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Saddam Hussein Captured on Farm Near Tikrit - 2003-12-15

Saddam Hussein has been captured alive near his hometown in Iraq. Paul Bremer, the head of the coalition authority, made the official announcement at a briefing in Baghdad.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we got him," he announced to reporters. Mr. Bremer said America's number one fugitive in Iraq is now in the custody of coalition troops.

The commander of American troops in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, says the Army's Fourth Armored Division and coalition special forces caught Saddam Hussein late Saturday. General Sanchez says they found him on a farm near the town of ad-Dawr, about 15 kilometers south of Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.

General Sanchez says he has seen Saddam in person since his capture, and he says the deposed Iraqi leader is healthy, but tired. "There were no injuries, and in fact not a single shot was fired. Saddam Hussein, the captive, has been talkative and is being cooperative," he said.

General Sanchez said the most wanted man in Iraq was hiding in what he called a "spider hole" dug into the ground beneath a mud hut. It was about two meters deep, with just enough room for Saddam to lie down at the bottom, and the entrance was camouflaged with bricks and dirt. "After uncovering the spider hole, a search was conducted, and Saddam Hussein was found hiding at the bottom of the hole," he said.

The general would not say where the troops got the information that led them to Saddam's location. He simply says it was a combination of intelligence, what he called "exceptional analysis," and the interrogations of prisoners close to the former government.

Speaking to the Iraqi people, Ambassador Bremer called it a great day in Iraqi history. "Now is the time to look to the future, to your future of hope, to a future of reconciliation," said Mr. Bremer. "Iraq's future, your future, has never been more full of hope. The tyrant is a prisoner."

Many members of the Iraqi governing council are out of the country on a visit to Spain. But council member Adnan al-Pachachi welcomed the news of Saddam's arrest.

"Warmest congratulations to the people of Iraq on this historic day. The days of fear and oppression are gone forever," he said.

In Baghdad, celebrations began even before the announcement was made, after rumors got out that Saddam had been captured. Automatic gunfire could be heard ringing out all over the city, as residents shot their weapons in the air in a traditional Iraqi way of showing of emotion. More than a hundred people gathered outside the Communist Party headquarters, many of them waving red flags in jubilation.

Several Iraqi journalists attending the press conference were overcome with emotion when they saw photographs and videotape of Saddam, wearing a long gray beard, being examined by a U.S. military doctor. They jumped from their seats and began shouting "convict him." One man collapsed in tears.

Mr. Pachachi and other governing council members expect the coalition to turn Saddam over to them for trial at a special tribunal that they are setting up to try members of the former regime for crimes against humanity.

But the fallen dictator's immediate future is not at all clear. Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez say the coalition is still deciding exactly what to do with Saddam now. For the moment, he remains in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location somewhere in Iraq.