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Iraqi Man Recounts Meeting Saddam Hussein Before War's End - 2003-05-04


Three weeks after the war, Iraqis are still wondering where their ousted leader, Saddam Hussein, may be hiding. He, or at least someone who looked very much like him, was last seen on Iraqi television a month ago walking around a Baghdad neighborhood - just a few days before the war ended.

Adl Sarhan al Obeidi was walking down the street in his Baghdad neighborhood when he noticed a commotion two-meters ahead of him.

"I was going to buy bread. There is a bakery here, the Mustafa bakery. So, on the way, I was walking, and I saw a face laughing with me about a short distance. I want to remember who is this man. I was astonished. This man was Saddam Hussein," he said.

Mr. Obeidi says he walked up to the Iraqi leader and shook his hand. Saddam Hussein hugged him.

The accountant worked for the newspapers run by Saddam's son, but this was the first time he had met the Iraqi leader.

When I saw his eyes, I felt there was a deep sadness inside him.

Saddam Hussein was known to use doubles for public appearances, and it was never independently confirmed that the man who walked the streets of Baghdad that day was, indeed, Saddam.

Mr. Obeidi believes it was him. He asked the Iraqi leader what was going on with the war.

"I asked him what happened? What is the story? He said, it is easy. Be quiet and be patient. But his face looks pale," he said.

Mr. Obeidi said a crowd gathered around and chanted slogans of solidarity. Then U.S. airplanes appeared in the sky above, and Saddam's bodyguards whisked him away. Mr. Obeidi said it lasted about 15 minutes.

He said Saddam was traveling with a close aide, four bodyguards and another man who filmed the scene for Iraqi television. It was the last time Iraqi TV showed the man it claimed was Saddam in public. After that, the power was cut. Iraqi TV went off the air.

The war ended four days later.

Saddam Hussein has not been seen in public since then. Mr. Obeidi shakes his head - Saddam is gone, he said, gone with the wind.

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