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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 October, 2003, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Saddam 'may be in Tikrit'
Saddam Hussein with supporters in his last public appearance in
Saddam has not been seen in public since April
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein may be hiding in his ancestral home town of Tikrit, US officials say.

Intelligence information also indicated the ousted leader may be leading violent anti-US resistance in the area, 90 miles (140 kilometres) north of the capital Baghdad, officials added.

"We have clear indication he has been here recently... he could be here right now," deputy brigade commander Major Troy Smith of the US 4th Infantry Division - which is based in Tikrit - said on Tuesday.

Saddam Hussein has not been seen in public since early April, shortly before Baghdad fell to coalition forces.

Tribal roots

Major Smith did not specify the intelligence sources which led US forces to conclude Saddam Hussein was in the area, but said they were reliable.

"Where else would he go to?" he said.

"He has family and tribal roots here."

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.

On Tuesday, US magazine Time reported that US officials suspect as much as $3bn of the former Iraqi leader's fortune has been stashed in Syrian government-controlled banks.

It said US Secretary of State Colin Powell had met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to put pressure on Syria to hand over the money so it could be returned to the Iraq people.

Syria has denied the allegations, saying there is no Iraqi money in the country.

Last sighting

US forces stationed in Tikrit have been targeted frequently in guerrilla attacks by Iraqi insurgents, with three soldiers killed last month in an ambush.

In July US forces also carried out a series of raids on addresses across the city, netting several members of Saddam Hussein's former regime, including one of his personal bodyguards.

The last public sighting of Saddam Hussein - or possibly one of his body doubles - was on 4 April, when footage was broadcast on Iraqi state television showing him walking in a Baghdad neighbourhood surrounded by cheering Iraqis.

Since then there have been numerous unsubstantiated sightings and several audiotapes purporting to be of the former Iraqi leader have also surfaced.

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