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[casi] FW: DNA tests after missiles strike 'Saddam convoy',6903,982643,00.html

DNA tests after missiles strike 'Saddam convoy'
Human remains removed after US Hellfire missiles
target source of dictator's satellite phone call
Jason Burke in Baghdad

Sunday June 22, 2003
The Observer

American specialists were carrying out DNA tests last
night on human remains believed by US military sources
to be those of Saddam Hussein and one of his sons, The
Observer can reveal.

The remains were retrieved from a convoy of vehicles
struck last week by US forces following 'firm'
information that the former Iraqi leader and members
of his family were travelling in the Western Desert
near Syria.

Military sources told The Observer that the strikes,
involving an undisclosed number of Hellfire missiles,
were launched against the convoy last Wednesday after
the interception of a satellite telephone conversation
involving either Saddam or his sons.
The operation, which has not yet been disclosed by the
Pentagon, involved the United States air force and
ground troops of the Third Armoured Cavalry Regiment
based around Ramadi, a major town 70 miles west of

Despite previously unfounded US claims that Saddam had
been killed during the bombing of Baghdad before the
invasion by America and Britain, the sources indicated
that they were cautiously optimistic that they had
finally killed the target they described as 'the top

Asked about rumours circulating in senior military
circles about the incident, one US officer with
knowledge of the raid on the convoy said: 'That is
unreleasable information. The Pentagon has to release
that information.'

The Pentagon last night refused to comment on what it
called 'operational matters'. However, other military
sources indicated they were optimistic the tests would
show that Saddam and at least one of his two sons,
Uday and Qusay, were among the dead, although they
stressed that a conclusive identification of the men
killed in the attack had not yet been made.
The convoy, composed of several four-wheel-drive
luxury vehicles, was attacked after the telephone call
was intercepted. An air strike was then organised.

The sources confirmed that Uday Hussein, the deposed
dictator's eldest son, was thought to have been
travelling with his father in the convoy. The convoy
is believed to have been heading for the Syrian border
and was intercepted near the frontier town of Qaim.
Several such convoys heading for the border were
destroyed during the conflict in March and April.

Another US military source confirmed that there was
'an incident in the Western Desert' and said that
information about it was 'unreleasable pending
verification'. Other sources, speaking on condition of
anonymity, revealed that they were awaiting
confirmation that the remains were those of Saddam and
Uday following full DNA tests. It was not known when
the tests would be completed, but the sources
indicated it was 'imminent'.

The attack on the convoy came two days after US
authorities captured Abid Hamad Mahmud, one of
Saddam's top aides. The Washington Post reported
yesterday that Mahmud, who was seized by American
Special Forces near Saddam's home town of Tikrit, had
provided information about Saddam's whereabouts.

The paper reported that Mahmud had told US authorities
that the deposed Iraqi leader and his two sons
survived the war and that the sons, along with the
aide, escaped to Syria, only to be forced to return to

The officials said the aide had described a plan by
Hussein and his sons to split up to increase their
chances of survival as US forces closed in on Baghdad
in April. Mahmud was captured last Monday in a raid
near the Iraqi city of Tikrit that also netted a
number of other, less senior Saddam Hussein loyalists,
officials said. But neither the deposed Iraqi
President nor his sons were with Mahmud.
'We're not yet sure he's telling the truth,' one
senior defence official said of Mahmud's information.
'He could simply be reciting a set of talking points.'

However, the report, from the most significant member
of Saddam's government caught so far, contributed to
an increasing sense among US authorities last week
that the net was closing on the ex-Iraqi leader, who
was believed to be hiding somewhere north of Baghdad.

Accounts differed yesterday over the extent to which
Mahmud had helped pinpoint the locations of Saddam and
his sons. NBC News, which first reported that Mahmud
was talking, said some of his information has included
places where Saddam or the sons may be found.

A Special Operations group known as Task Force 20,
made up of army and navy counter-terrorist teams, had
been spearheading the long hunt for Saddam and family

US officials last night confirmed reports that Mahmud
had told his interrogators that he, Saddam and the
sons at one point fled to Syria and then re-entered
Iraq. Syria has angrily denied US charges it harboured
Saddam or members of his family or that it had any
knowledge that top former Iraqi leaders might have
taken refuge across its border during or since the
US-led invasion that toppled Saddam.

Officials told Reuters that the 'information, or
perhaps disinformation,' from Mahmud had intensified
the hunt for Saddam Hussein and the sons by US Special
Operations troops and paramilitary intelligence agents
in Iraq.

White House officials said on Friday it was unclear if
the former Iraqi leader was alive or dead. 'We know
that this guy (Mahmud) was his (Saddam's) shadow at
one time. But who knows what's true and what's not
here,' one US official said last night.

Mahmud was regarded by Washington as the most wanted
Iraqi figure after Saddam and his sons.

The presidential secretary was the ace of diamonds in
the US 'deck of cards' of 55 most-wanted Iraqis and
the highest-placed of them caught so far.
US forces have now captured at least 32 of the 55 on
the list.

Guardian Unlimited  Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

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