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Middle East - AP
U.S.: Saddam Was in Attacked Compound
42 minutes ago

By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence believes Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) was inside a compound bombarded by American forces and were examining a request for medical attention that could indicate injuries to senior Iraqi leaders, government officials said.

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CIA (news - web sites) and military analysts were vigorously reviewing clues about the fate of Saddam, his inner circle and his two powerful sons who were targeted in the attacks. Senior officials cautioned late Thursday night that there was no conclusion.

Among the evidence being examined were reports suggesting military field commanders might be cut off from Saddam's leadership, that soldiers were considering mass defections and two videos purporting to show Saddam alive after the attack.

With voice and video frame analysis, U.S. officials looked for signs whether those tapes were contemporaneous or prerecorded as a ruse, officials said.

U.S. officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said intelligence believed Saddam was still in the compound when U.S. bombs and missiles rained down late Wednesday night Washington time, about six hours after U.S. intelligence first detected Saddam and his leadership might be there.

"We have reason to believe he was still in there," one senior U.S. official said.

The officials said they also believed medical attention was urgently summoned to the compound in the aftermath of the attack. One senior military official said the manner in which the help was summoned raised the possibility Saddam himself or someone of high-level importance in the Iraqi leadership was injured.

But other officials cautioned there was nothing definitive. "It is not clear exactly on whose behalf the medical attention was summoned," one U.S. official said.

The attack, which involved ship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles and bombs dropped from stealth fighters, was aimed at a residential complex where U.S. intelligence believed Saddam, and possibly his sons, were sleeping.

Naval missile strikes in Baghdad also were aimed at the headquarters of the Special Republican Guard, a paramilitary force that was expected to defend Baghdad from any U.S. assault, and other security organizations.

After the attack, intelligence reports indicated Iraq (news - web sites)'s leaders were not organizing any coordinated response across their country, suggesting the leadership might be in chaos or cut off from communicating with field commanders.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said military planners had good reason to believe top Iraqi leaders may be losing control of their forces.

"We are in communication with still more people who are officials of the military at various levels the regular army, the Republican Guard, the Special Republican Guard who are increasingly aware that it's going to happen, he's going to be gone," Rumsfeld said.

U.S. intelligence suspected Saddam's sons, Qusai and Odai, might have been with him during the strike. Both hold high-level security positions. Qusai, the younger son, was believed to be Saddam's likely successor.

A defiant Saddam appeared on Iraqi television a few hours after the strike. However, officials said the taped message did not prove he was alive.

It appeared to be him and not a look-alike, officials said after initial analysis. A voice analysis was under way.

There was nothing in the tape that made specific reference to the attack, or other events, that would confirm it was made in the hours after the strike. Saddam's reading of the date could have been recorded earlier, officials said.

 

However, the fact that Saddam read the speech from a steno pad indicated a fairly impromptu production, suggesting it came after the strike, the officials said.

At a closed-door briefing in the Capitol, lawmakers asked top Pentagon (news - web sites) officials if Saddam had been wounded.

"They frankly said, at this point in time, we have no definitive facts," said Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (news - web sites).

If Saddam survived, U.S. officials hoped the surprise attack at least would leave him distrustful of his inner circle and suspecting betrayal by one of his advisers, leaving him less able to command.


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