US intelligence officials intercepted phone calls of Iraqis living around one of Saddam Hussein's palace last week which made them believe that the Iraqi leader was seriously wounded in the bombing raid, a media report said on Monday.
A senior administration official and a foreign
official said that some intelligence, including the story that Hussein was carried out of the building on a stretcher, came from US operatives who listened in on phone calls made by Baghdad neighbours who witnessed the aftermath of the attack, The Washington Post reported.
"Whether they [the neighbours] are accurate or not we can't say," the administration official said.
The officials said they could not confirm published reports that Hussein's oldest son, Uday, died in the attack. "We believe Saddam, his two sons and others were injured," one senior intelligence analyst said yesterday, "but we do not know who, if any died."
Several statements have been made by American and British officials with regard to Hussein and his sons being injured in the Thursday bombing but officials did not indicate how the information was obtained.
"We have had people on the ground who have opined and I'm sure very honestly and accurately reflected what they think they saw," Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told CBS's "Face the Nation".
Rumsfeld and other officials also expanded on the secret talks continuing with Iraqi military, intelligence and political leaders in hope of encouraging them to surrender or defect. Dialogue, Rumsfeld said, is going on "with a number of senior Iraqi officials, people in and out of uniform."