U.S. special forces soldiers hunting Saddam Hussein carried out a bloody operation in central Baghdad Sunday, but without any sign of the ousted Iraqi dictator. An American solider says five bodies and at least eight wounded were brought to a local hospital after the raid.
The Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq says the operation had been carried out by Task Force 20. It is a special unit set up to hunt Saddam Hussein and his key aids. But it says the details are not for public record.
An Iraqi policeman and eyewitnesses report the dead were civilians. They say troops fired on passengers in two cars as they drove near a villa in the Mansour district of Baghdad believed to be sheltering Saddam Hussein. Shattered glass is on the road where the shooting took place and on the cement patio of the villa stormed by the troops is what remains of the attack.
The owner of the villa, an influential chieftain responsible for 140 tribes in Iraq, Rabeeah Amin, denied Saddam was at the villa. He said he was shocked by the ransacking of his home, calling it a mistake. "In war anything might happen. It is definitely a mistake," he said. "We have nothing against the Americans. But Saddam Hussein is very much wanted by the coalition army, the most important person. And the Americans will not hesitate to have this chance to enter any house or any building in such a way to find Saddam Hussein."
The chief, known as Prince Rabeeah, denies any friendship with Saddam. He said he has lodged a complaint with the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer.
Meanwhile, the incident has enraged Iraqis, like bystander Ahmed Mohamed. He said the Iraqis are not satisfied with the American troops. They hurt us, he claims, and we don't accept how they treat us.
Prince Rabeeah's villa is found in the same area where U.S. planes dropped four bunker buster bombs in April aiming to kill Saddam and his sons. Saddam Hussein has a $25 million price on his head and more tip-offs on his possible whereabouts are surfacing after his sons were killed last Tuesday by U.S. forces.