The top U.S. military commander in Iraq has provided fresh details of the fierce battle in the northern city of Mosul that led to the deaths of Saddam Hussein's son, Qusay and Uday.
Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez offered no photographs or other evidence to demonstrate conclusively that the sons of Iraq's ousted leader are dead. He says that proof will be provided in due time. But speaking in Baghdad, General Sanchez says their bodies have been positively identified.
"We had senior former regime members do visual identification of the bodies," General Sanchez explained. "We had four individuals that independently verified that we had both of Saddam Hussein's son."
In addition, he says dental records and X-rays were used to confirm the identities of the men ranked number two and three on the U.S. list of most-wanted former Iraqi officials.
General Sanchez calls the deaths a turning point that could lead eventually to a halt to further resistance to the presence of U.S. led coalition forces in Iraq.
"The death of Uday and Qusay, I believe, is definitely going to be a turning point for the resistance and the subversive elements that we are encountering," he said. "But our mission is not complete. We still have other elements and individuals on the high value target list that we continue to focus on."
Among the remaining targets: Saddam Hussein himself, and General Sanchez says coalition forces will not relent in their hunt for the fugitive Iraqi leader.
In his remarks to reporters, the U.S. military commander defended the decision to kill Saddam's sons and two others barricaded with them in a home in Mosul.
He says they fired on U.S. troops repeatedly after ignoring appeals to surrender. General Sanchez says anti-tank missiles fired at the home probably killed three of the four suspects. The battle ended when troops stormed the house and shot the remaining suspect.
"The commander on the ground made a decision based on the conditions that he was facing and I am in no position to question his decision," the general said. "He made the right decisions to accomplish the mission assigned to him and as I've stated on multiple occasions now that was to kill or capture."
During the briefing, General Sanchez also disclosed that yet another senior former regime official has been captured - number 11 on the most wanted list, the Commander of the Special Republican Guard.