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