'Iraqi leaders vanished as Baghdad fell'
As Baghdad fell from Iraqi President's control, covert CIA and military teams and surveillance devices set up to monitor top Iraqi officials reported that nearly all of them had disappeared.india Updated: Apr 10, 2003 11:19 IST
As Baghdad fell from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's control, covert CIA and military teams and surveillance devices set up to monitor top Iraqi officials reported that nearly all of them had disappeared, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
CIA and Special Operations teams targeting the Iraqi leadership discovered that Saddam's Baath Party leaders, Republican Guard leaders, troops and high-level government officials were not at their usual posts on Wednesday, the report said.
"There was no sign of any leaders, anywhere," a senior US administration official was quoted as saying.
"All of a sudden, all communications ceased and the regime didn't come to work," a senior administration official told the newspaper.
Even Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, who has turned up daily during the war and poured abuse on the Americans, failed to make an appearance.
US military commanders said they suspected that some Iraqi leaders had gone to Hussein's hometown of Tikrit for a final showdown and that others had fled to Syria, The Post reported.
According to the newspaper, CIA analysts reports said the most likely explanation for the sudden drop-off in detectable communications and activity among such a large number of key people is that an order to disappear was given in Saddam's name, and that he is still alive.
The article said intelligence sources thought another less probable possibility was that Saddam was killed in one of two US air attacks that targeted him - one March 19, the other April 8 - and that word of his death finally leaked out.
If Saddam is alive, he and his loyalists may have sought refuge in Tikrit, the newspaper said, adding that the town about 90 miles (240 km) north of Baghdad has been a special target for US precision bombing.