U.S. military investigators in Iraq have begun searching for clues to the possible whereabouts of Saddam Hussein in the rubble of a house in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. On Tuesday, U.S. troops killed Saddam's two eldest sons, Uday and Qusay, after a fierce shoot-out at the house.
U.S. soldiers kept journalists at a distance from the house Wednesday morning as a team of military investigators worked inside. U.S. officials believe Saddam's two sons could have left behind clues to their father's location.
The large stone house was still smoldering almost a day after the U.S. Army, acting on a tip from an informant, stormed the property and killed the brothers, along with two other unidentified people.
Black smoke could be still be seen drifting out of gaping holes in the second floor of the villa where missiles from U.S. attack helicopters had hit. Bullet holes riddle the building.
Neighborhood resident Abdul Jabbar Mohammed Araf says he watched the fighting from his apartment across the street.
Mr. Araf says he heard rapid bursts of gunfire as soon as the Americans stormed the house. He saw people on the balcony of the villa, shooting down at the U.S. soldiers. He says gunmen were also on the roof.
Privately, many Mosul residents say they are relieved to know that Saddam's sons are dead. They describe the brothers, who ran Saddam's elite security and military units, as brutal men who tortured and terrorized the Iraqi people for their own amusement.
But in front of television cameras, the same people tell a different story. As television crews gather to videotape them standing across the street from the villa, they begin chanting, Our soul and our blood we will sacrifice for Saddam.
The crowd becomes increasingly boisterous, shouting that Saddam's sons are martyrs and all Americans should leave Iraq now.
Watching the crowd with his M-16 rifle at the ready, Staff Sergeant Josh Richardson says he does not understand why the Iraqis are demonstrating and being hostile.
"All we're trying to do is help these people and all that does is to deter us from doing that quicker and faster," he said.
U.S. officials are hoping that the deaths of the Hussein brothers will significantly reduce the number of attacks against U.S. troops. Officials have blamed most of the violence on remnants of Saddam's regime, including units that were once controlled by Saddam's sons.
But on Wednesday, two more U.S. soldiers were killed in separate ambushes. One soldier was killed near Mosul and the other in Ramadi, a predominately Sunni Muslim town west of Baghdad that has been the site of numerous attacks against American troops in the past.
Meanwhile, a fourth audiotape, said to be the voice of Saddam Hussein, has aired on Arabic-language television.The tape urges Iraqis to continue resisting the American presence in Iraq. It was reportedly made before Saddam's sons were killed.