How Saddam Hussein was captured

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1050: Tip-off received, two targets identified and given codenames
1800: 600 troops move towards 'Wolverine 1' and 'Wolverine 2'
2000: Targets searched, Saddam Hussein not found
2030: Hole found, Saddam Hussein captured with no resistance

Saddam Hussein was captured after a tip-off led American troops to a small, underground hole concealed next to farm buildings near the former leader's hometown of Tikrit.

Soldiers were seconds away from throwing a hand grenade into the hole, when Saddam Hussein emerged and surrendered, Colonel James Hickey who led the raid said.

The critical piece of information, obtained at 1050 local time on Saturday, came from an individual who had been arrested the previous day in Baghdad, he said.

My name is Saddam Hussein. I am the president of Iraq and I want to negotiate

Saddam Hussein

Squalor of secret refuge
By 1800, under the cover of darkness, some 600 troops from the US 4th Infantry Division began moving towards two locations considered likely hide-outs near the town of al-Dawr.

Their mission to kill or capture Saddam Hussein, they assaulted the targets - codenamed Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2 - at about 2000 but did not find the former leader.

They then sealed off the area and conducted a wider search, discovering a small walled farm compound containing a metal lean-to structure and a mud hut.

Underground hide-out

Searching the compound, troops discovered a so-called "spider hole", camouflaged with bricks and dirt and covered with polystyrene and a carpet.

Saddam Hussein was found in a carefully hidden hole
Colonel Hickey said that the soldiers looked into the hole and saw a figure inside it.

"Two hands appeared. The individual clearly wanted to surrender," he said.

Saddam Hussein was pulled out at 2036, "disoriented" and "bewildered", according to Major General Ray Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division.

He put up no resistance although armed with a pistol.

"My name is Saddam Hussein. I am the president of Iraq and I want to negotiate," he told the US troops in English, according to Major Bryan Reed, operations officer for the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.

"Regards from President Bush," US special forces replied, Major Reed recounted.

Two other people, believed to have formed Saddam Hussein's small entourage, were also captured and taken away for interrogation.

'Very rudimentary'

The underground chamber the former Iraqi leader had secreted himself in was six-to-eight feet (1.8 metres - 2.4 metres) deep, with enough space for a person to lie down, and an air vent and extractor fan.

Tikrit: Saddam Hussein's home town
Major General Odierno said the farm where the former leader was found consisted of "two very small rooms in an adobe hut".

He said one was a bedroom that was cluttered with clothes, including new T-shirts and socks and a "very rudimentary" kitchen, with running water.

Saddam Hussein would have moved from the building into the hole whenever coalition forces were in the area, Major General Odierno added.

He said the hole was very close to the Tigris river, within view of some of the captive's palaces.

"I think it was rather ironic that he was in a hole in the ground across the river from these great palaces that he has built, where he robbed all the money from the Iraqi people," Major General Odierno said.

'Ultimate information'

Although the area had been searched before, it was likely Saddam Hussein had not been there, as he was thought to have moved often and at short notice.

The spokesman said it was likely he had been there for a short time when the "ultimate information" came from a member of a family brought in for questioning.

No mobile phones or other communications equipment were found, suggesting that Saddam Hussein was providing "moral support" and was no longer co-ordinating the Iraqi resistance, Major General Odierno added.

Top US military commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez said the former dictator was "talkative and co-operative", had no injuries and was in good health.


Along with the former Iraqi dictator, troops discovered $750,000 cash in $100 bills, two AK-47 machine guns and a briefcase of documents.

A white and orange taxi was parked near the compound.

The former Iraqi leader was removed at 2115 and taken to an undisclosed secure location, General Sanchez said.

He showed a news conference a videotape of a dishevelled and heavily-bearded Saddam Hussein being examined by an American doctor.

Saddam Hussein did not put up any resistance
The mission came after a intense intelligence-gathering operation in the Tikrit area over several months.

American forces gradually built up a picture of Saddam Hussein's likely whereabouts through tip-offs, interrogations of detainees and rigorous analysis of information.

The tip-off on Saturday came as the first piece of so-called "actionable intelligence", pointing troops to a specific location.

Analysts have suggested that Saddam Hussein hid near his home town Tikrit - his political and tribal powerbase - in the hope that remaining local supporters would shelter him from coalition forces.

But it must be speculated that the $25m reward offered by the US for information leading to his capture may well have played a part in undermining these traditional loyalties - and sealing his fate.

Ex-Leader, Found Hiding in Hole, Is Detained Without a Fight


Published: December 14, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 14 - A force of 600 American soldiers captured Saddam Hussein in a raid on Saturday night on an isolated farm near Tikrit, American military officials said today. The former Iraqi president was found, haggard and disoriented but alive, hiding at the bottom of an 8-foot-deep hole.

Mr. Hussein was armed with a pistol at the time of his capture, but he offered no resistance and not one shot was fired in the operation, military officials said.

American authorities, along with members of the Iraqi Governing Council, said they were convinced that the captive was Mr. Hussein, in part because of positive DNA tests, and described him as a talkative man who seemed alternately resigned to his fate and belligerently defensive about his 35 years in power.

``He was unrepentant and even defiant,'' said Adnan Pachachi, the elder statesman of the council and one of four members who were ferried by helicopter today to the secret location where Mr. Hussein was held.

``He tried to justify himself by saying he was a just and firm ruler,'' said Mr. Pachachi, speaking at a news conference in Baghdad in which the Iraqi political leaders promised to eventually take custody of Mr. Hussein and try him in public on charges of genocide. ``Of course, our answer was that he was an unjust ruler responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.''

The capture of Mr. Hussein solved one of the great mysteries that tormented the American-led occupation force in Iraq: whether he was still alive and, if so, where he was hiding.

The news was greeted by the fierce staccato of celebratory gunfire in the streets of the capital. Some people wept openly, pulling out worn photographs of relatives who they said were executed in the waves of political repression that marked the Iraqi leader's rule.

In a nationally televised address from the White House, President Bush said the capture of Mr. Hussein was ``crucial to the rise of a free Iraq.''

He added: ``In the history of Iraq, a dark and painful era is over. A hopeful day has arrived. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq.''

The raid was organized in the space of a few hours, after officers with the Fourth Infantry Division received information about Mr. Hussein's whereabouts from a person with close ties to Mr. Hussein's family, said Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the division commander.

General Odierno did not identify the tipster, who had been arrested about one week ago, but said that as many as 10 people with family and tribal connections to Mr. Hussein had been detained over the last week and a half and that their interrogations had produced credible intelligence that spurred the soldiers to act.

General Odierno said his troops had to move swiftly and discreetly to the remote farm, which is located near the village of Ad Dwar about eight miles southeast of Tikrit, because the fugitive Iraqi leader was believed to change hiding places as frequently as every three to four hours.

Military officials said they did not know how long Mr. Hussein had been in the hole, which had an air pipe and a small fan embedded in a wall, but General Odierno said the former leader may have had as many as 30 similar hiding places around the country.

The former Iraqi leader might have been using a small hut, with a bedroom and a rudimentary kitchen, near the hole on the rural compound. The compound was close to the Tigris River, the general said, and several boats were found on the riverside.

The opening to the underground crawl space was covered by a rug and a smooth layer of dirt, with a styrofoam insert that could be lifted up and down easily, he added.

``He was caught like a rat,'' General Odierno told reporters.

He said T-shirts, socks and other items of clothing, some of them new and still in packages, were found in the bedroom.

Since April, when coalition forces pushed into Baghdad and declared the start of the occupation, American-led troops have tried to wipe away all vestiges of the old government in part by capturing or killing many of Mr. Hussein's former advisers and associates.


The Trial Of Saddam Hussein


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