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Coalition Forces Launch Major Excavation in Search for Saddam

Coalition forces in Iraq are carrying out a major excavation and forensic work on a Baghdad house that was bombed by U.S. warplanes a few weeks after the war started. It was believed Saddam Hussein and two of his sons were inside the house when the bombing occurred.

The search for Saddam Hussein continues, and part of the reason may be because coalition forces failed to conduct a thorough search of debris from a house that was bombed by U.S. warplanes after the war began.

That was the assessment from Lieutenant General David McKiernan in Baghdad.

On April 7 coalition forces, acting on intelligence information, bombed a house in Baghdad's Mansour district where reports indicated Saddam Hussein and two of his sons were located.

An initial investigation of the bomb site was conducted several weeks ago. But Tuesday, coalition forces were back in the neighborhood performing major excavation and forensic work. General McKiernan, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, said he may be to blame for the failure to complete the initial investigation of the bomb site.

"We are sending some additional assets in there to further excavate and look for any forensic evidence," he explained. "Why it has taken so long? We did this initially, perhaps we did not, perhaps I did not do it, in great enough detail and so we are sending some additional assets into the area to look at it and cross walk it with earlier reporting to see what we have."

The general said any forensic evidence obtained from the site would be examined in Baghdad, but the majority of the work could possibly be done in Qatar or the United States.

The general said he believes it is necessary to find out what happened to the top members of the Baath party regime, particularly Saddam and his two sons.

"I think it will come at some point," he said. "We will account for Saddam Hussein and Qusay and Uday. That will come at some point. I believe and I think it is important that that be shown to the Iraqi people so that part of the fear factor leaves their lives as they get on building a new Iraq."

Several U.S. soldiers have been killed in attacks in recent weeks and General McKiernan acknowledged those attacks have prompted speculation among some Iraqis that Saddam may still be alive and is coordinating a resistance movement with other ousted Baath party members.

But the general said there is no evidence of an organized, national, resistance movement. He said the attacks appear to be localized and from remnants of the Baath party that once ruled Iraq.