Saddam Captured While Hiding in Hole Near Hometown
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By Robin Pomeroy
TIKRIT, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. troops captured Saddam Hussein (news -
web sites) near his home town of Tikrit in a major coup for
Washington's beleaguered occupation force in Iraq (news - web sites).
Blasts In Baghdad's Green Zone
· Bush Got Early Word of Saddam's Capture
AP - 5 minutes ago
· Saddam Captured While Hiding in Hole Near Hometown
Reuters - 6 minutes ago
· Saddam Hussein Captured Alive Near Tikrit
AP - 9 minutes ago
Grubby and bearded, apparently exhausted and resigned to his fate,
the fugitive (news - Y! TV) dictator was dug out by troops from a
narrow hiding hole during a raid on a farm late Saturday, the U.S.
commander in Iraq told a news conference Sunday.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we got him," a beaming U.S. administrator Paul
Bremer said in his first, pithy comments.
"The tyrant is a prisoner."
Amid scenes of undisguised jubilation at U.S. headquarters in
Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez played a video of the 66-year-old
ousted leader, in a heavy black and gray beard, undergoing a medical
examination that appeared to include the taking of saliva swabs for
DNA testing. Sanchez also showed a still photograph, apparently taken
later, of a shaven Saddam.
Across the capital, gunfire crackled in celebration.
Joy greeted final proof that the man who terrorized his people for 30
years and led them into three disastrous wars was now behind bars and
facing trial, even possible execution, at Iraqi hands.
"There were no injuries. Not a single shot was fired," said Sanchez,
adding that Saddam seemed "tired and resigned."
It was a contrast to the end of Saddam's once powerful sons, Uday and
Qusay, who went down guns blazing against an overwhelming U.S. force
at a house in Mosul in July.
Troops acting on a tip-off surrounded the farm outside Ad Dawr, just
south of Tikrit, the city where Saddam was born into a poor family of
minority Sunni Muslims. He rose through tribal contacts and a taste
for ruthless violence to dominate the Arab nationalist Ba'ath party,
which seized power in a 1968 coup.
The soldiers finally tracked the fugitive down to the bottom of a
narrow, man-sized pit, some six to eight feet deep, Sanchez said.
BOON FOR BUSH
The arrest is a major boon for President Bush (news - web sites)
after seven months of increasingly bloody attacks on U.S. forces and
their allies following Saddam's ousting on April 9.
His campaign for re-election next year has been overshadowed by
mounting casualties and wrangling with key allies over Iraq.
It may break the spirit of some of his diehard supporters and ease
anxieties of many Iraqis who lived in fear for three decades under a
man who led them into three disastrous wars.
U.S. officials will also hope to extract key intelligence on the
alleged weapons programs which formed the public grounds for Bush to
go to war in defiance of many U.N. allies. Little evidence of banned
weapons has been found.
Saddam had kept up a stream of belligerent rhetoric from hiding, even
after his sons were killed. Already vexed by its failure to find al
Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), Washington blamed
Saddam for promoting some of the violence against its forces and put
a $25 million price on his head.
But analysts warned that other groups could go on fighting.
"This has lifted a shadow from the people of Iraq. Saddam will not be
returning," British Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) said
in a statement.
Washington had made Saddam number one -- the "ace of spades" -- on
its list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis. An informer was paid $30 million
and given refuge in the United States for turning in Uday and Qusay.
Saddam would be put on trial, Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad
Chalabi told Reuters. A tribunal system for Iraqis to try Saddam and
fellow Baathist leaders was set up only last week.
"This is good for Iraq. He will be put on trial. Let him face
justice," Chalabi, who returned after the invasion from years in U.S.
exile, said in Baghdad.
A U.S.-led coalition official said last week the Iraqi government to
be formed by June would be free to re-establish the death penalty,
although most of the countries supplying experts setting up the
tribunal do not have it. Saddam made free use of execution, killing
thousands during his years in power.
Hours after the arrest, a suspected suicide car bomber killed at
least 17 people and wounding 33 at an Iraqi police station in the
restive town of Khalidiyah, west of Baghdad.
U.S. officials had said Saddam had eluded American troops by moving
every few hours, probably in disguise and aided by members of his
clan around Tikrit, north of Baghdad.
"His arrest will put an end to military and terrorist attacks and the
Iraqi nation will achieve stability," said Amar al-Hakim, a senior
member of the Shi'ite political party the Supreme Council for the
Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
"We want Saddam to get what he deserves. I believe he will be
sentenced to hundreds of death sentences at a fair trial because he's
responsible for all the massacres and crimes in Iraq."
Mustafa Alani, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in
London, warned, however, that there were other anti-American groups
in Iraq ready to continue attacks.
"There will be a reduction in operations sponsored by former regime
loyalists, but this is not the full story because they are not the
only group involved," he said.
"For the Americans after the failure to capture Osama bin Laden after
so many years, it is a propaganda coup...It's an intelligence prize
because they can get information from him about cells working now.
And it's a huge victory."
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