| A poster issued by the US-led administration in Iraq announcing a reward on Saddam Hussein. (AFP)
Baghdad, July 27 (Reuters): US soldiers from a special unit hunting Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants staged a bloody raid on a villa in central Baghdad today, but there was no sign of the deposed Iraqi dictator.
An American soldier at a nearby hospital said five bodies and at least eight wounded had been brought in from the scene of the raid. An Iraqi policeman said all the dead had been in cars fired on by troops as they drove through the area. A military spokesperson said he had no information on the raid except that it was carried out by Task Force 20 — a special team set up to hunt Saddam and his key aides.
The owner of the villa, tribal chief Rabeeah Amin, said he returned to the house after the raid began to find that soldiers had broken down the door and ransacked the villa. ”I was told they had been tipped off that Saddam was hiding in my house, that he was in fact my guest,” he said. “But I know nothing about this.”
Troops sealed off the area for more than an hour. Two cars outside the house caught fire during the raid and two others were riddled with bullets.
Soldiers on the scene refused to comment and pulled out of the area around 1700 GMT — which suggested no important figures had been found, alive or dead.
The US soldier guarding the emergency ward of Yarmuk Hospital said all the dead and wounded brought in were male and had suffered gunshot or shrapnel wounds. A boy in his early teens was among the dead. Two bloodied corpses lay on the floor of the crowded hospital mortuary. “Today has been off the wall,” the soldier said.
Amin said he had not seen Saddam for months. Asked about his ties with the deposed dictator, he said: “He was the President of Iraq and we all had a relationship with him one way or another. But my ties were nothing special.”
Neighbours said US troops had used explosives to burst into the villa. “They came here and ringed off the area, set explosives and blew out the door,” one said.