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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

De Mello's Dying Wish: That U.N. Mission Continue

Aired August 27, 2003 - 19:07   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Moving now to Iraq, the U.S. administrator there put a price tag of tens of billions on the country's reconstruction in an interview today, costs in Iraq are climbing in a lot of ways.
More U.S. soldiers were killed today. And another relief agency says Iraq is too dangerous, and the danger is forcing them out. All of this while the effort to track down Saddam Hussein, of course, continues.

Walter Rodgers is in Baghdad tonight -- Walter.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Anderson.

Sadly, when U.S. soldiers leave their encampments they are often little more than sitting ducks as they patrol the roads in their Humvees. Two more U.S. soldiers were killed.

One was killed in an ambush by Iraqi guerrillas. He was from the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade.

Another soldier was killed a short while earlier in an incident that involved what's called an improvised explosive device. That's a homemade mine, I suspect. And he was with the 3rd Armored Division, 3rd Armored Cavalry Division.

Now one thing we need to add, one way the U.S. is going after Saddam Hussein now is they've put up a slew, 130,000 new posters, this with the help of Iraqi police, wanted dead or alive. Saddam Hussein, of course, with Saddam's picture there. Twenty-five million dollar reward to anyone with help in finding Saddam dead or alive. Also X'ed on that poster are the pictures of Saddam's sons -- Anderson.

COOPER: Walter, you used the term sitting ducks in describing U.S. troops. It's a hard phrase to hear. How else is the U.S. trying to prevent further attacks against coalition troops?

RODGERS: Well, one of the ways they're trying to do it, of course, is by putting up smaller notices and posters, which is aimed at turning the civilian populace in Iraq against the Iraqi guerrillas and gangs, which are sadly popping off these U.S. soldiers, offering again a reward of $10,000 to Iraqi citizens who come forward with evidence which will help the U.S. Army catch and convict those who are conducting these sniper attacks and ambushes of U.S. soldiers.

There is a bit of good news today, and I'm sorry that much of the news out of here is generally bad, but we were able to put together for you a profile of one U.S. soldier who came through when it got extremely difficult, just eight days ago when the U.S. -- when the United Nations building was bombed here in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RODGERS (voice-over): Master Sergeant Bill Von Zehle is a take- charge guy. Tuesday a week ago, Sergeant Von Zehle took charge when a truck bomb struck the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, just the length of a football field from where we are standing.

SGT. WILLIAM VON ZEHLE, U.S. ARMY: When the blast went off it was the brightest orange light I think I'd ever seen and the loudest noise I'd ever heard.

RODGERS: Wounded himself, Von Zehle, a retired fire chief, says he and other soldiers scoured the rubble.

VON ZEHLE: Well, initially we were told by a U.N. Employee there were two people trapped.

RODGERS: Sergeant Von Zehle says he slithered between slabs of collapsed concrete, locating a U.N. workers as well as U.N. Special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, buried and trapped.

VON ZEHLE: It was kind of like climbing down a cave, basically hand over hand down the bricks. And they were both buried pretty much from the waist down. There was no room to really work on Sergio, because there was a slab directly above him.

RODGERS For nearly three hours Von Zehle and, he says, a second sergeant, labored to keep the other man and de Mello alive as they lay crushed, slipping into shock.

VON ZEHLE: I said, you know, "My name's Bill." And he said, "I'm Sergio." I asked him his name, he said Sergio.

And I said, "Where are you hurting?" And he told me. His legs were hurting.

And I said -- and I really meant it. I said, "We're going to get you out of here." And, you know, at the time I truly meant, I thought we were going to get him out of there.

RODGERS: Von Zehle believes if the Iraqis had basic rescue equipment, like most fire departments in developed nations, de Mello could have been pulled out alive. The sergeant says among de Mello's last words were a plea not to withdraw the U.N. mission from Iraq.

VON ZEHLE: You know, it's interesting. He never once asked about himself, never once complained about the pain, and we know he was in severe pain. I thought the nobility that the man had in his last minutes and hours, that somebody should know about that.

RODGERS: Sergeant Von Zehle says he's recovering now after experiencing post-traumatic stress. His Army unit is moving to a more severe location after the bombing of that U.N. building.

Von Zehle's goal now, to make it home alive and, in his words, lead a long, quiet life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Sergeant Von Zehle, just another American hero doing their job. Walters Rodgers reporting from Baghdad.

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