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TV footage shows Saddam Hussein alive on April 9

Abu Dhabi TV on Friday aired pictures of Saddam Hussein in the streets of Baghdad on April 9.

india Updated: Apr 18, 2003 21:32 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press

Abu Dhabi television aired pictures on Friday of what it said was Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the streets of Baghdad last week, greeted by an enthusiastic crowd as he waved and was hoisted onto a car hood to greet throngs of fellow Iraqis.

Abu Dhabi television said the film was shot on April 9, the day US forces moved into Baghdad. The footage, if authentic and if actually of Saddam, would mean that an American bombing of three houses on April 7 aimed at killing the Iraqi president was unsuccessful. The United States said it was studying the footage.

April 9 was the day a crowd of Iraqis, with the help of US Marines, toppled a 40-foot (12-meter) statue of Saddam in a main square of the capital.

Clad in a black beret and an olive military uniform, Saddam moved through the crowd as people cheered: "With our bloods and souls we redeem you, Oh Saddam." Helped by guards, Saddam ascended the hood of a car and appeared a bit embarrassed as he took in cheers. Some of those cheering him held AK-47 assault rifles.

Alongside him stood a man who resembled his younger son, Qusai. Though there was nothing to indicate definitively when the pictures were shot, haze was visible in the background that could have been dust, but also could have been smoke from US bombardments. At US Central Command in Doha, Qatar, a spokesman said he could not comment on whether the footage showed the real Saddam or a look-alike.

"If he is still alive, it's a matter of days," said Ensign David Luckett, the spokesman. In Washington, a US intelligence official said it was too soon to tell if the broadcast was authentic and when it was recorded. Officials will review the broadcast to try to determine its authenticity.

Some intelligence suggests Saddam had pre-recorded some material to air during the war, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

"His days are certainly numbered. He is no longer in power and that is quite obvious in the country of Iraq as the Iraqi people celebrate their freedom," he said. "It was never about one person, it was about liberating a country," Luckett said. Iraq's ambassador to Belgrade, who was loyal to Saddam, said he was confident that Saddam was killed in the coalition bombing of Baghdad.

"I know his character," Sami Sadoun said. "The defence of Baghdad would not have collapsed so quickly if he was not dead."

Abu Dhabi TV's correspondent, Jaber Obeid, said the person who handed the tape to the network assured them that it was shot in Baghdad on April 9. And the station's anchor said it had made efforts to ensure they got any tape available.

"We always suspected, because of the many sightings of Saddam Hussein, that somebody, somehow, somewhere would shoot a picture of him, would shoot a video," anchor Jasim al-Azz Azzawi told CNN. "And we went out of our way to make sure that that tape would fall into our hands. And sure enough we acquired it today, and as soon as we got it we put it on air." Abu Dhabi TV referred questions by The Associated Press about the footage to a station official who was not immediately available for comment.

The station said the pictures, taken in the tree-lined Azamiyah neighbourhood of Baghdad, "showed that there were parts of Baghdad that hadn't fallen at that day and that still had Iraqi security presence in them."

The videotape was shot from a distance and alternated between zooming in on Saddam and panning the crowd that was rushing him. In the video, Saddam has a large gold chain around his neck and appears both pleased and haggard. His face appeared narrower than it was in televised speeches given days before.

The United States is still searching for Saddam inside Iraq, especially in Baghdad and the northern city of Tikrit, his hometown. Resolving the fate of Saddam, either capturing him or killing him, would be a major step for American forces in their invasion of Iraq.

In late March, during the first days of the war, Saddam appeared several times on Iraqi state television, first looking tired and puffy-eyed and, later, stronger as he promised to fight on and defeat the American invasion.

On April 7, a man identified as Saddam was shown on Iraqi TV in the streets of Baghdad being greeted by people. However, that footage showed a Saddam who appeared leaner and somewhat younger than the man who had been giving speeches in recent weeks. Later that day, US forces bombed the upscale al-Mansour neighbourhood after being tipped off that Saddam had entered a building there. After the attack, a US source said the target was a restaurant, but officials later said the intended objective was 100 yards from the only restaurant in the neighbourhood and had been hit as targeted.

First Published: Apr 18, 2003 21:15 IST