Saddam Hunt Heats Up

Citizens deface a mural of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Khaaneqin, northern Iraq, after the city was liberated Thursday April 10, 2003. It was the first major city in northern Iraq to fall to coalition forces after Iraqi government forces retreated.
U.S. forces hunting for Saddam Hussein have intensified their efforts amid increasing signs that the Iraqi dictator survived the war and is still in Iraq.

Saddam's right-hand man, who was always at his side but is now in U.S. custody, has told his interrogators the Iraqi dictator is alive and on the run, reports CBS News Correspondent David Martin.

Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti and other Iraqis captured earlier this week say Saddam and his two sons are moving about the country separately in an effort to increase the chances one of them will survive. There's no way of confirming the story, but it adds to the accumulation of evidence indicating Saddam survived U.S. attempts to kill him with bombs and cruise missiles.

Meanwhile, attacks against U.S. occupation forces showed no sign of letting up Friday, as a rocket propelled grenade slammed into a power station in the restive city of Fallujah, injuring two soldiers and knocking out electricity in much of the city.

In other developments:

  • Experts from the U.N. atomic agency have accounted for most of the uranium feared looted from Iraq's largest nuclear research facility, diplomats said Friday.
  • U.S. forces raided nine locations on Friday "to isolate and defeat noncompliant forces throughout Iraq," said the U.S. Central Command, without specifying where the raids took place. Five people were detained and several small arms were seized in the sweep, part of an operation dubbed Desert Scorpion that began last Sunday.
  • In Samarra, an ancient town north of Baghdad, an armored patrol was ambushed for the second consecutive night. The patrol wounded and captured an assailant who fired an automatic weapon on the vehicles Thursday night.
  • President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are off the hook in Belgium. The nation's dismissing war crimes complaints against the leaders of the U-S and Britain. A 1993 law allows Belgium courts to hear war crimes cases, regardless of where the crimes allegedly occurred.
  • Closing arguments began in Fort Knox, Ky., at a court-martial hearing for Sgt. Hasan Akbar, who is accused of killing two fellow U.S. servicemen in Kuwait. Akbar could face the death penalty if convicted.

    The attack on the power station knocked out one of the two transformers at the plant, which provides nearly half the electricity to this city of about 75,000 people. Fallujah has been a center of resistance to the coalition occupation of Iraq.

    Despite efforts to increase electricity generation, the U.N. Development Program reported Thursday that power delivery to Baghdad fell to 800 megawatts from 1300 megawatts two weeks ago. It attributed the fall to the sabotage of power lines and breakdowns caused by daytime temperatures reaching 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Sabotage against power and water installations has been a key element
    of the anti-American resistance, which has been growing in recent days despite U.S. officials insistence that it is not being organized centrally.

    As the resistance has grown, so has its lethality. On Thursday, assailants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a military ambulance south of Baghdad, killing one American and wounding two others. He was the third soldier to die from hostile fire this week alone.

    U.S. commanders believe the uncertainty over Saddam's fate contributes to the postwar violence. Fighters opposed to U.S. troops draw encouragement from Saddam's apparent survival, while potential allies among the Iraqi people hesitate because they are afraid Saddam will return to power, and punish those who acted against him.

    The first U.S. attempt to kill Saddam occurred at a palace compound on the outskirts of Baghdad. The CIA had an agent somewhere nearby who called in and said Saddam would be spending the night here. After the bombs hit he called in again and reported Saddam being carried out on a stretcher and put into an ambulance. But the ambulance didn't even bother to drive off.

    It now appears the CIA agent was wrong. The main residence was not hit, and if that's where Saddam was spending the night he could have escaped.

    Two and a half weeks later, the U.S. thought it had located him again, this time in downtown Baghdad. Bombs destroyed the building, but local residents say Saddam was next door and escaped again.

    Since then, U.S. intelligence has received a number of credible reports from Iraqis claiming to have seen Saddam, but by the time American troops get there he was gone. U.S. officials had hoped when they found Mahmud, Saddam would be with him, but Mahmud claims he hasn't seen him since April.