Published July 30, 2003
TIKRIT, Iraq – A man purporting to be Saddam Hussein (search) acknowledged the death of his sons in an audiotape broadcast Tuesday on Al-Arabiya television, saying they had been "martyred for Iraq" and that America will be defeated.
Meanwhile, U.S. forces searched for clues to Saddam's whereabouts in documents and photo albums seized in his hometown.
If confirmed, the tape -- the third attributed to Saddam this month -- could put to rest any remaining doubts among Iraqis that Uday and Qusay (search) Hussein were killed in a firefight with U.S. soldiers in the northern city of Mosul on July 22.
The audiotape was broadcast Tuesday on the Arab satellite station Al-Arabiya (search), five days after the U.S. military released grisly photos of their bloodied bodies in an effort to convince Iraqis that the sons were dead and to weaken support for an anti-American insurgency.
U.S. forces on Tuesday interrogated 12 suspects arrested in Saddam's hometown, Tikrit, and examined identity cards, bound notebooks, Baath Party records and other documents found in their homes to try to fill in the picture of his desperate flight.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council of 25 prominent Iraqis appointed a nine-member presidency, failing to agree on a single leader for the beginnings of a new Iraqi government.
In the nine-minute audiotape, a voice resembling Saddam's said he was glad Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed because such a death "is the hope of every fighter."
"Even if Saddam Hussein has 100 sons other than Uday and Qusay, Saddam Hussein would offer them the same path," said the calm, even voice. "That is the hope of every fighter for God's sake, as another group of noble souls of the martyrs has ascended to their creator."
The tape also referred to Mustafa, Qusay's teenage son, who was killed in the gunfight in Mosul. "Uday, Qusay, and Mustafa died in Jihad field ... in a brave battle with the enemy," the voice said.
"The aggression armies surrounding them with all kinds of weapons and ground troops were not able to conquer them until they used their warplanes on the house that they were in," the speaker said.
The speaker said the recording was made in July 2003, but the exact date was not clear. Al-Arabiya said it received the tape Tuesday. The widely watched satellite station, which broadcasts across the Middle East, including in Iraq, aired the tape at least twice more after the initial play.
The CIA was reviewing the new message to determine if it was authentic, a U.S. intelligence official said. The speaker sounded like the voice in other recordings attributed to Saddam, with the same vocabulary and tone.
The last audio recording attributed to Saddam was broadcast by Al-Arabiya on July 23 and claimed to have been recorded July 20. U.S. intelligence officials said it was probably authentic.
The other recording said Saddam was speaking on July 14 and referred to the new Governing Council of Iraq. U.S. intelligence officials said that recording also was probably authentic and was further evidence that Saddam survived the war.
U.S. commanders, meanwhile, said the documents seized in Tikrit gave clues to Saddam's flight from American forces, who have reported at least two near-misses in the past week.
"Each time we do something, we get information, even if we don't get the people," said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who led the raids in Tikrit. "It slowly leads to pieces of the puzzle, and it keeps filling in."
In Washington, U.S. officials expressed confidence that Saddam would be tracked down, saying that in the end, he will be the one to decide whether he's taken dead or alive.
"The decisions made by the individual being pursued will prevail in most cases if he doesn't wish to be taken alive," Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said. "In many cases it's difficult to take them alive."
Russell, commander of the 22nd Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion, led simultaneous pre-dawn raids on several homes in the heart of Saddam's hometown, 120 miles north of Baghdad. Soldiers blasted open doors with shotguns, leading away dazed occupants in blindfolds and throwing photographs and documents into the street.
Similar raids have occurred daily across Iraq. A coalition military official said American forces conducted 58 raids between Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon, detaining 176 people. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, gave no other details.
Among those captured was Adnan Abdullah Abid al-Musslit, a stocky man commanders said was one of Saddam's most trusted bodyguards. Al-Musslit, who is Saddam's cousin, was believed to have detailed knowledge of Saddam's hiding spots.
Al-Musslit had retired from his job, but Saddam called him back into service before the war started, Russell said, citing intelligence gathered from Tikrit residents.
"If everything else had failed and we just got that one guy, we would be happy," Russell said.
The soldiers had to overpower al-Musslit, who several soldiers said was quite drunk, wrestling him to the ground and dragging him down the stairs. Al-Musslit tried to make it out of his bedroom to grab a submachine gun, but the soldiers were too quick, said Lt. Chris Morris, a sniper on the raid.
Outside, soldiers tied a tan cloth over al-Musslit's eyes and stripped him to his underwear, searching for weapons. Blood seeped through the blindfold -- Morris said from a broken nose suffered in the scuffle -- and an Army medic examined him.
Russell said the resistance was to be expected.
"Were we surprised? He's a bodyguard," Russell said. "That's why we went in with our steely knives and oily guns."
Eleven other suspects were taken away from the Tikrit raids, including Daher Ziana, responsible for security at Saddam's Tikrit palaces, and Rafa Idham Ibrahim al-Hassan, another Saddam cousin and bodyguard who led the Saddam Fedayeen militia in Tikrit.
Outside Ziana's yard, six women wailed as soldiers tossed photographs and documents into the driveway. A large portrait of Saddam lay alongside a picture of Ziana in uniform. One album featured a photograph of women posing with Kalashnikov rifles.
Among the documents was something called a "Saddam Privilege Card," Russell said.
Soldiers took the men to an Army detention facility in Tikrit for interrogation.
Although President Bush declared major combat over nearly three months ago, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, said Tuesday the area from Baghdad to Tikrit was "still a war zone."
"Eighty percent of the security incidents are happening there," Myers said at a news conference in New Delhi. "It's fair to say it's still a war zone in that area."
Hoping to begin a political process in the occupied country, Iraq's U.S. administrators on July 13 appointed a 25-member Governing Council of prominent Iraqis to name a Cabinet, formulate economic policies and produce a process to write a new constitution. Its first order of business, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer said at the time, would be to elect a president.
But the council announced Tuesday it had formed a nine-member presidency, highlighting its inability to agree on a single leader.
Like the Governing Council, the presidency has a slight Shiite Muslim majority, with two Kurdish leaders and two non-Kurdish Sunni Muslims represented.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.