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American Forces Press Service

Saddam Hussein 'Caught Like a Rat,' U.S. Commander Says

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2003 - Saddam Hussein was "caught like a rat" and offered no resistance when U.S. soldiers captured him near Tikrit Dec. 13, the U.S. general in charge of the operation said today.

Saddam was found hiding at the bottom of a hole hidden on a farm near his hometown. Roughly 600 U.S. soldiers were involved in the operation, but no shots were fired. Two other men were captured in the compound, Maj. Gen Raymond T. Odierno, commander of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, said during a press briefing in Iraq. The 4th Infantry Division is responsible for coalition operations in the Tikrit area.

Odierno surmised the pressure on Saddam had become so tight that he couldn't risk traveling with a large entourage, and therefore had no bodyguards with him. "It was him and just a couple other people with him, so he really didn't have much of a security force," the general said. "And he was in the bottom of a hole, so there was no way he could fight back, so he was just caught like a rat."

The 4th Infantry Division has been in Iraq since April, and Odierno said he believes Saddam largely had been in the Tikrit area since then. So there was "some satisfaction" in capturing the Iraqi dictator. However, he stressed, "there's still a lot of work that we have to do, and we're still focused on our tasks of defeating any regime elements who might be remaining who want to conduct attacks against coalition forces and more importantly try to stop most Iraqis from moving forward."

The most important thing for the Iraqi people now, he said, is for them to continue to move forward in their efforts to control their own country. "We continue to help the Iraqis take charge of their country, and we continue to help build the infrastructure so that they can take charge of their country," Odierno said.

In his opening statement, the general called Saddam's capture "a significant event for the Iraqi people." He said he believes most Iraqi people are relieved that Saddam has been captured. "I think there was always a (fear) that he might return, and now that he's in coalition custody there is no doubt that he will never return to power in this country," Odierno said.

"The intimidation and fear this man generated for over 30 years are now gone. Many will rest much better tonight knowing Iraq is moving forward to a more secure environment," he said. "A significant blow has been dealt to the former regime elements still trying to hamper progress in Iraq."

He also had high praise for the American soldiers who conducted the raid, as well as all U.S. service members. "I want everyone to know how proud I am of the great soldiers of the task force and the division and all the great soldiers, sailors and airmen in our armed forces," Odierno said. "They perform superbly each and every day."

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