- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

TIKRIT, Iraq — American soldiers overpowered and arrested a bodyguard yesterday who rarely left Saddam Hussein’s side, and said they obtained documents and information that could help them close in on the former dictator.

An audiotape attributed to the deposed Iraqi leader declared his sons martyrs.

In the tape aired on the Dubai-based Al Arabiya satellite station, a voice that resembled Saddam’s lauded his sons, Uday and Qusai, who were killed July 22 in a firefight with U.S. soldiers in the northern city of Mosul.

“Even if Saddam Hussein had 100 children other than Uday and Qusai, Saddam Hussein would offer their lives in the same way,” the voice said. “Thank God for what he destined for us, and honored us with their martyrdom for his sake.”

Some Iraqis had doubted the bodies were those of Saddam’s sons, accusing the United States of staging the shootout to demoralize Saddam’s supporters.

The United States released photographs of the sons and let journalists see their bodies in an attempt to convince Iraqis the two were dead.

The raid in Tikrit yesterday captured Adnan Abdullah Abid al-Musslit, who as “one of Saddam’s lifelong bodyguards” was believed to have detailed knowledge of the former president’s hiding places, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell.

He said documents taken from the home and information obtained from the men would be useful in the hunt for Saddam.

“Every photo and every document connects the dots,” said Col. Russell, commander of the 4th Infantry Division’s 22nd Infantry Regiment.

The stocky bodyguard struggled to break free as soldiers arrested him, so they had to wrestle him to the ground and drag him down the stairs, Col. Russell said.

“Were we surprised? He’s a bodyguard. That’s why we went in with our steely knives and oily guns,” Col. Russell said. “If everything else had failed and we just got that one guy, we would be happy.”

The series of predawn raids in the heart of the Saddam’s hometown netted 12 persons, including Daher Ziana, the former head of security in Tikrit, and Rafa Idham Ibrahim al-Hassan, a leader of the Saddam Fedayeen militia.

The raids began at 4 a.m. when soldiers fired three shotgun blasts into the locks of the house where Mr. al-Musslit was living with his family.

Moments later, a reporter watched as soldiers pulled Mr. al-Musslit from the house, bleeding and barefoot.

Soldiers stripped him to his underwear, searching for weapons, and dragged him to a Humvee.

Mr. al-Musslit had retired from his job as one of Saddam’s most trusted bodyguards, but the former Iraqi leader called him back into service before the war started, Col. Russell said, citing intelligence gathered from Tikrit residents.

About a block away, soldiers stormed a house where Mr. Ziana was living, emerging from one the house’s ornate arched entrances with four men, their hands tied behind their back. One of the men was identified as Mr. Ziana, Saddam’s security chief in Tikrit.

Nearby, soldiers pulled Mr. al-Hassan from another house, Col. Russell said. Mr. al-Hassan was believed to be a brigadier general and a leader of the Fedayeen militia.

The men were taken to an Army detention facility in Tikrit, where they will be interrogated, Col. Russell said.

In Baghdad, meanwhile, the Governing Council, the 25-member body set up by the U.S.-led coalition, elected a nine-member presidency.

The Governing Council has the right to appoint Cabinet ministers and formulate economic policies and is charged with producing a process to write a new constitution that would pave the way for a general election.

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