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Archive for Saturday, August 2, 2003

U.S. captures two ‘important’ Iraqis

Tape attributed to Saddam says he’ll regain power soon

August 2, 2003

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— U.S. forces grabbed two "important associates of the former regime" and a bodyguard suspected of protecting top Iraqi fugitives Friday, seizing documents and photographs they hoped would help the search for Saddam Hussein.

Also, a tape attributed to the former dictator urged Iraqis to join the anti-American insurgency and vowed Saddam would return to power "at any moment." The CIA said the tape was most likely authentic.

To help U.S. troops track him down, the U.S. military Friday released several digitally enhanced photographs of Saddam, showing what he might look like if he changed his appearance. Two of the photos show him with a heavy black beard. In one his face is framed by a headscarf. Others show him with gray hair.

About 100 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division carried out simultaneous raids Friday afternoon in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.

They captured the two men, who had been tracked for days, without many problems -- partly because both were napping in the afternoon heat, commanders said.

The military did not identify the captives, but Lt. Col. Steve Russell called them "important associates of the former regime." Soldiers seized documents and photographs from the houses, but Russell said it was too soon to say how valuable they were.

"I think it does bring us closer (to capturing Saddam)," Russell said. "We believe the information they may possess will further help destroy the regime."

The two men emerged peacefully from the homes, separated by a vacant lot. One was luxurious with modern fittings, the other ramshackle with slit windows. The detainees told the military they were asleep when soldiers, using bullhorns, called for their surrender. No weapons were found in the homes, the military said.

Two Apache helicopters hovered above while four Bradley fighting vehicles and several Humvees surrounded the pair of two-story structures.

Hours later, dozens of soldiers captured a man they described as a second-tier bodyguard in Saddam's regime while he visited a home in Tikrit. He also gave himself up peacefully.

Earlier, the Arab television network Al-Jazeera broadcast an audiotape purportedly carrying the voice of Saddam speaking Sunday. The voice sounded like Saddam's, but there was no way immediately to confirm its authenticity.

The speaker issued a new call to arms and said people who participated in the rampant looting of government property as the war wound down should not worry about retribution when Saddam defeats the American occupation.

"We have decided to consider all the properties of the party and the government a gift to whoever has it, to use as they see fit, to keep or to sell without any restrictions, free from any legal constraints, now or in the future," the voice said.

The would-be amnesty for looters appeared to be an attempt to recruit more Iraqis for an insurgency against the American occupation.

U.S. forces have given mixed assessments over the past two weeks of their search for Saddam, with some commanders saying they were on the verge of capturing him and others trying to lower expectations, saying he will be caught at some point.

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