- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2004

TIKRIT, Iraq — U.S. forces may fill in the “spider hole” used as a final hiding place by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to prevent it from becoming a “shrine,” a military spokesman said yesterday.

The U.S. 4th Infantry Division, which captured the bedraggled Saddam at a farm in central Iraq last month, has asked for permission to destroy the hole and the nearby mud hut that were his last refuges.

“In order to avoid making it a tourist attraction and/or a shrine, we believe the best course of action is to eliminate it,” 4th Infantry Division spokesman Master Sgt. Robert Cargie said.

Sgt. Cargie cautioned no decision had been made by military commanders in Baghdad or the Iraqi Governing Council. Both will have a say in the final course of action, and destroying the hole is just one option, he said.

The spokesman declined to discuss other possibilities and the U.S. military in Baghdad had no comment.

About 600 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division and Special Forces captured the bearded and filthy Saddam inside the 8-foot hole Dec. 13. The space was large enough only for one person and equipped with just a light and fan.

The hole is on a farm in the village of Adwar beside the Tigris River, about nine miles south of Saddam’s adopted hometown and one-time power base of Tikrit, where the 4th Infantry Division is based. Nearby was a small mud hut Saddam had also used, in which soldiers found two beds, a refrigerator containing lemonade and hot dogs, and an open box of Belgian chocolates.

Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division, said the farm site is in a region where U.S. forces are still conducting extensive military operations.

“A key reason to tear it down would be to reduce the amount of extra traffic going to the area, which only complicates our military mission,” she said.

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