At a hastily arranged news conference in Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told reporters, “We are certain that Uday and Qusay were killed today.”
Sanchez announced that despite fierce fighting, the bodies were “in a condition where you could identify them.” He said DNA testing of the remains was already underway.
“We used multiple sources to identify the individuals,” he said.
Coalition forces ranked the two sons second and third in the list of most wanted officials from the fallen Baath Party regime, falling below only Saddam himself.
U.S. officials reported the six-hour firefight broke out at a Mosul villa. Wire services reported the house is owned by one of Saddam’s cousins, a prominent tribal leader.
According to Sanchez, gunmen opened fire from inside the villa as troops approached the building. He said “the suspects barricaded themselves in the house” and “resisted fiercely.”
Roughly 200 U.S. soldiers attacked the villa with rockets and machine guns and later stormed the premises to retrieve the four bodies.
Sanchez said U.S. forces learned of Uday and Qusay’s location from an Iraqi informant’s “walk-in” tip.
“We had a walk-in last night that came in and gave us the information,” he said, adding that the military expects to pay the $15 million reward offered for information leading to the brothers’ death or capture.
Two other bodies, that of a teen-age boy and an adult, have not been identified. Wire reports said officials believe the bodies may be those of Qusay’s 14-year-old son, who reportedly traveled with him, and a bodyguard.
Saddam’s eldest son, Uday, 39, was known throughout Iraq for his cruelty and womanizing before U.S.-led forces ousted his father’s regime on April 9. A Saddam Fedayeen Commander, Uday was Chairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee and head of the Iraqi Football Association. He allegedly oversaw the torture of athletes who delivered sub-par performances, and also controlled propaganda in Iraq.
Saddam’s younger son, Qusay, born in 1966, was one of the regime’s most trusted lieutenants. A Special Republican Guard Commander, he controlled elite Republican Guards, intelligence services and a special force providing security for Saddam.
Even before the official announcement, witnesses in Baghdad reported sporadic gunfire throughout the city. At Tuesday’s press conference, Lt. Gen. Sanchez said the shots were believed to be celebration of reported deaths, not fire hostile to U.S. forces.
“It’s very appropriate that they would celebrating about now,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Sanchez said four coalition soldiers were wounded in the firefight and were being treated.
Also Tuesday, a U.S. soldier was killed and another injured in an ambush attack north of Baghdad. He becomes the 153rd U.S. soldier killed in action since war began in Iraq on March 20.