Jordan Takes In Saddam's Daughters

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Two of Saddam Hussein (search)'s daughters and their nine children received sanctuary Thursday in Jordan (search) on humanitarian grounds, granted by King Abdullah II.

Raghad Saddam Hussein and Rana Saddam Hussein -- who had reportedly been living in humble circumstances in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, since their father's ouster -- arrived in the capital Amman Thursday, Information Minister Nabil al-Sharif told The Associated Press. He refused to say if they traveled through a third country.

U.S. officials say they are closing in on Saddam, but it was not clear if his daughters' departure from Iraq indicated the hunt for their father was nearing an end. Word of the arrival in Jordan of two of Saddam's five children came after his elder sons, Uday and Qusay (search), were killed in a July 22 firefight with U.S. troops.

Some U.S. military officers in Iraq said the daughters' flight to Jordan was another sign that intensified sweeps are squeezing Saddam and other members of the defeated regime.

"It's good news. Even if it's estranged or extended family, it shows they're on the move," said Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who commands soldiers patrolling Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.

It was not clear whether the Americans had sought the daughters for questioning about their father.

The two daughters had lived private lives and -- unlike their brothers -- were not believed to be wanted for crimes linked to their father's brutal regime. Instead, the women were seen by some as victims of Saddam, who ordered their husbands killed in 1996.

Al-Sharif said Saddam's daughters were allowed to come to the kingdom because they had "run out of all options."

The daughters had been estranged from their father for a time but were believed to have reconciled with Saddam in recent years.

A brother of their late husbands, Jamal Kamel, told The Associated Press that the women "don't know anything about where their father could be. They're not interested in politics."

He said the women were in one of Jordan's palaces under the king's protection but refused to elaborate.

The whereabouts of Saddam's wife Sajida Khairallah Telfah and his fifth and youngest child, daughter Hala, are unknown.

Hala Saddam Hussein's husband, Gen. Kamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti, was No. 10 on the list of 55 most-wanted former officials of the regime. He surrendered to U.S. forces on May 17, the U.S. Central Command said.

Saddam had a very public affair with Samira Shahbandar, daughter of a prominent Iraqi family, who has been described as his second wife. The two are rumored to have had a son.

Last month, a cousin of Saddam, Izzi-Din Mohammed Hassan al-Majid, had said he would try to help Raghad and Rana apply for asylum in Britain, where he lives. That prompted a statement from Prime Minister Tony Blair that Britain would not consider asylum applications from members of Saddam's family who may have committed human rights abuses.

Long accustomed to extravagance, the women had been living with their nine children in a modest Baghdad home without electricity since their father's ouster, the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported June 1.

Their husbands -- brothers Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel and Saddam Kamel, who were also Saddam's cousins -- defected to Jordan in 1995 and announced plans to work to overthrow Saddam. The two were lured back to Iraq in February 1996 and killed.

In the 1999 book "Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein," authors Andrew and Patrick Cockburn wrote that the sisters were "once Saddam's favorite children, [but they] never forgave him for the killings" of their husbands.

"They assumed he had orchestrated the attack .... They continued to live with their ... children in a family house in Tikrit, never going out, always wearing black, and refusing to see any member of their family apart from their mother," the Cockburns wrote.

But in July, London's Sunday Times quoted Raghad as saying that Saddam "is my father and I am his daughter. He was a very good father."