- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2003

The Bush administration yesterday placed a $25 million bounty on the head of Saddam Hussein, as senior lawmakers in Washington said the uncertainty over the fate of the deposed dictator has hampered the search for Iraq’s prohibited weapons programs.

L. Paul Bremer, head of the U.S.-led coalition civilian authority, announced in Baghdad that the U.S. government would also pay up to $15 million for information on the whereabouts of each of Saddam’s two sons, Uday and Qusai, calling the three “among the most evil men the world has known.”

Saddam and his sons have not been seen since early April, despite intense search efforts by U.S. and allied forces.

Mr. Bremer said this week U.S. authorities do not even know if the three survived the war, amid intense speculation among Iraqis over whether the dictator may be preparing a comeback.



Coalition officials say the uncertainty over Saddam has emboldened loyalists of the old regime, who have staged a daily series of strikes against U.S. and British forces and conducted numerous sabotage and looting raids.

“I have certainly not forgotten Saddam Hussein and his sons,” Mr. Bremer said in a televised message to the Iraqi people.

“They may or may not still be alive. Until we know for sure, their names will continue to cast a shadow of fear over this country,” he added.

Ten more American soldiers were injured in incidents yesterday, which included an explosion that rocked a convoy of Humvees 60 miles west of Baghdad and sniper attacks at two locations in the capital. Two Iraqis were also killed by soldiers returning fire, and a 6-year-old Iraqi boy was injured in one of the sniper attacks.

A reported 26 American soldiers and six British troops have been killed by hostile fire since President Bush declared the major combat phase of the Iraqi campaign over on May 1.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, said the “specter” of Saddam was evident during a just-concluded congressional delegation he led to Iraq.

Many Iraqis with hard evidence of Saddam’s weapons programs are still fearful of coming forward, he said.

“The specter of his past brutality does hang over this entire operation and does, to some extent, impede the progress by which other civilian Iraqis would feel free to come out,” Mr. Warner said at a Capitol Hill press conference.

The $25 million bounty for Saddam matches the reward being offered by the U.S. government for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the al Qaeda terrorist network blamed for the September 11 attacks.

The offer also is a departure from previous statements by Mr. Bush and other senior officials, who had said that Saddam’s fate was less important than the fact that, in Mr. Bush’s words, the dictator’s fingers were no longer “wrapped around his people’s throats.”

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told reporters yesterday that capturing Saddam was vital in reassuring ordinary Iraqis about their political future.

“We believe it is important to do everything we can to determine his whereabouts, whether he is alive or dead, in order to assist in stabilizing the situation and letting the people of Baghdad be absolutely sure that he’s not coming back,” Mr. Powell said.

Senators who accompanied Mr. Warner to Iraq said they sensed a “real and palpable concern” among Iraqis over whether Saddam was really gone, in the words of Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican.

West Virginia Sen. John. D. Rockefeller, IV, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, recalled one Iraqi oil-industry worker he met on the trip who was too frightened to offer even a private opinion on whether Saddam was alive or dead, even when surrounded by a group of Americans.

“The fear built into him did not allow him to say yes or no,” said Mr. Rockefeller.

The fear of Saddam still casts “a shadow over that country,” he added, “far more so that I thought when I went there.”

• Sharon Behn contributed to this report.

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