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US General: Coalition Forces 'Tightening the Noose' Around Saddam Hussein - 2003-07-25

A top U.S. military commander says he believes coalition forces are closing in on fugitive ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. That word follows the detention of a group of men described as members of Saddam's personal bodyguard unit.

Army Major General Ray Odierno said U.S. forces are tightening the noose around Saddam Hussein as they get ever more intelligence about his movements. "I believe that we continue to tighten the noose," he said, "and I believe that we continue to gain more and more information about where he might be."

The Commander of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division was speaking to Pentagon reporters via a satellite link-up from Tikrit, Saddam's original hometown.

He said the latest breakthrough in the hunt for the fugitive former Iraqi leader was an informant's tip that led to the capture of several of Saddam's bodyguards in a raid late Thursday south of Tikrit. "Based on the informant, south of Tikrit, we detained 13 individuals," said General Odierno. "Somewhere between five and ten of those, we're still sorting through it, are believed to be Saddam Hussein's personal security detachment."

General Odierno said more and more Iraqis are coming forward with tips on the whereabouts of the country's most-wanted former officials.

Some two-thirds of the 55 "most wanted" have already been killed or captured. General Odierno believes the remaining fugitives, including Saddam, are on the run. "They are moving around very quickly," he said. "They are very unsettled and they're not living a very good life right now because we are constantly on their trail."

The general's comments follow the shootout this week in the northern city of Mosul in which U.S. forces killed Saddam's sons, the second and third most wanted former regime officials.

U.S. officials have released photos of their bodies and allowed journalists to film the remains in a bid to convince Iraqis that the two men are indeed dead.