Rumors sweep Baghdad that U.S. secretly captured Saddam

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Baghdad has been swept by rumors that the United States captured President Saddam Hussein earlier this week.

The rumors stemmed from published reports within Iraq that a unit of the U.S. Fourth Infantry Division secretly captured Saddam and his younger son Qusay in a farmhouse in Tikrit earlier this week. U.S. Central Command has denied the reports while acknowledging the capture of Sadam's secretary.

The Iraqi newspaper Sada Al Watan, available on the Internet, reported that a U.S. force found Saddam, Qusay and the president's secretary Abid Hamid Mahmoud Tikriti in the Sunni city of Tikrit on Wednesday. The newspaper said the United States brought the three men to Baghdad airport and flew them to an unknown location for interrogation.

Sada Al Watan said the United States concealed the capture of Saddam and Qusay to prevent attempts by loyalists to free them. The United States has acknowledged capturing Tikriti, Middle East Newsline reported.

U.S. officials denied that Saddam, believed to be financing the Sunni insurgency against U.S. forces, was captured. But they acknowledged that U.S. military intelligence had thought that Saddam and Qusay were in the same house as Tikriti. The officials said military intelligence concluded that Tikriti helped facilitate Saddam's escape from Baghdad in April.

A U.S. official was quoted by the Kuwaiti daily Al Ra Al Aam on Friday as saying that the United States would have been unable to keep Saddam's capture a secret. Tikriti was reported to have been arrested on Monday.

Over the last two months, the United States has launched an intensive search for Saddam. The operation has been led by a unit termed Task Force 20, which includes elite military forces supported by the CIA.

The fate of Saddam's elder son, Uday, has also remained uncertain. Last month, Iraqi opposition sources said Uday was in contact with U.S. authorities over the terms of his surrender.

Meanwhile, Central Command reported fresh casualties in attacks by Iraqi insurgents. On Thursday, a U.S. soldier was killed and two others were injured in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a military ambulance in Iskandariya.

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