Saddam May Be Hiding In Hometown

Saddam iraq target marines troops
Saddam Hussein has been hiding in his hometown Tikrit and is believed to be exerting influence within the resistance that has been killing American soldiers at a rate of nearly one every two days, a U.S. officer said Monday.

"We have clear indication he has been here recently," Maj. Troy Smith, executive officer of the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, told reporters.

"He could be here right now," Smith added. "At the least, he is maintaining a strong influence in the area."

A U.S. soldier was killed Monday and two others were wounded in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Tikrit. Another soldier died Sunday in a land mine explosion in Beiji. The deaths bring to 96 the number of U.S. soldiers known to have been killed in hostile action since May 1, when President Bush declared major combat in Iraq over.

Saddam, who was born in a village on the southern outskirts of Tikrit, was last seen in Baghdad in early April as the city was falling to American forces. His sons Odai and Qusai were killed July 22 in the northern city of Mosul.

In other developments:

  • A new U.S. draft resolution reportedly gives Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council until Dec. 15 to develop a timetable for elections and a new constitution. The U.S. will seek a vote this week.
  • The American administrator in Iraq vowed to hunt down those responsible for a car bomb attack that shook central Baghdad, killing at least six bystanders and wounding dozens of others.
  • A U.S. government official tells Time magazine some $3 billion of Saddam's assets is deposited in banks controlled by the Syrian government. Syria claims to have frozen two funds, but American officials say that's not enough.
  • The military is probing suicides among soldiers in Iraq. In the past seven months, 14 servicemembers have killed themselves, reports USA Today.
  • The Olympian newspaper reports that 11 U.S. newspapers have received identical letters signed by different soldiers from each newspaper's coverage area. The letters stress U.S. reconstruction successes and Iraqi gratitude. Several soldiers told the newspaper they didn't write the letter, and one said he didn't even sign it. It is not clear who did pen the letters.
  • The House and Senate this week debate the request for roughly $87 billion dollars for post-war Iraq and Afghanistan. Members of a visiting U.S. congressional delegation expressed American determination to stick it out in Iraq. "We are here to stay until these people are ready to take over," said Rep. H. James Saxton, R-N.J.
  • Iraq's interim trade minister said Monday that at least 65 percent of his country's outstanding debt should be forgiven because it was incurred under a "brutal, authoritarian, dictatorial regime." Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi said Iraq has an estimated $45 billion in commercial debt.

    The attack outside the Baghdad Hotel on Sunday was the seventh fatal vehicle bombing in Iraq since early August. The bombings have killed more than 140 people.

    "We will work with the Iraqi police to find those responsible and bring them to justice," Iraq's U.S. civilian administrator, L. Paul Bremer, said after Sunday's bombing. So far, none of the planners of the previous bombings has been found.

    Two cars exploded nearly simultaneously on Sunday, but military spokesman Lt. Col. George Krivo said Monday it was unclear whether the second car was part of the attack or if its fuel tank had been ignited by the first blast.

    The Pentagon said gunfire from Iraqi guards and U.S. personnel aborted the plan to hit the hotel, home to officials of the U.S.-led occupation authority here and reportedly some members of Iraq's interim Governing Council.

    At least one guard was reported among the six bystanders dead; the two drivers also were presumed killed, but was not clear if one or both were suicide attackers. One member of the 25-seat Governing Council, Mouwafak al-Rabii, told Al-Jazeera satellite television he suffered a slight hand injury.

    The lunchtime attack sent terror-stricken Iraqis fleeing up Saadoun Avenue, over broken window glass from banks, restaurants and shops and past the bloodied bodies of injured. American helicopters and combat vehicles converged on the chaotic scene as black smoke from burning cars billowed over the central city.

    The six victims and 32 injured reported at al-Kindi Hospital — four in critical condition — were all Iraqis, authorities said. The U.S. military said three Americans were slightly injured.

    Along Saadoun Avenue, feelings ran high against the Americans and their inability to stop the bombings. As rubble burned outside the hotel, a crowd chanted slogans calling the U.S.-led regime a failure.