BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. troops have found no sign of bodies or even a bunker at the site where intelligence had said Saddam Hussein (search) was sleeping on the war's opening night, a senior officer said Thursday.
Acting on an intelligence tip, U.S. forces launched their campaign on March 20 by firing more than 40 Tomahawk missiles (search) on Dora Farms, a neighborhood south of Baghdad where the Iraqi leader was said to be with his sons.
"We looked real hard," Col. Tim Madere, an unconventional weapons specialist with the Army's V Corp (search), said. "We didn't find any bodies or bunkers," he said a day after visiting the site.
Madere is part of the U.S.-led search for Saddam-era weapons of mass destruction. Looking for underground bunkers is a large part of the job, and weapons teams are occasionally also sent to gather evidence on the former regime and crimes it may have committed.
The source of the CIA tip that launched the war's opening salvo is a closely guarded secret. Officials will only say the intelligence was regarded as extremely reliable.
Initially, a source told the CIA that Saddam's sons, Qusai and Odai, and possibly their father, would be spending the night at a residential compound in Dora Farms, located along the Tigris and shrouded among rows of trees.
The source's information was deemed so credible that CIA Director George J. Tenet personally took it to the Pentagon, where he described it to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld before the information was taken to the White House.
The mission was not believed to have been successful. A disheveled Saddam appeared a day later on Iraqi TV and made a second appearance a week later. He was last reported seen in Baghdad on April 9.
The United States doesn't know whether Saddam is alive or dead. Several messages released in his name have surfaced since major hostilities came to an end but there was no way to confirm their authenticity.