'Saddam was present in a building hit by missiles'

Updated on Mar 21, 2003 03:47 PM IST

US believes Saddam and sons were inside a building hit by missiles and medical attention was sought later.

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PTI | ByAP, Washington

k missile: US intelligence believes Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and possibly two of his sons were present inside a suburban Baghdad compound when it was struck by US missiles and bombs and that medical attention was summoned afterward, government officials said.
The officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said that intelligence agencies had not made any determination yet whether Saddam or his sons were injured or killed in the attacks and they were carefully analysing videotapes purporting to show the Iraqi leader after the attack.

US officials said that there was no evidence that Saddam, or anyone else, was in overall command of Iraq's security or military operations in the aftermath of the attack on Thursday night.

"We have reason to believe he was in there," one senior US official said. "It is not clear exactly on whose behalf the medical attention was summoned."

The attack, which involved ship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles and bombs dropped from stealth fighters, was aimed at a residential complex where US intelligence believed Saddam, and possibly his sons, were sleeping.

Naval missile strikes in Baghdad also were aimed at the headquarters of the Special Republican Guard, a paramilitary force that was expected to defend Baghdad from any US assault, and other security organisations.

After the attack, intelligence reports indicated Iraq's leaders were not organising any coordinated response in Baghdad or in the rest of the country, suggesting the leadership might be in chaos or cut off from communicating with field commanders.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld said that military planners had good reason to believe top Iraqi leaders were at the site of the first bombing.

US intelligence suspected Saddam's sons, Qusai and Odai, might have been with him during the strike. Both hold high-level security positions. Qusai, the younger son, is believed to be Saddam's likely successor.

A defiant Saddam appeared on Iraqi television a few hours after the strike. However, officials said that the taped message did not prove he was alive.

It appeared to be him and not a look-alike, officials said after initial analysis. A voice analysis was under way.

There was nothing in the tape that made specific reference to the attack, or other events, that would confirm it was made in the hours after the strike. Saddam's reading of the date could have been recorded earlier, officials said.

However, the fact that Saddam read the speech from a steno pad indicated a fairly impromptu production, suggesting it came after the strike, the officials said.

If Saddam survived, US officials hoped the surprise attack at least would leave him distrustful of his inner circle and suspecting betrayal by one of his advisers, leaving him less able to command.

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