Saddam remains could be identified: Scientist
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Saddam remains could be identified: Scientist

Without a sample of his DNA or dental records, it would be difficult but not impossible to confirm the Iraqi leader's death, a forensic scientist said.

world Updated: Jun 04, 2007 12:16 IST

If Saddam Hussein is dead, how will the world know?

Without a sample of his DNA or dental records, and with members of his inner circle unlikely to cooperate, it would be difficult but not impossible to confirm the Iraqi leader's death, a forensic scientist said.

As rumours swirled around Saddam, whose whereabouts remained unknown on Thursday after US tanks rumbled into central Baghdad on Wednesday, Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky spoke with clinical detachment about clues that might have been left if Saddam died in a massive US bomb attack earlier this week.

Four 2,000-pound (900-kg) bombs reduced a building in Baghdad's Mansur district to rubble on Monday after the CIA received a tip that Saddam and his sons, Uday and Qusay, were inside meeting with Iraqi intelligence officials.

Despite the devastation, there might be enough evidence at that site to confirm Saddam's death, said Kobilinsky, a professor of forensic science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

"We don't know if he was even there; but assuming he was there, and assuming he is dead, the question is: 'Is his body intact or is it completely fragmented into large and small pieces?'" Kobilinsky said in a telephone interview.

"If it's intact, they might be able, through visual observation of his facial structure, determine if it's him or not," the scientist said.

Even if the face is not intact, the height and weight of the body or the presence of a distinguishing facial mole would be helpful, and it might be possible for investigators to obtain fingerprint samples from one of Saddam's palaces that could be used to confirm the death.


However, reports of numerous Saddam look-alikes suggest that more technical methods might be needed, Kobilinsky said.

One way to confirm Saddam's death without banked samples of his DNA would be to get tissue samples from his body and those of his sons, if all three are found.

Because fathers pass along all of the genes on their Y chromosomes to their male children, Kobilinsky said, a check of the tissues of all three would be useful.

"If both sons are there, what they can do is examine the tissues and see if the Y chromosome material is identical and that way they actually can get some real hard data," he said.

Getting hard data about the ultimate fate of Saddam is essential, according to retired US Army Col. Laird Anderson, who now teaches at American University.

"The man (Saddam) has done a brilliant job of keeping his presence a mystery ... but I still think we have to have something that says our best evidence is that this is Saddam Hussein," Anderson said by telephone.

Without positive identification, Saddam could join Osama bin Laden as an enemy of the United States whose final whereabouts are unclear, Anderson said.

Another possibility is that without certainty, Saddam could become a laughingstock.

"I think he'll become a joke after a while, like Elvis or Hoffa," Anderson said.

Questions linger in some quarters about whether rock 'n roll icon Elvis Presley and labour leader Jimmy Hoffa are actually dead despite overwhelming evidence, and the same could hold for Saddam, he said.

First Published: Apr 10, 2003 21:13 IST