Officials: Saddam in Compound When Hit
By: Associated Press
(WASHINGTON D.C)-- U.S. intelligence believes Saddam Hussein and possibly two of his sons were present inside a suburban Baghdad compound when it was struck by U.S. missiles and bombs and that medical attention was summoned afterward, government officials said Thursday night.
The officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said intelligence agencies have not made any determination yet whether Hussein himself or his sons were injured or killed in the attacks and they were carefully analyzing videotapes purporting to show Hussein after the attack.
U.S. officials said 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 Thursday night.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was no definitive word whether Saddam was caught in the pre-dawn attack, nor whether he was alive or dead.
"We have reason to believe he was in there," one senior U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. assault, and other security organizations.
After the attack, intelligence reports indicated Iraq's leaders were not organizing 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.
Also, the anti-aircraft fire above Baghdad during the strikes was lighter than seen in previous conflicts.
"It's little things here and there. Some individual commanders are hunkering down while others are launching small attacks and setting fires," one official said. A few oil wells in southern Iraq were burning Thursday; officials had suggested Iraqi troops would purposely light them to create an economic and ecological disaster.
At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said military planners had good reason to believe top Iraqi leaders were at the site of the first bombing.
"We are in communication with still more people who are officials of the military at various levels — the regular army, the Republican Guard, the Special Republican Guard — who are increasingly aware that it's going to happen, he's going to be gone," Rumsfeld said.
U.S. 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 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.
At a closed-door briefing in the Capitol, lawmakers asked top Pentagon officials if Saddam had been wounded.
"They frankly said, at this point in time, we have no definitive facts," said Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
If Saddam survived, U.S. 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.
Officials said the surprise attack was the product of a complex operation that benefited from human intelligence, electronic spying, special military operations and changes in technology that permitted military chiefs to quickly reconfigure the cruise missiles for a pinpointed attack.
U.S. intelligence indicated the site had a reinforced bunker beneath the primary structures, and military officials designed a two-stage attack. The officials said the attack began with about three dozen naval cruise missiles that leveled the aboveground structures. Air Force F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighters then dropped a new 2,000-pound "bunker buster" bomb, called the EGBU-27.
The EGBU-27 warhead is specially designed to penetrate deep underground. It is guided by satellite signals.