Washington, July 24: US military and CIA officers in Iraq are receiving and trying to verify a significant increase in the number of Saddam Hussein sightings by Iraqi citizens, according to a senior administration decision maker.
“We are getting a lot of different sightings everyday,” the official said. The killing of the former Iraqi President’s sons, Uday and Qusay, on Tuesday by US troops reinforced the view within US intelligence agencies that Saddam is alive and still in Iraq.
US intelligence officials yestreday expressed optimism that the finding of Saddam is imminent. “Saddam is further isolated,” one official said. “Others will see that the regime is truly falling apart. There are fewer places he can hide with impunity.”
An Arab satellite television station broadcast yesterday a new audiotape recording, purportedly of Saddam, calling on former Iraqi soldiers to resist the US occupation. The speaker said the tape was made on Sunday, two days before Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed. The fact that Saddam’s sons were discovered to be in a distant relative’s house, an obvious target for the US teams organised to hunt down the former Iraqi leader, “suggests the circle of safety is pretty small,” the intelligence official said.
The circumstances surrounding Uday’s and Qusay’s killing, particularly the fact that they had been at the house just a few weeks before they were attacked by US forces, suggests that Saddam and his sons “have no particular stronghold, no underground bunker; they are living on the run” and much more vulnerable to detection, said Kenneth Pollack, an Iraq expert who formerly worked at the CIA and the National Security Council.
During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Saddam was also forced to move around the country as allied planes bombed Iraq, Pollack said.