Published December 17, 2003
Documents found with Saddam Hussein link the captured dictator to a Baghdad guerrilla network connected to "Mohammed's Army," (search) a fighter group that has mounted resistance operations around Tikrit, Fox News learned Tuesday.
These documents are leading to the arrest of other resistance fighters and regime members, according to U.S. military officials.
On Tuesday, in fact, American soldiers arrested a suspected local Fedayeen (search) leader and 72 other people during a raid north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said Tuesday. It wasn't clear whether the recovered documents led to that specific raid.
The network, apparently run by former regime officials, financed at one time as many as 14 cells of about 25 enemy fighters each, Fox News also learned. Officials don't believe Saddam was ordering specific attacks, but the network was apparently reporting news of the attacks to him.
"We've never seen any indication that Saddam Hussein was actively guiding the attacks against us," Gen. Martin Dempsey of the 1st Armored Division told Fox News.
"We have always believed that the attacks against us were neighborhood-centric, locally organized and conducted," he said. "But it was always clear to us as well that there had to be some financial network and somebody giving broad guidance."
Officials are also looking for any indication of funds coming in from other countries.
As of Tuesday, six of the network's cells had been eliminated by coalition forces, leaving eight active cells left in Baghdad, a city of some 5.5 million. U.S. officials estimate they are still dealing with some 1,000 "hardcore" regime loyalists who may be planning more anti-coalition attacks.
Fox News has confirmed that the key tipster in Saddam's arrest was a top official of his super-elite Special Security Organization.
The documents found with Saddam describe minutes of meetings with Iraqi government officials who are believed to be financing such cells. They prove Saddam communicated with Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri (search), No. 6 on the U.S. military's 55 Most Wanted list (search), the New York Post reported.
"We took one document that had obvious and immediate applicability to Baghdad and we acted on it," Dempsey told Fox News. "There are many, many, many more documents."
U.S. commanders also told Fox News there were five or six specific names listed in that document, which led to two raids Sunday and Monday night on more than 10 cells in Baghdad; two fighters were nabbed. A former Iraqi general was among those detained within 24 hours of Saddam's capture.
The documents found with Saddam may reveal the degree to which he was involved in directing or financing the resistance — information that could affect his trial.
"It is conceivable, to the extent he was involved in the post-major combat operation terrorist activity that's taken place in that country, that that could affect charges brought against him," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Rounding Up the Regime
The raid that netted 73 people, which began Monday, took place in the village of Abu Safa, near Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad. Insurgents in Samarra ambushed U.S. forces on Monday, and the U.S. military said its troops killed 11 attackers.
At 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, troops from the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division arrested Qais Hattam (search), described as the No. 5 fugitive on the division's list of "high value targets," said Capt. Gaven Gregory of the 4th Infantry's 3rd Brigade. Hattam is not on the U.S. list of the 55 most wanted Iraqis but is a local Fedayeen leader.
U.S. military officials told Fox News that the suspected Fedayeen (search) leader was meeting with military-age males. Weapons and ammunition, including 185 pounds of gunpowder, 200 blasting caps, 82-mm mortar sites, mortar and artillery rounds, were also confiscated.
Maj. Josslyn Aberle, spokeswoman for the division, said many lives were likely saved by this raid. She also said it shows there are still anti-coalition activities going on led by former regime leaders.
The war is not over yet, she said, but "the coalition is committed to going after and catching these cells and liberating Iraq."
After Saddam's capture, U.S. Army teams captured one high-ranking former regime figure, who in turn gave up a few others, said Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling of the Army's 1st Armored Division.
"It has already helped us significantly in Baghdad," Hertling said. "I'm sure he was giving some guidance to some key figures in this insurgency.
U.S. officials say Saddam's capture may hurt morale in the guerrilla opposition.
"We expect it will take some time before we see any possible effects from what we've accomplished," said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who visited Iraq on Tuesday.
Still, he added, "when you take this leader, who was at one time a very popular leader in this region, and you find him in a hole in the ground, that's a pretty powerful statement that you're on the wrong team."
Attacks on U.S. troops remain at around 18 per day.
Saddam Denies WMD
Rumsfeld has asked CIA Director George Tenet to handle the interrogation of Saddam. He also said Saddam is still being accorded the protection of POW status and is being treated humanely under the Geneva Convention.
Rumsfeld pointed out that finding Saddam in a hole near a mud hut in a country the size of California was a major achievement.
"The images we looked at ought to remind us all how difficult the task is," Rumsfeld said, "how much persistence is required and how important it is to take scraps of seemingly disparate info about widely different locations, piece them together, work them in a timely way and then be poised, cocked and ready to move in a matter of minutes or hours, not days or weeks, because time sensitive targets don't wait."
U.S. officials said they have moved beyond interrogation about the attacks against coalition forces and on to the question of what types of weapons of mass destruction Saddam had. But Saddam has been fairly defiant, officials said.
Saddam's denial "is a kind of signal of the mental chess game that we are going to have with him in the interrogation process," said Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., chairman of the House intelligence panel.
Former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told Fox News that Iraq most likely got rid of many of its weapons after the Gulf War in 1991.
"We know that they did destroy quite a lot of weapons," Blix said, "the question is, did they destroy them all?"
Saddam claimed to have no knowledge of the whereabouts of long-missing Navy pilot Michael Scott Speicher (search), and denied any links to Al Qaeda. Speicher was shot down during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and is still missing.
U.S. officials warned that Iraqis may have to exercise patience in how Saddam is tried.
"You have an entire country that's a crime scene" and "mountains of evidence" to sift through, a U.S. official working with a special war crimes tribunal in Iraq, told Fox News.
Blix told Fox News that Saddam "has an enormous amount of blood on his hands and he should be put to justice before the Iraqi people."
Fox News' Bret Baier, Rick Leventhal, Greg Palkot, Ian McCaleb, Liza Porteus, Teri Schultz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.