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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 December, 2003, 17:04 GMT
Saddam Hussein arrested in Iraq
Saddam Hussein in video footage released by US forces
The US said Saddam Hussein offered no resistance
Ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is in custody following his dramatic capture by US forces in Iraq.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we got him," US administrator Paul Bremer told journalists in Baghdad, to loud cheers from Iraqis in the audience.

Saddam Hussein was found in a tiny cellar at a farmhouse about 15km (10 miles) south of his hometown Tikrit.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has welcomed the news, saying it "removes the shadow" hanging over Iraq.

Saddam Hussein, 66, was the most wanted man on the list issued by US authorities but had not been seen since Baghdad fell to US forces in April.

Ladies and gentlemen, we got him
Paul Bremer
US chief administrator in Iraq

Video footage released by the US military showed a dishevelled-looking Saddam with a long black and grey beard in custody receiving a medical check-up.

A US military spokesman, Major-General Raymond Odierno, said the operation - involving various combined US units - was launched within 24 hours of receiving a tip-off from a member of Saddam Hussein's clan.

"Over the last 10 days we brought in about five to 10 members of these families, and finally got the ultimate information from one of these individuals", he said.

The sequence of events, as described by the US military, was as follows:

  • About 600 US forces head to Al-Dawr, south of Tikrit, and conduct intensive searches

  • US forces find "rural farmhouse" and cordon off an area of about two km by two km

  • "Spider hole" or cellar located in a hut - the narrow hole covered with a rug, bricks and dirt and about six to eight feet (1.8m to 2.5m) deep, with a styrofoam insert

  • Saddam Hussein found inside, armed with a pistol, and arrested at 2030 local time (1730 GMT) on Saturday - US says he offers no resistance

  • Two unidentified people said to be "close allies" of Saddam Hussein arrested and weapons and more than $750,000 cash confiscated.

Intensive search

Saddam Hussein emerged from his hiding place "very much bewildered" and said "hardly anything at first", according to Major-General Odierno.

Saddam Hussein under arrest - with beard and without beard
Saddam was found dishevelled - later his beard was shaved off
The hut where he was living had two very small rooms.

There was a bedroom cluttered with clothes, some of them new and still in their wrappers, and a kitchen with running water.

Iraqi Governing Council head Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim was quoted as saying that a DNA test had proved the man in custody was Saddam Hussein.

President George W Bush is due to speak about the arrest in an address to the nation from the White House at about 1700 GMT.

Saddam Hussein had been the object of intensive searches by US-led forces in Iraq but previous attempts to locate him had proved unsuccessful.

US officials said Saddam Hussein was co-operative after his capture and talking politely.

People have started celebrating the capture of their former president in the streets of Baghdad and the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk by sounding their horns and firing into the air.

The former Iraqi leader was last seen in television footage shot in April at a Baghdad market just before the city fell to US forces in the recent Iraq conflict.

US authorities had offered a $25m reward for information leading to his capture.

On 22 July his sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed in a raid by US forces in the northern city of Mosul.

In October, US officials said they had intelligence indicating Saddam Hussein was hiding in Tikrit.

They said he seemed to be moving around various safe houses with the aid of family members, often in disguise.

Saddam Hussein was born in Tikrit and has a tight network of family and clan ties which permeated all of the regime's main military, security and political institutions while he was in power.

Coalition authorities have said that the former Iraqi president could be tried at a war crimes tribunal, with Iraqi judges presiding and international legal experts acting as advisers.

Meanwhile, violence continued in Iraq on Sunday, with at least 17 people killed and 30 wounded after a powerful car bomb exploded at an Iraqi police station in Khaldiyah, about 35 miles (60 km) west of Baghdad.

US officials say it may have been a suicide attack.

'That is good news'

President Bush heard the news of Saddam's capture first from Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at about 2015 GMT on Saturday.

The White House spokesman said Mr Bush interrupted Mr Rumsfeld's first words - "Mr President, the first reports are not always accurate," to say, "This sounds like it's going to be good news".

Finally the criminal that traumatized Iraq for decades is made to answer for his deeds
Wisam, UK/Iraq

Mr Rumsfeld told him the military believed it had captured Saddam. "That is good news," Mr Bush replied.

Mr Bush hurried back to the White House from the presidential retreat at Camp David and was kept informed about the process of verifying Saddam Hussein's identity.

Final confirmation of the capture was passed on by US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice early on Sunday.

The BBC's Ben Brown
"Under arrest the deposed dictator is meek and obedient"

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