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American Forces Press Service

'We Got Him' -- Bremer Announces Saddam's Capture

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2003 - With three words -- "We got him" - Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III announced at a press briefing in Baghdad today that U.S. forces had captured Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein near his hometown of Tikrit.

Saddam was taken into custody at a small mud-walled compound outside the village of Adwar at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 13.

About 600 members of the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, along with special operations forces, launched Operation Red Dawn after receiving intelligence that Saddam was in the area, said Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition forces in the country.

Bremer, the coalition administrator, said it was a "great day" in Iraq's history. "For decades, hundreds of thousands of you suffered at the hands of this cruel man," he said. "For decades, Saddam Hussein divided citizens against each other. For decades, he threatened and attacked your neighbors. Those days are over forever."

The ambassador called on Iraqis to look to the future. He urged those who supported Saddam to reexamine their views and cooperate to build a new Iraq. "Your future has never been more full of hope," he said

Sanchez described the operation that captured Saddam. The general said it was a cordon-and-search operation, and coalition forces sustained no casualties. In fact, he said, coalition forces never fired a shot.

"For the last several months, a combination of human intelligence tips, exceptional intelligence analytical efforts and detainee interrogations narrowed down the activities of Saddam Hussein," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said intelligence pointed to two likely spots where Saddam could be hiding. He said the Americans struck with lightning speed under cover of darkness. The troops initially did not find Saddam. "As a result, the 1st Brigade Combat Team elected to cordon the area and conduct an extensive search," Sanchez said. "Coalition forces subsequently found a suspicious location."

In the search, U.S. forces discovered a "spider hole." "After uncovering the spider hole, a search was conducted and Saddam Hussein was found hiding at the bottom of the hole," Sanchez said. "Saddam was captured without resistance."

Coalition forces moved the former Iraqi dictator to a secure area, and he has undergone medical tests and questioning. Bremer said Saddam was "cooperative and talkative."

Coalition forces also uncovered some weapons and $750,000 in $100 bills. Two other Iraqis were detained.

Sanchez showed a video of the spider hole and then showed Saddam undergoing medical tests. Iraqi journalists at the press conference erupted at the sight of Saddam, shaking their fists and shouting "Death to Saddam." The Iraqi dictator had a full beard and looked disheveled.

Sanchez called the capture of Saddam "a defining moment in the new Iraq." he said the capture brings closure to the Iraqi people. "Saddam Hussein will never return to a position of power from which he can punish, terrorize, intimidate or exploit the Iraqi people as he did for more than 35 years," the general said.

Saddam will continue to be held at an undisclosed location. The determination on how to try Saddam will be made later.

Pentagon officials said President Bush was informed of the possible capture yesterday. It was confirmed to him this morning.

The streets of Baghdad erupted with "celebratory gunfire," according to correspondents in the Iraqi capital. Officials said some Iraqi regime diehards may launch attacks, but that coalition forces are prepared. In the long term, officials said, they see the capture as going a long way to bring stability to the country.

Bremer and Sanchez, while visibly pleased by the capture, said much work remains to be done in Iraq, and pledged to continue working with the Iraqi Governing Council to build a new Iraq.

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