| A picture taken from Abu Dhabi TV shows Saddam Hussein (in black cap) being embraced by a well-wisher at Baghdad’s Aadhamiya neighbourhood. (AFP)
Dubai, April 18 (Reuters): Arab television network Abu Dhabi TV broadcast footage today of what it said was Saddam Hussein saluting a throng of chanting supporters in Baghdad on April 9, the day the capital fell to US forces.
The state-run channel said the pictures were taken in the northern Aadhamiya district, and that the tape had been obtained by its Baghdad correspondent from undisclosed sources.
A US intelligence official said the US would be looking at the tape to determine whether Saddam, the Ace of Spades in a pack of cards depicting most-wanted Iraqis, had indeed survived weeks of relentless bombing of the capital.
“We will be reviewing the tape to determine whether it is authentic or not. At the moment we don’t know,” said a US intelligence official in Washington, adding that the US did not know whether Saddam was alive or dead.
Several tapes of the elusive leader, who is reported to have several “doubles”, have been produced during the US-led war, but there have been doubts whether the images are truly Saddam.
The latest pictures, however, corroborated a report from a man who described himself as a former Iraqi army officer. He said earlier this week he saw Saddam at about that time outside a mosque in the same northern Baghdad district.
London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted witnesses yesterday as saying Saddam had arrived at around noon near the Azamia mosque in a convoy of three cars, accompanied by his younger son Qusay and his bodyguard, Al Amin Abd Hamed Hamoud.
The report mirrored the images broadcast by Abu Dhabi TV. It said he delivered a half-hour speech from atop a car, telling the gathering: “I am fighting alongside you in the trenches,” Hayat quoted one witness as saying.
Witnesses told Hayat the Iraqi leader and his entourage departed about 12 hours before a US air raid on the area which they said destroyed part of a graveyard behind the mosque.Despite the best efforts of US and British intelligence services, US special forces and tens of thousands of US troops, there is still no sign of the ousted Iraqi leader.
Today’s pictures showed hundreds of people chanting and pumping their arms in the air as the man the television station said was Saddam squeezed his way through the crowd. The portly man was dressed in military fatigues and appeared in good health.
He was embraced by a man in the crowd, and then clambered on to the bonnet of a vehicle to acknowledge the chanting throng. With a broad smile, he raised his right arm in the air to the delight of the rapturous crowd, and placed his right hand on his chest.
At US Central Command in Qatar, Maj. Rumi Nielson-Green said: “The bottom line is we don’t know if he’s dead or alive. It’s really not so important considering he’s not in political power. We know for a fact that he has doubles and people who look like him.”