Before liberation, anarchy in Baghdad

US tanks poured into the heart of Baghdad amid scenes of jubilation and looting on Wednesday as Saddam's regime collapsed.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2003 09:43 IST

The joy and defiance in Baghdad on Wednesday mirrored the popular belief that Saddam Hussein's power had been wrecked forever. For the first time since the war began, foreign correspondents in the Iraqi capital filed uncensored reports, and Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaaf took a day off.

As American tanks rolled unopposed into the city centre, US Vice President Dick Cheney said downtown Baghdad was "seeing evidence of the collapse of (all) central regime authority."

There was no definite word, however, on where Saddam was. There are three possibilities.

He's history

Says the CIA. Multiple US intelligence sources saw Saddam enter a Baghdad building on Monday and not emerge before it was bombed. The CIA is believed to be "in a state of euphoria" at the 'success'. It had recorded Saddam's voice just before the strike, and is certain it wasn't his double.

The US is also arguing backwards, saying the fact no one seems to be in control in Baghdad confirms Saddam is probably dead.

"He's gone way underground, literally or figuratively," said an official.

He survived

Says MI6. British intelligence believes Saddam left the building before the bombs hit home.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of two main Iraqi Kurdish groups opposing Saddam, said on Wednesday he was hiding in his hometown Tikrit. US officers said special forces and air strikes were "actively engaging" the Iraqis in Tikrit.

We may never know

If Saddam was directly hit by the four tonnes of explosives dropped by the US B-1 bomber, there would be almost no physical remains left of him.

Should a few scraps of tissue remain, scientists will have to extract and subject them to DNA matching. However, there are no known samples of Saddam's DNA available.

Failure to prove Saddam is dead will make the US’s post-war job difficult. "People won't believe he is gone until there's indisputable evidence," said Rachel Bronson, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. And if Iraqis continue to live in fear of him, "hope of moving forward will be slowed down".

First Published: Apr 09, 2003 19:30 IST