| A file picture of Uday Hussein with a shotgun at an undisclosed location in Iraq. (Reuters)
Baghdad, July 23 (Reuters): Former aides to Saddam Hussein as well as medical and dental records confirmed the ousted Iraqi leader’s sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed in a gunbattle with American troops, a US military spokesman said today.
But the deaths of two US soldiers in fresh ambushes in Iraq dented any hopes that the elimination of Saddam’s feared sons would also snuff out a guerrilla insurgency against occupying forces.
An audio tape, purportedly by Saddam and aired by Al Arabiya television, urged Iraqis to keep fighting US forces. The tape was dated July 20 — two days before Uday and Qusay were killed in a six-hour gunbattle at a villa in Mosul.
Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, the US commander in Iraq, said visual identification by four former aides, as well as medical and dental records, confirmed that two of four people killed in the battle at the villa were Uday and Qusay.
“We have no doubt that we have the bodies of Uday and Qusay,” Sanchez said. But many Iraqis say they want proof.
A US official in Washington said “there are plans” to release photographs of the brothers’ bodies. The official, who asked not to be identified, saw facial photos of the pair and said they “are pretty bad” but recognisable.
Sanchez said US troops had also detained Barzan Abd Ghafur Sulayman al-Tikriti, the Special Republican Guard commander who was number 11 on a list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis. Of the 55, 37 have been captured or killed. “It confirms that we will succeed in our hunt for former regime members, and in particular Saddam Hussein, wherever they are and however long it takes,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez detailed the array of devastating firepower used against Uday and Qusay, who were barricaded in a fortified section of the villa with two others. Firing AK-47 assault rifles, they wounded four soldiers trying to arrest them.
Around 200 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division pounded the house using grenades, rocket-firing Kiowa attack helicopters, heavy machineguns and anti-tank missiles.
Sanchez said 10 anti-tank missiles were fired at the villa. Planes and Apache helicopters were on standby to help if needed, but were not used.
Sanchez said three adults in the villa were probably killed by the missile strikes. The last person left alive inside was a teenager who US officials say was Saddam’s grandson. He was killed when he fired at troops who stormed the house.
Just hours after the brothers were killed in Mosul, a US soldier was killed and seven wounded when two vehicles hit a mine near the city, a US military official said. In a separate ambush, another soldier was killed and two wounded when their convoy was attacked near the restive town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, a hotspot in the “Sunni triangle”.
US officials had said they feared an upsurge in attacks as die-hard Saddam loyalists sought to avenge his sons.
But officers said killing Uday and Qusay would ultimately help silence guerrillas who have killed 41 American soldiers since President George W. Bush declared major combat over on May 1, and give fresh impetus to the search for Saddam himself.
Sanchez said Uday, 39, and 37-year-old Qusay, Saddam’s “crown prince”, were tracked down after a tip-off from a walk-in informant who will probably get the two $15 million rewards offered for information on their whereabouts. Mosul residents said the owner of the villa where they were hiding may have betrayed them to claim the cash.
Al Arabiya television aired an audio tape in which a voice said to be Saddam’s hailed attacks on US troops. “The battle is not over yet,” the taped message said.
Paul Bremer, the US administrator of Iraq, said there was a risk of revenge attacks by Saddam loyalists.
The US has offered $25 million for information leading to the capture or killing of Saddam.
“I think we now have a possibility of somebody coming with the big one, somebody who really wants to get the $25 million reward,” said Bremer, on a visit to the US. “It will move the day a bit closer when we get our hands on the father.”
US officials have blamed remnants of Saddam’s Baath party and Uday’s feared Saddam Fedayeen militia for attacks.