- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

BAGHDAD — Interrogations of Saddam Hussein and documents in the personal briefcase seized with him have led to the arrest of several prominent regime figures in Baghdad, a U.S. general said yesterday.

Suicide bombers attacked police stations in the capital, killing eight persons as the insurgency showed no sign of letting up.

“My name is Saddam Hussein,” the fallen Iraqi leader told U.S. troops in English as they pulled him out of his hiding place in the village of Adwar, north of Baghdad, Saturday night. “I am the president of Iraq, and I want to negotiate.”

A U.S. Special Forces soldier replied: “Regards from President Bush,” according to Maj. Bryan Reed, operations officer for the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.

Mr. Bush expanded on that message to Saddam in his remarks Monday: “Good riddance. The world is better off without you, Mr. Saddam Hussein.”

American officials said interrogations of Saddam, whose location has not been disclosed, will focus first on getting intelligence on the insurgency that has taken the lives of nearly 200 American soldiers.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview with Fox News Channel that Saddam “is talkative now, but not cooperative. He is talking.”

The general explained that Saddam mainly was complaining about being a victim of the U.S. government, but not offering useful intelligence about the insurgency or his weapons-of-mass-destruction programs.

But Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling of the 1st Armored Division said in Baghdad that officials were “connecting the dots” about the insurgency based on the initial questioning of Saddam and documents in a briefcase found with him.

“It was reported as his personal briefcase,” Gen. Hertling said. “There were a lot of things that can be exploited.”

Since Saddam was detained on Saturday night, U.S. Army teams from the 1st Armored Division have seized a high-ranking former regime figure, who has yet to be identified, and that prisoner has given up a few others, Gen. Hertling said. All the men are being interrogated, and more raids are expected.

Gen. Hertling described the newly arrested figures as “key” but did not indicate whether they were on the U.S. military’s list of 55 most-wanted regime officials. Thirteen of those figures remain at large, the highest-ranking being Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a close Saddam aide who U.S. officials say might be organizing resistance directly.

“We’ve already gleaned intelligence of value from his capture,” Gen. Hertling said of Saddam. “We’ve already been able to capture a couple of key individuals here in Baghdad. We’ve completely confirmed one of the cells. It’s putting the pieces together, and it’s connecting the dots. It has already helped us significantly in Baghdad.”

Gen. Hertling added, “I’m sure he was giving some guidance to some key figures in this insurgency.”

In Tikrit, near where Saddam was found, police broke up a pro-Saddam protest by hundreds of university students who chanted, “With our blood and with our souls, we will defend you, Saddam.”

Violence continued with a flurry of car bombings and attempted bombings against Iraqi police stations yesterday.

In the worst blast, a four-wheel-drive vehicle packed with explosives drove through the razor wire protecting the station in Baghdad’s district of Husainiyah, demolishing the building’s facade and damaging nearby shops. Eight Iraqi officers were killed, and 10 officers and five civilians were wounded.

At the Ameriyah station in western Baghdad, a car bomb exploded, wounding seven officers. Iraqi police and U.S. military police fired on a second explosives-packed vehicle, preventing it from ramming the police station, Gen. Hertling said. The vehicle’s driver fled.

Mr. Bush had warned that such attacks would not stop even with Saddam in custody.

Gen. Hertling said he hoped that Saddam eventually will clear up reports that the ex-dictator had chemical and biological weapons and a nuclear-weapons program.

“I certainly think some of that will come out,” Gen. Hertling said. “I think we’ll get some significant intelligence over the next couple of days.”

Saddam’s whereabouts were being kept secret yesterday. Gen. Hertling said he remains in Iraq, contradicting reports that he had been taken to Qatar. A spokesman at U.S. Central Command would not give information on Saddam’s location.

Iraqi Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubaiye, who met Saddam on Sunday with U.S. chief administrator L. Paul Bremer, told Reuters news agency that he had found Saddam as “a very broken man.”

“He was, I think, psychologically ruined and very demoralized,” Mr. Rubaiye said. “He felt safer with the Americans.”

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