Capture yields arrests, links

Seized documents cast new light on Hussein's role in insurgency, officials say

`He was certainly aware of this'

New details emerge on military's capture of deposed Iraqi dictator

The Capture Of Saddam Hussein

December 16, 2003|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Personal papers found with Saddam Hussein during his capture at a farmstead southeast of Tikrit have led to the arrests of two and possibly more senior officials of the toppled regime and provided information about cells of insurgents operating in Baghdad, military officers in Iraq and Pentagon officials said.

The documents have convinced some U.S. military officers that the former Iraqi leader at least had some detailed information on the anti-American insurgency and might have been aiding its efforts.

"We've detained at least two high-ranking officials" based on information contained in Hussein's papers, Capt. Aaron Hatok, a spokesman for the 1st Armored Division, based in Baghdad, said in a telephone interview. "I don't have any details on them."

Moreover, the documents - found in a briefcase - verified intelligence information the division was collecting on an estimated eight to 10 suspected guerrilla cells in Baghdad, Hatok said.

The cells, each composed of about 20 members, have been responsible for bombings and shootings directed at U.S. forces and Iraqis providing assistance to the Americans, he said.

In addition, Hussein's papers provided even more detailed information on one cell that the military suspects is operating in Baghdad, Hatok said. "Now we know for sure," he said, adding that he expected U.S. forces to move on the cell's members soon.

The seized documents cast new light on Hussein's role in the insurgency. On Sunday, Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno said the fact that Hussein was captured with no phones, radios or other communications equipment led him to believe that Hussein was not orchestrating the anti-U.S. resistance.

"There's still some local and regional coordination [of the insurgency effort] that goes on," Odierno told reporters in Tikrit on Sunday. "And I think [Hussein] was more there for moral support and I don't think he was coordinating the entire effort."

But officers with the 1st Armored Division said the documents found with Hussein left a different impression. "He was certainly aware of this," Hatok said. "It appears he controlled [the cells] at some level."

Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling of the 1st Armored Division told the Associated Press in Baghdad: "I'm sure [Hussein] was giving some guidance to some key figures in this insurgency."

Entifadh Qanbar, a spokesman for Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi, said that when Chalabi and other council members met briefly with Hussein shortly after his capture, the deposed dictator was defiant and said he was involved in the insurgency. "He took credit for the terrorist attacks," Qanbar said in a telephone interview from Baghdad.

But Hatok and Sunni Muslim officials in Iraq said that capturing Hussein will not necessarily end the attacks because some of those fighting were not members of the former regime or part of his Baath Party. Other parts of the insurgency include foreign fighters or Iraqis fighting on nationalist or religious grounds.

"I don't think capturing Saddam Hussein will reduce the resistance," said Hatem Mukhlis, a Sunni Muslim who is executive director of the Iraqi National Movement, which split from Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, a former exile group.

Mukhlis, who lives in Baghdad, said in a telephone interview that U.S. officials must redouble efforts to build a sound economy in Iraq and restore security, adding that those are the best measures to end resistance. Heavy-handed tactics by the U.S. military - from neighborhood raids to destroying the houses of suspected insurgents - will only make matters worse, he said.

"You bring [insurgents] on board by giving them a better life, jobs, food on the table," he said. "They haven't seen anything better. We need to show people we are working for them and not against them. Violence will only wreak more violence. "

Also yesterday, new details emerged on the capture of the former dictator.

When a disheveled and bewildered Hussein emerged from his cramped hiding place on Saturday night, he announced to U.S. soldiers in English: "I am Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq. I am willing to negotiate."

An American soldier replied: "President Bush sends his regards."

Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division, which took part in the capture along with special operations commandos, said Hussein spoke those words as he emerged from a hole covered with a plastic-foam lid and spread over with dirt. Inside the hole was a light and a small, horizontal crawl space, just large enough for one person to sit or recline.

Col. James Hickey, commander of the 4th Infantry Division's Raider Brigade, which spearheaded the capture, told the Associated Press yesterday that U.S. commandos were seconds from pitching a hand grenade into the hole when Hussein emerged with his arms up, offering no resistance.

After identifying himself, he was quickly whisked away by a U.S. helicopter, Aberle said in a phone interview from Iraq.

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