Iraqi political leader to <i>Albawaba</i>: Saddam captured while armed
Saddam Hussein has been arrested in Tikrit. The former Iraqi leader has been reportedly arrested in his ancestral hometown of Tikrit, according to the Iranian news agency, citing Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani.
Later, British Prime Minister Tony Blair confirmed the capture of Saddam.
The person in US custody was disguised in a fake beard when he was caught in a basement in a Tikrit building, Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress was quoted as saying.
Earlier, US officials, for their part, said Hussein has "possibly been captured" in a raid near Tikrit. However, they cautioned that the identity of the individual was still being confirmed, CNN reported.
The officials added that the raid was based on intelligence that the former President was at a particular location in the area.
According to additional reports, US soldiers were seen in the Tikrit vicinity celebrating joyfully and handing out cigars one to another. Thousands of people were reportedly celebrating in Tikrit when the news of Saddam's "arrest" broke out.
In the meantime, the US military will be holding a press conference shortly.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim Janabi, a leader of the Iraqi National Accord (INA), one of the groups opposed to Saddam's regime, told Albawaba by phone, "I can confirm ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was captured in Tikrit."
He added that Saddam was arrested while, "wearing a traditional Arab gown (Dishdashah), carrying a rifle, pistol and wearing an explosive belt strapped around his body, but he used none of them as he preferred to give himself up."
Furthermore, Janabi said Saddam was arrested along with two of his bodyguards.
Saddam Hussein, born in 1937, grew up in Auja, a village northwest of Baghdad. His parents were poor farmers, but inspired by his uncle Khayrallah Tulfah, an Iraqi army officer and crusader for Arab unity, Hussein entered politics as a teenager.
Saddam joined the socialist Ba'ath party when he was 19 years old. He made his mark three years later when he participated in a 1959 assassination attempt against Iraqi Prime Minister Abudul Karim Kassem. Saddam was shot in the leg during the botched effort and fled the country for several years, first to Syria, then Egypt.
In 1968, he helped lead the revolt that finally brought the Ba'ath party to power under General Ahmed Hassan Bakr.
In the process, he landed the vice president’s post, from which he built an extensive network of secret police to root out dissidents. Eleven years later he deposed Bakr.
According to Western press reports, in the early 1980s, he used chemical weapons to crush a Kurdish rebellion in northern Iraq. In 1980, he invaded Iran, launching an eight-year war that ended in stalemate, and in August 1990 he invaded Kuwait, proclaiming it Iraq’s 19th province.
Earlier, Saddam Hussein's second wife, Samira Shahbandar claimed the ousted leader phones her once a week, according to a report in the British Sunday Times.
Shahbandar escaped Iraq in March and arrived in Syria from which she crossed over to Lebanon. Currently, she resides in Beirut along with her son Ali, 21, under a fabricated identity. She reportedly has changed her name and began a "new life".
Ali, her son, is Saddam's only son who managed to stay alive. His two half brothers, Uday and Qusay were killed by US occupation forces in Mosul.
According to Shahbandar, Saddam not only makes it a point to remain in constant contact, but has also visited her last April.
According to her, Saddam helped her escape to Syria along with jewelry, gold and a few million dollars, so that she could maintain herself.
Samira, who is Saddam's second wife out of four, told the Sunday Times that her husband calls her once a week. She added that if he doesn't call, he sends letters.
With regards to his emotional status, she said he feels betrayed by those who were close to him.
American officials have been quoted as saying in the past that the US was not interested in any of the former leader's wives because they have no reason to believe that they know anything about his whereabouts. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)