"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:
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.