- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that uncertainty over Saddam Hussein’s fate is giving the former Iraqi leader’s hard-core supporters incentive to mount deadly guerrilla attacks on American troops trying to rebuild Iraq.

“There are people who may fear that he could come back,” Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with the secretary as he visited European war allies.

“If they fear he could come back, they might be somewhat slower in an interrogation to say what they know” and could convince Ba’ath Party hard-liners “that they can take back that country,” the defense secretary added, according to an Associated Press report.

The Washington Times reported Saturday that Army engineers began digging for Saddam’s remains in the Baghdad neighborhood of Mansur after the United States failed to confirm scores of eyewitness postwar sightings of the ex-dictator.

“They want to know one way or the other whether he’s dead or alive,” a U.S. official said.

The United States bombed a building in Mansur April 7 after intelligence sources placed Saddam, possibly his two sons and senior aides, inside. Since then, Iraqis have claimed to have seen Saddam alive. But U.S. intelligence has either disproved the claims or been unable to confirm them.

A major effort is under way at the site to find human remains in an attempt to solve the nagging mystery. Officials said the intelligence community is basically split, with some analysts saying Saddam is alive, while others say he died in the Mansur bombing.

Saddam loyalists have killed 40 American service members since President Bush declared an end to major hostilities in Iraq last month.

The Times reported on Monday that the Iraqi intelligence service sent out a memo to loyalists calling on them to loot and sabotage Iraq’s infrastructure, and to attack occupiers if the regime fell to coalition forces. The memo shows that the U.S. occupation is up against an organized resistance that was planned months in advance.

“It will take time to root out the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, and we intend to do it,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

U.S. officials said that, if it can be proved Saddam is dead, the disclosure may persuade senior Iraqis in custody to disclose the secrets of Baghdad’s suspected weapons of mass destruction programs. His confirmed death also may take the wind out of guerrilla fighters who apparently believe Saddam may return someday.

“The situation has been tougher and more complex than many of these plans were able to predict,” Joseph Collins, deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations, told reporters yesterday.

“This was really a professional plan,” the AP quoted him as saying. “But, you know, when they got out there they realized the plan had a number of problems, and now the plan is in the process of being redone.”

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