WASHINGTON April 14 —
Saddam Hussein's first wife is believed to have left Iraq, and
some uncorroborated reports put her and some other Iraqi leaders in
Syria, American officials said Monday.
But some officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said
the intelligence on those leaders going to Syria falls well short of
confirmed information, and in some cases is viewed as rumor.
Some reports put Saddam's first wife, Sajida Khairallah Telfah,
in Syria, but other reports put her in other countries that
officials declined to specify. It is unclear when she left Iraq.
Only one top Iraqi official, nuclear scientist Jaffar al-Jaffer,
is known to have fled for Syria, a senior U.S. official said Monday.
But al-Jaffer left and turned himself into authorities in another,
undisclosed Middle East country, U.S. officials said.
Bush administration officials have publicly alleged that Syria is
taking in members of Saddam's regime.
As early as April 2, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld spoke
of unconfirmed reports that members of the Iraqi president's family,
including his first wife, had fled.
The officials said Monday that information on the wife's
departure, but not her destination, has firmed up since then.
The whereabouts and status of other members of Saddam's immediate
family likewise are not known. Nor do officials have definitive word
on Saddam or his elder sons, Odai and Qusai, both senior leaders in
Other members of Saddam's family may have information on their
whereabouts, including Saddam's second wife, three daughters and
another son, officials said. All kept low profiles during Saddam's
rule, and none held senior positions.
Saddam's first wife was mother to Odai, Qusai and three
daughters: Raghad, Saddam's favorite; Rana; and Hala. Some of the
children have children of their own. Saddam remains married to both
wives. In Islam, a man may have as many as four wives.
In 1995, Raghad's and Rana's husbands defected from Iraq to
Jordan. The brothers were debriefed by Western intelligence
officials and reportedly disclosed secrets of Iraq's military and
They failed to gain the trust of Iraqi exiles, however, and
returned to Baghdad with their families six months later on Saddam's
promise neither they nor their families would be harmed. They were
shot down shortly after they arrived, and Saddam placed Sajida under
house arrest because she demanded that he punish the killers.
Opponents said they were instigated by Odai.
Saddam's second wife, Samira Shahbandar, was mother to Saddam's
other son, Ali Saddam Hussein. Saddam married Shahbandar, a daughter
of a prominent Iraqi family, in the late 1980s, and their son is not
believed to be old enough to have any responsibilities.
Saddam's half brother, Watban Ibrahim Hasan, an adviser to the
Iraqi president, was captured near Mosul in recent days, apparently
preparing to flee to Syria, U.S. officials said.
|Iraqis watch as others using a
crane try to knock down a statue depicting Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Monday, April 14, 2003. U.S. troops
spread throughout the city and stepped up security after
Iraqis expressed their anger over lawlessness that engulfed
the capital in recent days after the collapse of Hussein's
regime. (AP Photo/Lefteris
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This
material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or