Saddam Hussein captured alive, Iraq official says
( 2003-12-14 19:04) (Agencies)
Saddam Hussein has been captured alive in his hometown of Tikrit, a member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council said Sunday.
"Bremer has confirmed to the Governing Council that Saddam was captured in Tikrit," Noor al-Din said. "He spoke on the phone to several members, including Ahmad Chalabi."
Chalabi is a leading member of the council who has close links to the U.S. administration of President Bush.
Minutes earlier, Iran's official news agency, IRNA, also reported that Saddam had been detained in Iraq. "Saddam Hussein was arrested in his hometown of Tikrit," IRNA quoted top Iraqi leader, Jalal Talabani as saying. It gave no further details.
Nazem Dabbagh, a representative of Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdestan, confirmed Talabani's statement when reached by phone Sunday by an Associated Press reporter in Tehran.
In Iraq, rumors that Saddam was captured or killed near Tikrit sent hundreds of exultant people into the streets of this northern Iraqi city Sunday. They fired in the air in celebration and congratulated each other.
A spokeswoman for the U.S.-led occupation in Baghdad notified reporters that a "very important" announcement will be made at a news conference scheduled for 7 a.m. EST, but did not say who would be the speaker. The spokeswoman requested anonymity.
In Tikrit, rumors that the former dictator was in custody were making the rounds, but reporters attached to the 4th Infantry Division, the U.S. unit in charge of security in the area, said there was no unusual activity there overnight or early Sunday.
"We are celebrating like it's a wedding," said Mustapha Sheriff, a resident of Kirkuk. "We are finally rid of that criminal."
"This is the joy of a lifetime," said Ali Al-Bashiri, another Kirkuk resident. "I am speaking on behalf of all the people that suffered under his rule."
Saddam, who ruled Iraq for 23 years until his ouster in April, has been a fugitive since then with a $25 million bounty on his head.
Rumors about Saddam's capture or death periodically surface, and a hotline set up by the occupation authorities for tips on his whereabouts is flooded with callers.
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