ISHAKY, Iraq – U.S. soldiers raided the home of a wealthy auto dealer Monday after a man claiming to be Saddam Hussein (search)'s mechanic said the ousted dictator was hiding there.
Four Bradley fighting vehicles smashed through the front walls of the compound in Ishaky, on the banks of the Tigris (search) about 35 miles north of Baghdad, said Capt. Karl Pfuetze, whose 4th Infantry 3rd Brigade (search) unit led the raid.
Dozens of soldiers stormed the compound, which consisted of three interconnected houses with an estimated 50 rooms, he said.
Saddam was not in the house, and soldiers found no escape tunnels on the property. They detained the house's owner and the man who provided the tip.
Although sporadic Saddam sightings have been reported, specific information is rare and acted on quickly, said Col. Frederick Rudesheim, the brigade commander.
"We don't have the luxury of waiting for near perfect intelligence," he said. "We can't afford not to pay attention to that kind of information."
The compound's pillars and size made it stand out from farmers' homes nearby and made the information seem plausible, said Sgt. 1st Class Ken Somier. The area is near Tikrit, Saddam's hometown.
Saddam isn't the type to hide somewhere humble, Somier said. "His ego can't allow it."
Soldiers had noticed up to 40 people milling outside the house last week, but only a dozen were there during the raid.
The informant described the house in detail and was very nervous when he first showed the soldiers the house, calling out: "No! No! There are people watching us now," Pfuetze said.
"He was convinced beyond a doubt," the captain said.
Hours after the raid, Kalaf H. Hamad, who said his brother Mansur owns the targeted house, denied his family had any connection to Saddam's Baath party.
Mansur Hamad, a car dealer, lived in the three houses in the compound with his two wives and 15 children, his brother said.
"My brother and I were sitting out until 2 a.m. watching the helicopters overhead. We were not expecting to be attacked," he added.
The U.S. administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, told Fox News on Sunday that he believed Saddam was hiding in an area north and west of Baghdad called the "Sunni Triangle," a hotbed of pro-Saddam resistance and scene of many attacks on U.S. forces. Ishaky lies within that region.
A $25 million reward has been offered for information leading to Saddam's capture.
The Army will compensate Mansur Hamad for damage if an investigation proves the raid was a mistake, Rudesheim said.