Day 13 April 1, 3003
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U.S.: Saddam fears public appearances, may have fled country

The United States continues to bait Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to emerge from hiding.

U.S. officials and military commanders said Saddam appears too scared to emerge from hiding because of fear of assassination by his senior aides or elite units. They said Saddam and his family might have even escaped from Baghdad and fled Iraq.

Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States has not found any trace of Saddam since a March 20 attack on his headquarters in Baghdad. Saddam and his sons were said to have been in the compound.

"So where is he?" Pace said. "He's either dead, or he's injured, or he's afraid to come out because his own soldiers will kill him. Or he's afraid to come out because his people will kill him."

As battle for Baghdad is joined, Iraqi command structure eroding

ABU DHABI The United States is accelerating preparations for an assault on Baghdad.

Western defense sources monitoring the war around the Persian Gulf said the U.S. military has intensified reinforcements and supplies to front lines near Baghdad. The sources said U.S. aircraft and artillery have been pounding Republican Guard positions south and west of Baghdad in an attempt to soften up targets for a ground attack.

"There's been a break and the Iraqi Republican Guard is showing serious signs of degrading," a Western source said.

The sources said the communications network of the Republican Guard appears to have been heavily damaged. They said the divisions around Baghdad are resorting increasingly to cellular phone communications, which can be easily intercepted by U.S. military intelligence.

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