Commander: No sign of Saddam or 'actionable intel'

Monday, August 11, 2003

U.S. forces have found no traces of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein along the Syrian border.

"We have not, in my zone, had any targeted sightings or actionable intel of Saddam Hussein," Col. Michael Linnington, commander of the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, said.

U.S. officials said they have not found traces that either Saddam or his aides have crossed the Iraqi border into Syria. They said U.S. troops and aircraft have increased monitoring of the Syrian border in an effort to stop the flow of weapons and insurgents from Syria.

"It's a very open area and difficult to cross, in large measure due to the tough terrain in that area and the fact that our forces kind of blanket the key avenues of approach in that area," Linnington told a video-conference arranged by the Pentagon on Friday. "So I'm confident, if Saddam Hussein's in our area, we'll eventually find him and capture him."

[On Monday, two U.S. soldiers were said to have been killed in an Iraqi attack. The attack was said to have taken place northeast of Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported.]

The 101st Airborne, also known as the Screaming Eagles, operates in a 15,000-square kilometer area that includes the borders with Syria and Turkey. The area includes Mosul, the Tigris River and 220 kilometers of the Iraqi border with Syria.

Officials said the U.S. military has sought to normalize the Iraqi border area with Syria. They said the coalition has allowed trade between Iraq and Syria, with the U.S. military inspecting hundreds of trucks daily to ensure they were not transporting weapons or insurgents. Over the weekend, the U.S. military shot dead two Iraqi arms dealers in Tikrit.

"We have disrupted many arms dealers, and we are concerned with several of the illegal trade that may be occurring," Linnington said. "We've not targeted any Syrian or outside Iraqi forces. We've not seen any organized selling of larger caliber weapons or RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] or things like that. So in that regard, we don't have a problem with arms dealers per se."

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