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GlobalSecurity.org In the News

Newsday (New York, NY) March 21, 2003

Saddam Believed Alive;

But U.S. officials say son, top aide may have died in attack

By Knut Royce

Washington - U.S. intelligence officials are confident a cruise missile attack at dawn yesterday killed several members of Saddam Hussein's inner circle, perhaps including one of his sons, but that Hussein himself is still alive, according to intelligence sources.

They said they believe Hussein's son Qusai, who was recently placed in charge of the defense of the Baghdad and Tikrit region, as well as one of Hussein's most trusted lieutenants, Izzat Ibrahim, may have been among those killed when cruise missiles hit a residential compound in the opening salvo of the war.

One of the sources said a clandestine U.S. team eyeballed the compound after the strike and concluded "no one came out of the rubble [alive]."

An administration official familiar with the CIA's reporting on the episode said yesterday that the agency was still analyzing who may have been killed in the attack, and that Qusai "could have been there with other members of the leadership."

But until the United States can confirm who was in the compound, he said, "we just don't know who was killed." He said the CIA, after reviewing a videotape of Hussein broadcast hours after the attack, was confident Hussein is alive.

The source who said everyone was killed in the compound agreed the CIA has no confirmation on who was killed. He agreed Qusai was "a candidate" and another apparent victim was Ibrahim, deputy head of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council since Hussein seized power in 1979. "He was one of the people believed to be in the ... compound," he said. Ibrahim is one of the few members of the inner council to have survived Hussein's frequent purges and also survived an assassination attempt in 1998.

The source said George Tenet, the director of the CIA, is confident "real damage" was done to Hussein's inner circle in the missile strike in part because U.S. military forces are not picking up "command and control traffic" from Baghdad.

"The nature of the resistance [from Iraqi troops] so far seems to be unorganized and unorchestrated," he said. "We have not received real resistance at all."

Nevertheless, he said, the entire leadership was not inside the compound and "there clearly is some kind of government still there."

The sources said the decision to attack the compound was made several hours before the strike when a CIA team inside Baghdad intercepted Iraqi communications indicating high officials, perhaps including Hussein, were planning to stay there overnight.

There have been several tactical teams run by the CIA inside Iraq for a number of months.

While more than three dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched at dawn yesterday against three targets in and around Baghdad, the compound was the only target believed to have sheltered members of Iraq's ruling elite.

The death of Qusai and Ibrahim would be major blows to Hussein. Qusai, 35, is believed to be his favorite son and supervises the Republican Guards, Iraq's best-trained and equipped troops. Observers have said Hussein has been grooming Qusai to succeed him.

Ibrahim's daughter is married to Hussein's eldest son, Odai, who is known to be less stable and to have been given less responsibility than his brother.

Ibrahim was in the news recently when TV cameras covering an emergency meeting of Arab nations earlier this month caught him insulting Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah for allowing U.S. troops to mass in his country.

"Shut up, you little man, you traitor, you monkey," Ibrahim shouted in front of the delegates. "Don't you know you are talking to Iraq?"

Ibrahim, 60, presided over special tribunals that handed down death sentences against Hussein's opponents.

First Strike Against Saddam

How Wednesday night's targeted attack in Baghdad on Saddam Hussein and members of the Iraqi leadership unfolded. Times below are Eastern Standard.

The Tomahawk
The Tomahawk cruise missile is a submarine- or ship-launched land-attack missile. It is used against fixed, pre-programmed targets, including air defense and communications sites.

How It Works
1. Once airborne, the Tomahawk determines its exact position using global positioning system satellites.
2. The missile, flying at low altitude, then uses radar to scan the ground, comparing area to onboard maps for position verification.
3. Once position is verified, missile plots course to target.
4. Missile then matches onboard digital images to radar scans to confirm the target.
5. Missile's 1,000-pound warhead can hit target horizontally or at downward angle.

The 'Bunker Buster'
The bombs used Wednesday night are from a group of "smart" weapons called the Guided Bomb Unit-27. It carries 550 pounds of high explosives and can penetrate more than 6 feet of reinforced concrete before exploding.

How It Works
1. Target is pinpointed by ground or air forces. Target is illuminated with a laser designator.
2. Bomb is delivered via F-117A Stealth Fighter.
3. Guidance system at front of missile tracks designator beam and fixes on target.
4. Bomb slams into target. Combination of speed and weight drive missile's 2,000-pound warhead through ground or concrete. Warhead explodes, destroying bunker.

How the attack unfolded

6:30 p.m. Wednesday: President George W. Bush signs order authorizing "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

8 p.m.: Bush's deadline for Saddam and his sons to leave Iraq passes.

9:34 p.m.: U.S. and British forces fire a combined 40 cruise missiles from ships and submarines at a compound in southern Baghdad believed to house Hussein and members of Iraqi leadership. Missiles level above-ground structures.

9:40 p.m.: Follow-up strikes from Air Force F-117A bunker-busting bombs penetrate deep into leadership compound.

10:15 p.m.: Bush addresses nation on "early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq."

12:40 a.m. yesterday: Hussein appears on Iraqi television urging his nation to resist. Authenticity of tape in question.

SOURCES: www.globalsecurity.org, Air Force Weapons Gallery, Federation of American Scientists, staff reporting

GRAPHIC: Newsday Chart by Philip Dionisio-First Strike Against Saddam: How Wednesday night's targeted attack in Baghdad on Saddam Hussein and members of the Iraqi leadership unfolded. Times below are Eastern Standard (see end of text).

Copyright 2003, Newsday, Inc.