Saddam Hussein is now a prisoner of the U.S. government, reports CBS News Anchor Dan Rather.
Without firing a shot, American forces captured a bearded and haggard-looking Saddam Hussein in a dirt pit near his hometown of Tikrit, ending one of the most intensive manhunts in history.
"The former dictator of Iraq will face the justice he denied to millions," President Bush said in a televised address from the White House, eight months after American troops swept into Baghdad and toppled Saddam's regime.
In the capital, radio stations played celebratory music, residents fired small arms in the air in celebration and passengers on buses and trucks shouted, "They got Saddam! They got Saddam!" Eager to prove to Iraqis that Saddam was in custody, the U.S. military showed video of the ousted leader, bearded and disheveled, being examined by a military doctor.
Hours before the capture was announced, a suspected suicide bomber detonated explosives in a car outside a police station west of Baghdad, killing at least 17 people and wounding 33 more, the U.S. military said. Also Sunday, a U.S. soldier died while trying to disarm a roadside bomb south of the capital.
Washington hopes Saddam's capture will help break the organized Iraqi resistance that has killed more than 190 American soldiers since Mr. Bush declared major combat over on May 1 and has set back efforts at reconstruction.
White House officials are absolutely elated, saying it's a great day for Iraq. The news lifts a heavy political weight from Mr.Bush's shoulders, reports CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts.
But Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, which captured Saddam, said the ousted leader did not appear to be directly organizing resistance — noting no communication devices were found in his hiding place.
Saddam's capture was based on information from a member of a family "close to him," Odierno told reporters in Tikrit.
The crucial information came after prisoners from raids and intelligence tips led to increasingly precise information, as CIA and military analysts gradually narrowed down their list of potential sites where Saddam was staying, a U.S. official said.
Saddam was one of the most-wanted fugitives in the world, along with Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network who has not been caught despite a manhunt since November 2001, when the Taliban regime was overthrown in Afghanistan.
The capture took place at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at one of dozens of safehouses Saddam is thought to have: a walled compound on a farm in Adwar, a town 10 miles from Tikrit, not far from one of Saddam's former palaces, Odierno said.
"I think it's rather ironic that he was in a hole in the ground across the river from these great palaces that he built," Odierno said.
Saddam has been taken from the country to an unknown location, military sources told CBS News Correspondent Thalia Assuras. However, CBS does not have official confirmation of Saddam's location.
The capture comes almost five months after Saddam's sons, Qusai and Odai, were killed July 22 in a four-hour gunbattle with U.S. troops in a hideout in the northern city of Mosul. There was hope at the time that the sons' deaths would dampen the Iraqi resistance to the U.S. occupation. But since then, the guerrilla campaign has mounted dramatically.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we got him," U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer told a news conference. "The tyrant is a prisoner."
Some 600 troops and special forces were involved in the raid that netted Saddam — though not all were aware beforehand that the objective was "High Value Target No. 1," Odierno said.
Troops found the ousted leader, armed with a pistol, hiding in an underground crawl space at the walled compound, Odierno said. Rugs and dirt covered the Styrofoam lid covering the entrance to the hiding place, a few feet from a small, mud-brick hut where Saddam had been staying.
The hut consisted of two rooms, a bedroom with clothes scattered about and a "rudimentary kitchen," Odierno said. The commander said Saddam likely had been there only a short time, noting that new shirts, still unwrapped, were found in the bedroom.
Saddam was "very disoriented" as soldiers brought him out of the hole, Odierno said. A Pentagon diagram showed the hiding place as a 6-foot-deep vertical tunnel, with a shorter tunnel branching out horizontally from one side. A pipe to the concrete surface at ground level provided air.
Saddam didn't fire his weapon, Odierno said. "There was no way he could fight back so he was just caught like a rat."
Two other Iraqis — described as low-level regime figures — were arrested in the raid, and soldiers found two Kalashnikov rifles, a pistol, a taxi and US$750,000 in $100 bills.
A U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Saddam admitted his identity when captured.
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, who saw Saddam overnight, said the deposed leader "has been cooperative and is talkative." He described Saddam as "a tired man, a man resigned to his fate."
"He was unrepentant and defiant," said Adel Abdel-Mahdi, a senior official of a Shiite Muslim political party who, along with other Iraqi leaders, visited Saddam in captivity.
"When we told him, 'If you go to the streets now, you will see the people celebrating,'" Abdel-Mahdi said. "He answered, 'Those are mobs.' When we told him about the mass graves, he replied, 'Those are thieves.'"
The official added: "He didn't seem apologetic. He seemed defiant, trying to find excuses for the crimes in the same way he did in the past."
Sanchez played a video at the news conference showing the 66-year-old Saddam in custody.
Saddam, with a thick, graying beard and bushy hair, was seen as a doctor examined him, feeling his scalp and holding his mouth open with a tongue depressor. Saddam blinked and touched his beard during the exam. Then the video showed a picture of Saddam after he was shaved, juxtaposed for comparison with an old photo of the Iraqi leader while in power.
Iraqi journalists at the press conference stood, pointed and shouted "Death to Saddam!" and "Down with Saddam!"
Though the raid occurred Saturday afternoon American time, U.S. officials went to great length to keep it quiet until medical tests and DNA testing confirmed Saddam's identity.
Saddam was being held at an undisclosed location, and U.S. authorities have not yet determined whether to hand him over to the Iraqis for trial or what his status would be. Iraqi officials want him to stand trial before a war crimes tribunal created last week.
Amnesty International said Sunday that Saddam should be given POW status and allowed visits by the international Red Cross.
Ahmad Chalabi, a member of Iraq's Governing Council, said Saddam will be put on trial.
"Saddam will stand a public trial so that the Iraqi people will know his crimes," Chalabi told Al-Iraqiya, a Pentagon-funded TV station.
In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed the capture, saying the deposed leader "has gone from power, he won't be coming back."
"Where his rule meant terror and division and brutality, let his capture bring about unity, reconciliation and peace between all the people of Iraq," Blair said.
After sundown, three barrels of gasoline mounted on a pickup truck exploded in central Baghdad, causing a fierce blaze but no casualties, police officials said.
Earlier in the day, rumors of the capture sent people streaming into the streets of Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city, firing guns in the air in celebration.
"We are celebrating like it's a wedding," said Kirkuk resident Mustapha Sheriff. "We are finally rid of that criminal."
After invading Iraq on March 20 and setting up their headquarters in Saddam's sprawling Republican Palace compound in Baghdad, U.S. troops launched a massive manhunt for the fugitive leader, placing a $25 million bounty on his head and sending thousands of soldiers to search for him.
Saddam proved elusive during the war, when at least two dramatic military strikes came up empty in their efforts to assassinate him. Since then, he has appeared in both video and audio tapes. U.S. officials named him No. 1, the so-called Ace of Spades, on their list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis.
Saddam's capture leaves 13 figures still at large from the list. The highest-ranking figure among them is Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a close Saddam aide who U.S. officials have said may be directly organizing resistance.
The ability to act on the intelligence quickly enough to locate and capture a man who was hiding underground in an area not much larger then a coffin is without precedence and shows the capabilities of the U.S. military, says retired U.S. Army Major Mike Lyons, a CBS military analyst.