasing on a day-to-day basis with the -- under the guarantee program is a little bit smaller than that. It could have been just part of the regular release program, which the gentleman asked about earlier. We regularly and routinely release persons who are no longer considered a threat to the coalition, nor a threat to the security of fellow Iraqi citizens.

Q The other thing was just with this Mohammed Yonis, he is on the 200 list? Is that --

GEN. KIMMITT: One million.

Q One million.


Q Right. But was he on the 200-person black list or top 55? I should know this, but --

GEN. KIMMITT: He was not part of the top 55, no.

Q The top 200, he was though?

GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. It's my understanding that he was.

Q And he operated around which area, which province -- Salahuddin or --

GEN. KIMMITT: I think we've said everything we're prepared to say about that tonight.


Q Charles Dugan, Los Angeles Times. I had a question about when you give out rewards. What other assistance are you providing to people who get rewards? Are you helping them relocate out of the country? Are you helping them relocate to the U.S.? And what are you doing to ensure that money given in rewards or other cash payments made to Iraqis under any other program are not going to fund insurgency activities?

GEN. KIMMITT: Well, first of all, it's important to understand that what we do offer with a reward is significant security. And we probably will not want to talk about what we're prepared to do for these citizens to ensure that they still believe that they -- that not only they but future people who come forward understand that there won't be any danger associated with them coming forth with this information.


Q (Inaudible) -- with NBC. Today there was an IED that exploded at an opening of a school that was recently reconstructed with the CPA, along with the increasing attacks on police stations and other civilian-like targets. Are you worried that Iraqis will start to associate any activity of the coalition with this type of violence? And how are you prepared to combat that so you can continue with reconstruction?

GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. Well, first of all, we were aware that there was an IED that went off yesterday near a school. I'm not familiar with this specific report. But I think it's very, very important for everybody in here to understand that these people are not being targeted because they're working for the coalition. These people are being targeted because they're working for a new Iraq. That's what the terrorists fear more than anything else. They don't fear the fact that these people are collaborating with the enemy. That's just rhetoric. What they are trying to do more than anything else is send a very clear signal to those people that want to look towards a free, sovereign and democratic Iraq that there's a price to pay for that. And we're here to be part of the process that says don't fear about that process.

There are many that want to terrorize the people of this country so that they can either revert back to the days of Saddam and his type of dictatorial control or bring this into more of an apocalyptic, extremist type of environment.

That's what these people fear more than anything else, and that's why they're striking out against innocent civilians, women and children. And it has nothing to do with collaborating with the coalition and everything to do with trying to build a new, free, democratic, sovereign and united Iraq.

Q But have you convinced Iraqis that are, you know, going to try to send their kids to these new openings of these schools built by, you know, CPA, that they don't have anything to fear and that you can continue with your reconstruction projects?

MR. SENOR: First of all, I think it's important to put it into context. We have conducted over 17,500 individual reconstruction projects since we arrived. That's less than nine months. That's over 100 reconstruction projects a day. That ranges in everything from reopening a school -- there are now over 1,500 schools that the coalition has refurbished -- reopening hospitals, over 240 hospitals have been reopened -- putting up or rebuilding electrical lines, water treatment facilities. Over 17,500 of these projects have gone on.

Are there individual attacks and individual acts of violence? Absolutely. Has it slowed down the reconstruction? Absolutely not. And what we have realized is that, as General Kimmitt has said, is what the attacks are designed to do are to slow down the progress.

We recently obtained a document that I have here by an affiliate of al Qaeda, Mr. Zarqawi. You've heard me reference him from this podium before. We have reason to believe this document was drafted by Mr. Zarqawi. And he himself says, and I quote, "If, God forbid, the government is successful" -- meaning the new Iraqi government that will take over this summer -- "If, God forbid, the government is successful and takes control of the country, we just have to pack up and go somewhere else again."

It is clear that an effective, successful Iraqi government is what they are trying to undermine. And the more and more Iraqis that work towards that path, work towards the June 30th handover of sovereignty, work towards the assumption of complete authority for the day-to-day lives of the Iraqi people by an Iraqi government, poses a great threat.

What is encouraging, however, is that it hasn't slowed down the Iraqi people from wanting to participate in this effort. And whether it's in the security services or working at the ministries or working with us on these reconstruction projects -- we're about to begin deploying billions of dollars in reconstruction funds for construction and other areas of reconstruction -- the number of Iraqis stepping forward increases day by day. It doesn't decrease, even after these attacks. Attacks against police stations, police chiefs, has not resulted in the decrease of the number of Iraqis who've stepped forward and say, "I want to play a role in Iraqi security." The numbers continue to increase.

I think Iraqis recognize that these are isolated incidents designed, as General Kimmitt said, to undermine this path to Iraqi sovereignty. And they have as much at stake in defeating them as anybody. And that is why these Iraqis are continuing to move forward. They understand what's at stake.


Q (In Arabic.)

(Exchange between interpreter and reporter.)

Q (Through interpreter.) During the U.N. visits, there was explosives. Do you think Mohammed Zarqawi was behind it? Is that by chance?

MR. SENOR: We have no evidence at this point as to who specifically was involved in these attacks, but they certainly are consistent with many of the attacks that we've seen in the last seven to 10 days, are consistent with the sort of attacks outlined in Mr. Zarqawi's document. I mean, he says in the document -- again, we have reason to believe that Mr. Zarqawi drafted the document -- he says, "With the spread of the army and police, our future is becoming frightening. Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases. By God, this is suffocation."

So clearly the frustration with Iraqi security forces would lead one to consider an attack against the security forces, and that's specifically something that is described in what we believe to be the Zarqawi letter. As to whether or not he was certainly the one behind it, we just don't know at this point. General Kimmitt can elaborate, but my understanding is the investigation is underway.

Q (Through interpreter.) The first question is, is Mohammed Yonis, is he a.k.a. as Mohammed Unis Ahmed, member of the Ba'athist Party that you arrested?

GEN. KIMMITT: The person that we are seeking goes by the name of Mohammed Yonis Al-Ahmad or Mohammed Yonis or Qatar Al-Sabahi. That is the person we are seeking.

Q (Through interpreter.) Do you think that Ambassador Bremer's statements at Karbala represent as a retreat or going away from considering the Islamic law as the basic law in the government?

MR. SENOR: It's not Ambassador Bremer's position. It's the position of the Governing Council that they took when we reached agreement on how the political process would move forward, which is that Islam -- a recognition of Islam as the identity of a majority of Iraqis, but at the same time, ensuring there are protections for freedom of religious worship in this country for all Iraqis.

The statements made by Ambassador Bremer yesterday are consistent with the agreement reached in the fall of last year.

We have time for one more question. Yes.

Q Evan Osnos from the Chicago Tribune. On the subject of the rewards, the reward you highlighted today, is that the first one of that size that's been given out, the $1 million that was recently given out? And also, can you explain a little bit about how you come up with those figures, those three tiers? How is that calculation made? Thanks.

GEN. KIMMITT: Well, these are certainly not the first rewards we've paid. One of the quickest turnarounds in the State Department history was when we paid out the rewards on those persons who provided information leading to the sons of Saddam Hussein, Uday and Qusay Hussein.

We regularly and routinely look at all of the persons that are turned in, the top 45. If tips were associated with those, those people who provided that information are rewarded, as per how much we've actually put as leading up to that information.

And the second question?

Q I guess I'm trying to understand the figures that you arrive at -- $200,000 or whatever it is -- a million, $200,000 -- how are those numbers calculated? Are they based on an assessment of the need or an assessment of what would be the tipping point?

GEN. KIMMITT: I think that's a fair -- one of the methods we use and one of the reasons that we put specific amounts on specific persons.

Q Okay.

MR. SENOR: Thanks, everybody.

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