CAIRO, Egypt – Iraq's former information minister told an Arab television station Wednesday that U.S. attempts to target ousted President Saddam Hussein (search) during the war were far off target.
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf (search) became infamous during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq for hurling anti-American insults and outlandish claims of Iraqi military victories over the coalition.
"All the bombing hit places where Saddam had never existed and their [U.S.] intelligence was a failure," al-Sahhaf said on Abu Dhabi Television, which was monitored in Cairo.
Only once, he said, did they hear an explosion about 500 yards from where the Iraqi leadership was meeting with Saddam in the Dawoody area on the outskirts of Baghdad (search).
Asked whether the remaining leadership would have announced his death if Saddam had been killed, al-Sahhaf said: "I think they would hide it."
He said that during the war, Saddam stayed in a house in a residential area not far from the presidential palace, and also spent five days in a house on al-Ameerat Street in Baghdad's upscale al-Mansour district.
On April 7, U.S. missiles hit a house in al-Mansour district, where Saddam was believed to be hiding. At least 14 civilians died. The U.S. military said it had reliable information that Saddam and members of his family and entourage were there, but al-Sahhaf denied that.
The former minister said that shortly before the war, some Iraqi ministers and other senior officials received "threats" through telephone calls from Americans speaking Arabic from outside Iraq.
Iraqi opposition and U.S. reports had said phone calls were made to discourage Iraqi military commanders from defending Saddam's regime.
Al-Sahhaf said Saddam appreciated his comments.
"Once Saddam told his aides that he had received reports saying al-Sahhaf's comments alert the people and help them receive the information better," al-Sahhaf said.
Al-Sahhaf's comments were broadcast on the second episode of "Al-Sahhaf's War," aired by Abu Dhabi Television. He is expected to appear on three more episodes of the program.
Al-Sahhaf disappeared April 9, the day Baghdad fell, and reportedly hid in a relative's home. He was not included in the list of 55 most wanted Iraqi officials and left Baghdad for the United Arab Emirates on July 10.