Published December 14, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Without firing a single shot, U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein (search) as he hid in the bottom of a hole at a farmhouse near Tikrit on Saturday.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we got him," L. Paul Bremer (search), the U.S. administrator in Iraq, announced.
"The tyrant is a prisoner," Bremer said.
The former Iraqi dictator was captured Saturday at 8:30 p.m. in the cellar of a farmhouse in the town of Adwar (search), 10 miles from Tikrit, ending one of the most intense manhunts in history. Saddam has been on the run since the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces on April 9.
"He was caught like a rat," said Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno (search) of the 4th Infantry Division at a separate press conference in Tikrit. “It was ironic that he was in a hole in the ground across the river from the great palaces her built using all the money he robbed from the Iraqi people.”
Officials showed a videotape of Saddam, the most-wanted figure by the U.S.-led coalition, as he was being inspected following his capture. The 66-year-old had a long black-and-gray beard and unkempt black hair. Journalists were then shown a video of Saddam after he was shaved.
Iraqi journalists in the audience stood, pointed and shouted "Death to Saddam!" and "Down with Saddam!"
In the capital, radio stations played celebratory music, residents fired small arms in the air in celebration, and others drove through the streets, shouting, "They got Saddam! They got Saddam!"
President Bush (search) learned Saturday afternoon that Saddam might have been seized, and he got the news early Sunday that the military had confirmed that Saddam was in custody. Bush will address the nation on Saddam's capture at 12:15 p.m. EST Sunday.
"The Iraqi people can finally be assured that Saddam Hussein will not be coming back -- they can see it for themselves," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "Saddam Hussein was a brutal, oppressive dictator responsible for decades of atrocities."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) hailed the capture, saying Saddam "has gone from power, he won't be coming back."
"Where his rule meant terror and division and brutality, let his capture bring about unity, reconciliation and peace between all the people of Iraq," Blair told reporters at his 10 Downing St. office.
Operation Red Dawn
About 600 U.S. troops took part in Operation Red Dawn, said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (search), the top American general in Iraq. Two other unidentified Iraqis were captured along with Saddam and authorities confiscated two Kalashnikov rifles, a pistol, a taxi, and $750,000 in U.S. currency at the site.
The operation began after the military received tips from local residents as well as unspecified intelligence, Sanchez said.
Odierno said that Saddam was captured less than 24 hours after the intelligence was received about his whereabouts. A team of 60 soldiers from a variety of military units cordoned off an area of two square kilometers and finally removed a styrofoam covering to the hole where Saddam was found.
“This was not something that happened overnight. Since we have been [in Iraq] we have collected a lot of intelligence. We always knew that he was relying on family and tribal ties.
Troops with Task Force 21, the special forces unit set up to go after Saddam, surrounded a farmhouse and looked for the ex-dictator in two specific locations -- dubbed Wolverine One and Wolverine Two -- but initially did not locate him.
The search of the home continued and troops discovered something in the ground called a "spider hole." The hole was six to eight feet deep, with enough space to lie down, camouflaged with bricks and dirt and supplied with an air vent to allow long periods inside.
Odierno said that Saddam was disoriented and bewildered as he came out of the hole. Based on the fact that he still had clothing in wrappers, Odierno believed that he hadn’t been in the hideout for very long.
“I do believe it will have an overall effect,” said Odierno. “Now that he is in coalition custody, there is no doubt that he will never return to power.”
Sanchez said he had no idea how long Saddam had been at the home in Adwar and could not say if anyone had stepped forward to claim the $25 million dollar reward for his capture.
Asked about Saddam's state at the time of his capture, Sanchez said: "He was a tired man, a man resigned to his fate."
Saddam is talkative and is being cooperative, the general said. He is being held at an undisclosed location.
"This success brings closure to the Iraqi people," Sanchez said.
"Saddam Hussein will never return to a position of power from which he can punish, terrorize, intimidate and exploit the Iraqi people as the did for more than 35 years."
Washington hopes Saddam's capture will help break the organized Iraq resistance that has killed more than 190 American soldiers since Bush declared major combat over on May 1 and has set back efforts at reconstruction. U.S. commanders have said that while in hiding Saddam played some role in the guerrilla campaign blamed on his followers.
In the latest attack, a suspected suicide bomber detonated explosives in a car outside a police station Sunday morning west of Baghdad, killing at least 17 people and wounding 33 more, the U.S. military said.
'Saddam Will Stand Public Trial'
Ahmad Chalabi (search), a member of Iraq's Governing Council, said that Saddam will be put on trial.
"Saddam will stand a public trial so that the Iraqi people will know his crimes," said Chalabi told Al-Iraqiya, a Pentagon-funded TV station.
A delegation of the council hopes to visit Saddam in captivity later Sunday, a spokesman for the council said.
"With the arrest of Saddam, the source financing terrorists has been destroyed and terrorist attacks will come to an end. Now we can establish a durable stability and security in Iraq," said council member Jalal Talabani.
Saddam proved elusive during the war, when at least two dramatic military strikes came up empty in their efforts to assassinate him. Since then, he has appeared in both video and audio tapes. U.S. officials named him No. 1 on their list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis, the lead card in a special deck of most-wanted cards.
Saddam's sons Qusai and Odai -- each with a $15 million bounty on their heads -- were killed July 22 in a four-hour gunbattle with U.S. troops in a hideout in the northern city of Mosul. The bounties were paid out to the man who owned the house where they were killed, residents said.
Adnan Pachachi, a Governing Council member, said Saddam's capture will bring stability to Iraq.
"The state of fear, intelligence and oppression is gone forever," Pachachi said. "The Iraqi people are very happy and we look forward to a future of national reconciliation between Iraqis in order to build the new and free Iraq, an Iraq of equality."
In Baghdad, residents fired small arms in the air in celebration, and gunfire echoed in neighborhoods across the city. Earlier in the day, rumors of the capture sent people streaming into the streets of Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city, firing guns in the air in celebration.
"We are celebrating like it's a wedding," said Kirkuk resident Mustapha Sheriff. "We are finally rid of that criminal."
"This is the joy of a lifetime," said Ali Al-Bashiri, another resident. "I am speaking on behalf of all the people that suffered under his rule."
Fox News' Bret Baier, Rita Cosby and Jim Angle and The Associated Press contributed to this report.