- The Washington Times - Friday, July 4, 2003

BAGHDAD — Ehsan Hussein, 26, says he would not provide information on Saddam Hussein’s whereabouts to claim the $25 million reward on offer, even though Saddam killed his father.

Similar sentiments were expressed in interviews on the streets of Baghdad yesterday after the United States offered the reward for Saddam, dead or alive.

Mr. Hussein said: “Something inside me would stop me. I’m still scared even at the thought of handing him in,” he said.

He’s afraid that supporters of Saddam still have influence. “There a lot of them, and they are still working and hitting places,” he said.

Reports of the purported audiotape of Saddam, played yesterday on Al Jazeera television, simply reinforced his worst fears.

“Saddam murdered my father, Taha, and 43 other Baghdad merchants in 1992, without any trial or accusation,” Mr. Hussein said. “They refused to let us put any death notice outside the home or in the papers. And they stopped us holding a funeral.”

Saddam’s supporters continue to sow fear among fellow Iraqis with stories that the former leader will make a comeback. Those fears are reinforced by daily killings of U.S. soldiers, which many here believe will eventually prompt the Americans to pull out, as in such past conflicts as Vietnam to Somalia.

Most people The Washington Times spoke to said they, too, would not hand over Saddam if they knew where he was hiding.

“Saddam’s a hero,” Ahmed Abdel Jaber said. “At least he brought us electricity, which [Americans] cannot do.”

Seif Dhia, a 19-year-old, said while buying two takeout pizzas: “I wouldn’t do it for 25 million or any sum. I love Saddam. He was a good strong leader and he hates Israel.”

“Don’t think I’m anti-American. I watch a lot of American movies. I don’t hate America or Bush. But Saddam just wanted to help the people of Iraq, even though he may have committed some crimes.”

Ahmed, 30, who runs a local supermarket, proved to be an exception.

“I’d be happy to turn him in because I need the money,” he said.

Mr. Hussein, the 26-year-old merchant, works at a money exchange alongside the site where U.S. planes tried to kill Saddam, his two sons and his top leadership cadres April 7, as U.S. troops closed in on Baghdad.

Instead the bombs destroyed three houses and killed 14 persons. Saddam and his sons apparently escaped. A flattened rectangle of ground, leveled out neatly by the Americans after an unsuccessful search for Saddam’s DNA, reveals no sign of the three houses that once stood on the spot.

But that hasn’t stopped people from saying they’ve seen him all over the country.

“I saw him the night they bombed the houses behind this cafe,” said Ahmed Radi, 30, a waiter. “His security men would come in here every day and buy a big order of [gyros] and french fries and so on.”

Mr. Radi added: “It won’t be easy to catch him, even with that 25 million dollar price tag. Even before the war he planned all his escape moves. He has many friends and relatives. He’s like bin Laden; people just cannot find him.”

One customer in the cafe, Khodayer Hussein, 36, insisted that Saddam is in the United States: “The Americans took him there. After all, they produced him.” Other customers nodded in agreement.

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