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April 8, 2003

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U.S. Forces Bomb Reported Saddam Location
U.S. Forces Bomb Baghdad Neighborhood Where Saddam and Top Leadership Believed to Be Meeting

The Associated Press

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BAGHDAD, Iraq April 8

The question of whether Saddam Hussein was alive or dead hung over the capital Tuesday after a U.S. warplane dropped four bunker-busting bombs and blasted a crater 60 feet deep at a spot where he was believed to be meeting with his sons.

At least three buildings were destroyed Monday afternoon in the attempt to kill Saddam. The airstrike in the upscale al-Mansour section of western Baghdad broke windows and doors up to 300 yards away, ripped orange trees out by the roots and left a heap of concrete, mangled iron rods and shredded furniture and clothes.

Iraqi rescue workers looking in the rubble for victims said two bodies had been recovered and the death toll could be as high as 14. They did not release any names.

"A leadership target was hit very hard," said Marine Maj. Brad Bartelt, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Qatar.

He said he could not comment on casualties or say how long it would take to determine the damage. Battle assessment typically involves ground reconnaissance or satellite imagery, though Bartelt would not say what method was being used.

The attack was carried out by a single B-1B bomber, which dropped four 2,000-pound bunker-penetrating bombs on a residential complex after U.S. intelligence was tipped that Saddam, sons Odai and Qusai and other top Iraqi leaders might be meeting there, U.S. officials said.

Those close to Saddam have said the Iraqi leader is so obsessed with security that very few people would know about his movements. He maintains dozens of residences and uses doubles to keep people guessing.

An exiled dissident told The Associated Press that only two people are kept posted about Saddam's whereabouts Qusai, who commands the Republican Guard and heads the president's security, and his private secretary, Abed Hameed Hmoud, a member of Saddam's Tikriti clan. Even Odai is thought to be out of the loop because he is considered too reckless.

Group Capt. Al Lockwood, spokesman for British forces in the Persian Gulf, said coalition forces were looking for solid evidence that Saddam was indeed killed.

The airstrike was ordered on the basis of "a very good intelligence report last night that indeed Saddam Hussein and some of the leading members of his regime were meeting in a particular building," he said.

The strike came on a day when U.S. forces also occupied two of Saddam's palaces southwest of the target zone and knocked down a statue of the Iraqi leader as they tried to wrest control of Baghdad from his regime.

Seif Hatef, 21, said some of his friends were among the victims of the attack on the three buildings. "Such attacks will make Iraqis more determined to resist. Iraq will remain and this war will never finish," he said.

Workers at a nearby mall swept the glass and other debris from the sidewalk.

"When this war will end? It depends on that scum Bush," said Amer Hamad Abdullah al-Jabouri, who works at the complex.

Coalition strikes have aimed at top Iraqi leaders from the very start of the war.

On March 19, the opening night of the war, President Bush authorized a strike on a suburban Baghdad compound where Saddam and his sons were thought to be staying. But U.S. intelligence officials suspect he survived.

Earlier Monday, U.S. and British officials said they believed Saddam's top commander in southern Iraq, his first cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, had been killed in a U.S. airstrike at a house in Basra. Al-Majid, considered one of the most brutal and loyal members of Saddam's inner circle, was known as "Chemical Ali" for his role a 1988 poison gas attack that killed tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds.

A video clip of the U.S. attack on the Basra house was shown at the Pentagon on Monday.

"We believe that the reign of terror of Chemical Ali has come to an end. To Iraqis who have suffered at his hand, particularly in the last few weeks in that southern part of the country, he will never again terrorize you or your families," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said.

Associated Press Writer Matt Kelley in Washington contributed to this report.

photo credit and caption:
Buildings in the al-Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad lie in ruins Monday afternoon, April 7, 2003 after a U.S. warplane dropped four bunker-busting bombs on the site where Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was believed to be meeting with his sons. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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