- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

ADWAR, Iraq — The yard was a mess, the laundry wasn’t done, the pantry was bare and the only art on the walls was a poster of Noah’s Ark.

Saddam Hussein’s hide-out at a farmhouse in northern Iraq looked more like a derelict property abandoned by squatters than one of the lavish palaces he had lived in for years.

Col. James Hickey said Special Forces soldiers were seconds from pitching a hand grenade into Saddam’s tiny underground refuge when the fugitive dictator’s hands appeared aboveground in surrender.

“He was assisted out of the hole,” said Col. Hickey, commander of the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division and leader of the raid that captured Saddam, who was armed with a pistol. No shots were fired.

In the walled farmyard where Saddam hid below ground, there was a mud-brick hut. Reporters were shown a small bedroom and a makeshift kitchen, but no toilet.

Branches covered the roof, and a gray metal door with a padlock was the only security.

Inside, dirty laundry, including gray trousers and a towel, hung from a clothesline above a bed covered with a floral blanket. The poster was tacked to the wall near a second bed that appeared unused.

A box on the floor contained a long, black Arab robe; two new, white men’s T-shirts; and two pairs of white cotton boxer shorts.

Black moccasins and a pair of slippers with gold-colored buckles were shoved against the wall. There were old textbooks on the floor.

In the makeshift kitchen, a small refrigerator contained a few Bounty candy bars, some hot dogs and a can of 7-Up. There was old bread on a counter, leftover rice in a pot and dirty dishes in the sink.

On a shelf above the gas stove, there was soap, a canister of coffee, mouthwash, a mirror and two Mars candy bars.

Two men were caught fleeing the farm when troops raided Saturday night.

Outside the hut, a ditch appeared to serve as a latrine. The yard was littered with garbage, plastic bags, empty bottles, rotten fruit and a broken chair.

Troops had found a white cloth concealing Saddam’s underground hideaway. Beneath the cloth was a piece of plastic foam — a hatch leading to the hide-out — with two wire handles. It was painted to look like the soil around it.

Next to a date tree beside the hole was a ventilation pipe leading underground to the hiding place. Drying salamis and figs were hung on the pipe to help disguise it.

There were two tents on the property, a chicken coop and a stable that was home to a single cow.

Palm trees, orchards, orange trees and a sunflower field lined the road to the property about 10 miles south of Tikrit, Saddam’s ancestral home.

Special Forces entered the compound about 8 p.m. Saturday. Twenty minutes later, they reported apprehending “High-value Target No. 1,” said Col. Hickey.

Two AK-47 rifles, documents and $750,000 in cash also were found.

Saddam, looking haggard and wearing a scraggly beard, was found clutching a loaded pistol he didn’t fire.

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