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Saddam's flight from capture
( 2003-12-15 09:22) (cnn.com)

In a huge victory for the U.S.-led coalition, the nine-month manhunt for ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ended when he was captured in a mud tunnel, where he had hidden in a hole just wide enough for him to lie down.

Before the decapitation strike in March that opened the war in Iraq, it was believed that Saddam had a sophisticated system of tunnels and underground bunkers where he could hide comfortably and avoid capture.

In contrast to the sumptuous palaces where he once resided, the site where Saddam was found was described as a "spider hole," with a fan and air hole. It was camouflaged with bricks and dirt, built beneath a small walled compound with a metal lean-to structure and a mud hut. 

"It was a cooperating posture he was presenting to us," said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. "He was a tired man. Also, I think, a man resigned to his fate."

Senior U.S. military officials said in July that they believed Saddam was changing locations every two to four hours and said then it was only a matter of time before they caught him. 

As early as last month in his final of several audiotapes, Saddam called for more resistance against U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.

In the message broadcast on the Arabic news network Al Arabiya, Saddam claimed the Muslim holy month of Ramadan would be "the month of victories." 

Although Saddam had a US$25 million bounty on his head -- either for information leading to his capture or for evidence of his death -- it is believed that information that led to his arrest came from interrogations of captured officials of his fallen regime.

The United States offered the reward in early July, when US$15 million rewards each were offered for similar information about Saddam's sons, Uday and Qusay. They died July 22 when U.S. forces raided their hideout in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, acting on a tip from an Iraqi informant.

An audiotape broadcast a week after their deaths called Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay Hussein martyrs and the speaker expressed pride in the way they died. U.S. intelligence experts concluded the voice was probably that of Saddam.

In that tape, Saddam also said it was a duty of believers to sacrifice themselves in battle against the enemy.

Saddam was captured alive Sunday without a struggle.

His captivity comes eight months after U.S. forces attempted to kill him.

In early April, the U.S. military dropped four 2,000-pound bombs on a building in a residential area of Baghdad where they believed Saddam may have been hiding.

Saddam soon began a series of taped messages to assure his followers he was alive.

About a week after the fall of Baghdad to coalition forces, Abu Dhabi television aired footage of Saddam which it said was shot April 9 in the Azamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad. He looked calm as he mixed with a crowd of residents.

Since that time, a number of audiotapes with a voice believed to be Saddam have surfaced in the news media. Saddam used those taped message to call for the Iraqi people and other Muslims to battle coalition forces.

Guerrilla forces loyal to Saddam and others, including some that U.S. officials say are linked to the al Qaeda terrorist network, have been continually attacking U.S. forces in Iraq.

A tape in September called on the United States to "withdraw your troops as quickly as possible" and said captured officials of Saddam's government could help negotiate a U.S. withdrawal.

Instead, it appears information from those officials led to Saddam's capture.

In Washington, U.S. officials said Saddam admitted his identity and that other detainees identified him. Some Iraqi officials said that DNA tests had confirmed Saddam's identity, but U.S. officials said the tests had not yet been completed.

Iraq officials hailed Saddam's capture as "a great day" in Iraq and promised a fair and open trial in the newly authorized Iraqi human rights tribunal.

Members of the Iraqi Governing Council said Sunday when they went to see Saddam they found him "tired and haggard, unrepentant, even defiant."

Asked about thousands killed and dumped in mass graves, Saddam dismissed his victims saying "they were thieves," said one council member.

"He was not apologetic. He was sarcastic and making a mockery of Iraqi people," said one member of the council.

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