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Several hundred caught in Iraq sweep after Saddam arrest: US
( 2003-12-22 09:08) (Agencies)

Several hundred people have been detained in Iraq in a sweep against insurgents using intelligence following the capture of Saddam Hussein, General Richard Myers, head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

Myers said in media interviews the US military believed some of the detainees were leaders of the insurgency against US-led forces in Iraq.

The general said the raids followed the detention last weekend of the deposed Iraqi president.

He told CNN television that some of the information had come from the briefcase seized when US forces found Saddam hiding in a hole under a farmhouse near his hometown of Tikrit.

"With the capture of Saddam Hussein, we learned a little bit more about how they're organized and some of the individuals involved," said the general, who has just returned from a visit to Iraq.

"And what you see now is forces taking advantage of that intelligence and going out and rounding up people. We've got over 200 detainees so far."

Myers told Fox News television "we think they're some of the leadership of this insurgency, absolutely, some of the cell leaders."

The top US military officer said that Saddam was not cooperating with US interrogators but reaffirmed the case that the capture had been a major blow in the campaign to secure Iraq.

"I think the capture of Saddam Hussein and the intelligence we gleaned from him is a big step in the inevitable process of Iraq's march to a democracy. And it's a huge step, but it's not the only step required. There's a lot of hard work yet to go."

Myers said that "one individual" who was captured had given the information that led to Saddam's detention but that the tip was not volunteered.

"He did not come forward," the general said adding that US authorities would decide later whether the individual would get any of the 25 million dollar reward for Saddam's arrest.

The general was also asked about reports about a plot to kidnap members of the Iraqi Governing Council.

"This should not be a surprise," he said. "What we've got to do is protect them."

Paul Bremer, the US civilian administrator in Iraq, has already revealed how he narrowly missed a bomb attack on his car. And Myers highlighted that Bremer is constantly "under threat."

"He, day in and day out, shows as much courage as our troops on the ground, because they would love to stop the progress that we're making in Iraq."

Myers said the US plan was to have at least 100,000 US troops in Iraq throughout 2004, even though a transitional government is due to be read to take over from the US-led administration on July 1.

"We're just going to have to see what kind of arrangements we're going to have with them, what kind of security needs are going to be there on July 1, what we're going to need in the future."

Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said materials captured with Saddam would probably yield more new information than the deposed leader himself.

"He is the master of deceit and deception," Roberts told CBS news Sunday.

"But that material in that trash bag and that briefcase and the document exploitation that we've gone through ... over 100 people have been detained, arrested.

"And it gave us an insight on the intelligence side on how these cells are operating and that they largely came from the Baath Party and specific places in the Baath Party," he said on CBS's Face the Nation program.

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