Saddam: Bodies too 'shot up' to ID
July 22, 2003
Mosul, Iraq - Saddam Hussein's sons Odai and Qusai were "very likely" killed on Tuesday when US soldiers stormed a house in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, US military and Bush administration sources told Fox News.
Sources at the Pentagon and within the Bush administration told Fox News that at least four "high-level" targets were killed inside the house, a large villa that belonged to one of Saddam's cousins. A senior administration official said the US is "90% to 95% certain" that Saddam's sons were among the dead.
Officials said four bodies were transported out of the house. Three were adults - believed to be Odai, Qusai and a bodyguard. The fourth body was of a teenager - possibly Qusai's son.
US officials said there will be DNA testing to confirm the deaths. Senior defense officials said some sort of announcement would be made later Tuesday.
The US government has DNA samples on Saddam's sons, but testing may take time.
One US official told Fox News that "they were shot up" so much that it is difficult to make a positive identification of the bodies. The United States now plans to talk to people who knew them to identify the bodies and look for distinguishing marks.
The house was burned to the ground after a loud, four-hour gunbattle between the people inside and soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division.
Officials told Fox News that they had two pieces of intelligence that directed them toward the house and that "there was some indication that Qusai and Odai were inside".
Residents of the city, 280 miles north of Baghdad, said the American soldiers were searching for Saddam's sons, who have been reported in the area. A reporter from Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera said eyewitnesses told him that Saddam's sons were in the house when it was raided.
"Individuals of very high interest to the coalition forces were hiding out in the building," Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop of the 101st Airborne Division told Reuters.
Fire from building
"This morning we went to the building and surrounded it."
A US soldier involved in the raid told Fox News that US soldiers were fired at by people inside the house as they approached, and the Americans called in helicopters and an unmanned vehicle for assistance before storming it.
"We received direct fire from the building multiple times. We used a scaled escalation of force," the soldier told Fox News' Steve Centanni at the scene of the firefight.
The soldier said US forces couldn't get into the building because of the small-arms fire they were facing, so "we had to use bigger caliber weapons to render the building safe" - including missiles, helicopters and grenade launchers.
Centanni said the two-story building was "a mess". US forces apparently used all the weapons in their arsenal, and the building, its columns and balconies were pock-marked with bulletholes.
Members of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division, wouldn't who - if anyone - they brought out of the house, but all the troops "have smiles on their faces and they seemed to have carried out this mission successfully", Centanni reported.
There were no US fatalities.
Witnesses in the neighbourhood said there are tunnels below the house. US forces towed away a gray SUV from the side of house.
Mosul was believed to be the exit route for some of Saddam's family members trying to get out of Iraq and flee to Syria.
Fox News military analyst Colonel Bill Cowan said he hoped Saddam's sons had been captured and not killed.
"I think in this case, it'd be great to have them alive," he said.
"I think for the [Iraqi] population to see these two guys shackled, incarcerated and really given some harsh treatment - will have a most profound and long-term psychological advantage."
The United States has offered a $25m reward for information leading to Saddam's capture, and $15m for his sons.
Cowan added that Saddam's sons might provide good intelligence on their father's whereabouts.
"It appears that good intelligence led to this raid," Retired US Army Major General Paul Valleley, a Fox News military analyst, said. "One event can lead to the other. So hopefully, this will lead to determining in some way where Saddam may be."
In Washington, President Bush's advisers were huddling around during a conference call trying to determine whether Saddam's sons were alive. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has briefed the president personally on the assault.
"He [Bush] will be kept appraised of any updates as they become available," White House spokesperson Scott McClellan told reporters. "The president is aware of the reports and is aware of the military operation that took place today."
Intelligence sources say the US task force - Task Force 20 - was going after high-level targets during the Mosul raid, but they would not say whether the soldiers knew they were going after Odai and Qusai.
Task Force 20 - including Army delta forces and CIA operatives - was originally given the responsibility of finding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, but later it was ordered to refocus its efforts on hunting down Saddam and his inner circle. Sources confirmed to Fox News that special forces were involved with the raid.
The task force is basically a "hit team" that follows up only on solid intelligence.
"I think we're all anxiously awaiting confirmation," about the sons' deaths, Senator Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, told Fox News Tuesday. "There's no question they were diabolical forces in Iraq."
Snowe, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the potential death or capture of Qusai and Odai shows the world that the US work in Iraq is far from over.
"I think it goes to show how important our role is in Iraq and continues to be that we have to remove these forces of fear," Snowe said. "Iraq was one of the most atrocious regimes ... no one can really underestimate the threat that Saddam Hussein posed."
I think that we all recognized that as long as Saddam Hussein continues to exist, he poses a threat to the Iraqi people - they will never be able to breathe easy if they know he's there."
Odai, Saddam's eldest son, was commander of Iraq's paramilitary unit, known as the Saddam Fedayeen, and he was also chairperson of the Iraqi Olympic Committee. He is No 3 on the coalition's most-wanted list, after his father and Qusai.
Iraqi Olympic athletes say they were routinely jailed and tortured for losing competitions or disobeying Odai's orders.
During Saddam's reign, Qusai was in charge of all the military, intelligence and security services in Iraq, including the elite Republican Guard and the Special Security Organisation, which protected the regime and its weapons.
From 1988 to 1999, Qusai often ordered mass executions of several thousand prisoners, and suppressed revolts among the al-Dulaym tribe in 1995 and among Shiites in 1997.
Both Odai and Qusai were active in the management of the general office of the military intelligence service, the Istikhbarat, and the internal intelligence service, the Mukhabarat.
Qusai was considered the more likely of the two to succeed their father.