Key Saddam Loyalists Captured; Iraqi Council Creates Rotating Presidency
Documents and other information that could help locate and capture Saddam were also reportedly found during a series of pre-dawn raids in Tikrit, the former leader’s hometown.
Saddam’s bodyguard, identified as Adnan Abdullah Abid al-Musslit, attempted to resist arrest and was wrestled to the ground and dragged downstairs, according to a U.S. military official.
In all, the Tikrit raids led to the arrests of 12 people, including Daher Ziana, the former head of security in Tikrit, and Rafa Idham Ibrahim al-Hassan, a leader of the Saddam Fedayeen militia, according to the Associated Press.
The raids began in the early morning hours, when soldiers fired shotgun blasts into the locks of the house where al-Musslit was living with his family, according to an AP account of the operation.
Al-Musslit has been called “one of Saddam’s lifelong bodyguards”, and is believed to have detailed knowledge of the former president’s hiding places, Lt. Col. Steve Russell, commander of the 4th Infantry Division’s 22nd Infantry Regiment, told reporters.
“We got our prime target,” Russell said. “This man was a close associate of Saddam Hussein.”
Russell also said documents taken from the home and information the men provided would be useful in the hunt for Saddam.
“Every photo and every document connects the dots,” he said.
The men were taken to an Army detention facility in Tikrit where they will be questioned, Russell continued.
The U.S. government has offered a reward of up to $25 million for information leading to the capture of the former Iraqi dictator. His sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed during a gunbattle with U.S. forces last week, after a local informant provided a tip on their whereabouts.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that U.S. forces conducting Monday’s raids in Iraq missed Saddam by just a few hours.
“I think most people feel that the noose is tightening pretty regularly around the neck of Saddam Hussein, even today there were three raids and we believe we were just hours behind Saddam Hussein,” he told CNN.
In a separate development, the 25-member U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council elected a nine-member rotating presidency Tuesday, ending two weeks of debate over who would lead postwar Iraq’s governing body.
“The council formed a collective leadership of nine members who will rotate presidency,” said Hoshiyar Zebari, political adviser to Masoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party and one of the Council members.
Zebari said details of how the rotating presidency will function would be decided shortly. “The council may resort to alphabetical order or to voting to decide who will lead it first and the period may be one month or two,” he said.
The nine include: Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress; Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq; Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party; Ibrahim al-Jaafari, spokesman for the Islamic Dawa Party; Iyad Allawi, secretary-general of the Iraq National Accord; Mohsen Abdel-Hamid, secretary-general of the Iraqi Islamic Party; Mohammed Bahr al-Uloum, a Shiite cleric; and Adnan Pachachi, foreign minister in the government ousted in the 1968 Baath Party coup.