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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 14:42 GMT
How Saddam Hussein was captured
BBC News Online looks at how the operation to capture former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein unfolded.

SADDAM HUSSEIN'S HIDING HOLE
1050: Tip-off received, two targets identified and given codenames
1800: 600 troops move towards 'Wolverine 1' and 'Wolverine 2'
2000: Targets searched, Saddam Hussein not found
2030: Hole found, Saddam Hussein captured with no resistance

Saddam Hussein was captured after a tip-off led American troops to a small, underground hole concealed next to farm buildings near the former leader's hometown of Tikrit.

Soldiers were seconds away from throwing a hand grenade into the hole, when Saddam Hussein emerged and surrendered, Colonel James Hickey who led the raid said.

The critical piece of information, obtained at 1050 local time on Saturday, came from an individual who had been arrested the previous day in Baghdad, he said.

My name is Saddam Hussein. I am the president of Iraq and I want to negotiate
Saddam Hussein

By 1800, under the cover of darkness, some 600 troops from the US 4th Infantry Division began moving towards two locations considered likely hide-outs near the town of al-Dawr.

Their mission to kill or capture Saddam Hussein, they assaulted the targets - codenamed Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2 - at about 2000 but did not find the former leader.

They then sealed off the area and conducted a wider search, discovering a small walled farm compound containing a metal lean-to structure and a mud hut.

Underground hide-out

Searching the compound, troops discovered a so-called "spider hole", camouflaged with bricks and dirt and covered with polystyrene and a carpet.

Entrance to Saddam Hussein's spider hole
Saddam Hussein was found in a carefully hidden hole
Colonel Hickey said that the soldiers looked into the hole and saw a figure inside it.

"Two hands appeared. The individual clearly wanted to surrender," he said.

Saddam Hussein was pulled out at 2036, "disoriented" and "bewildered", according to Major General Ray Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division.

He put up no resistance although armed with a pistol.

"My name is Saddam Hussein. I am the president of Iraq and I want to negotiate," he told the US troops in English, according to Major Bryan Reed, operations officer for the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.

"Regards from President Bush," US special forces replied, Major Reed recounted.

Two other people, believed to have formed Saddam Hussein's small entourage, were also captured and taken away for interrogation.

'Very rudimentary'

The underground chamber the former Iraqi leader had secreted himself in was six-to-eight feet (1.8 metres - 2.4 metres) deep, with enough space for a person to lie down, and an air vent and extractor fan.


Major General Odierno said the farm where the former leader was found consisted of "two very small rooms in an adobe hut".

He said one was a bedroom that was cluttered with clothes, including new T-shirts and socks and a "very rudimentary" kitchen, with running water.

Saddam Hussein would have moved from the building into the hole whenever coalition forces were in the area, Major General Odierno added.

He said the hole was very close to the Tigris river, within view of some of the captive's palaces.

"I think it was rather ironic that he was in a hole in the ground across the river from these great palaces that he has built, where he robbed all the money from the Iraqi people," Major General Odierno said.

'Ultimate information'

Although the area had been searched before, it was likely Saddam Hussein had not been there, as he was thought to have moved often and at short notice.

The spokesman said it was likely he had been there for a short time when the "ultimate information" came from a member of a family brought in for questioning.

No mobile phones or other communications equipment were found, suggesting that Saddam Hussein was providing "moral support" and was no longer co-ordinating the Iraqi resistance, Major General Odierno added.

Top US military commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez said the former dictator was "talkative and co-operative", had no injuries and was in good health.

Endgame

Along with the former Iraqi dictator, troops discovered $750,000 cash in $100 bills, two AK-47 machine guns and a briefcase of documents.

A white and orange taxi was parked near the compound.

The former Iraqi leader was removed at 2115 and taken to an undisclosed secure location, General Sanchez said.

He showed a news conference a videotape of a dishevelled and heavily-bearded Saddam Hussein being examined by an American doctor.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein did not put up any resistance
The mission came after a intense intelligence-gathering operation in the Tikrit area over several months.

American forces gradually built up a picture of Saddam Hussein's likely whereabouts through tip-offs, interrogations of detainees and rigorous analysis of information.

The tip-off on Saturday came as the first piece of so-called "actionable intelligence", pointing troops to a specific location.

Analysts have suggested that Saddam Hussein hid near his home town Tikrit - his political and tribal powerbase - in the hope that remaining local supporters would shelter him from coalition forces.

But it must be speculated that the $25m reward offered by the US for information leading to his capture may well have played a part in undermining these traditional loyalties - and sealing his fate.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's James Rodgers
"Inside the hut, one cramped bedroom covered with dirty laundry"




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