NEW YORK (Talon News) — Elements of the 4th Infantry Division performed three separate house raids in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit Sunday, acting on intelligence that the deposed dictator’s security chief, and possibly Saddam himself, had been there. Officials later determined that the security chief had left the area the day before.
The raids were focused on capturing the new security chief who remains unnamed by American military officials. He is number 4 on America’s most-wanted list and replaced the previous security chief, Saddam loyalist Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, who was arrested June 17.
Al-Tikriti was the only other member of Saddam’s inner circle aside from Qusay Hussein who may have had knowledge of the fugitive dictator’s location. Qusay was killed July 22 along with his brother Uday in a firefight with American forces.
Intelligence on the security chief’s location originated with a raid performed in Tikrit Thursday that resulted in the arrest of several suspects believed to be Saddam’s bodyguards.
“We missed him by 24 hours,” said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, leader of the operation that included hundreds of soldiers backed up by Bradley fighting vehicles and Apache helicopters.
“The noose is tightening around these guys,” Brigade Commander Col. James Hickey told the Associated Press. “They’re running out of places to hide, and it’s becoming difficult for them to move because we’re everywhere.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers said that Saddam was on the run, and that if he is still in Iraq, the United States will get him.
“He is so busy surviving he is having no impact on the security situation here,” Myers told reporters in Baghdad Sunday.
Myers is wrapping up a brief trip to Iraq meant to gauge the “pulse” of coalition operations in the country, according to the American Forces Press Service. He met with American commanders and troops in the infamous triangle bound by Baghdad, Tikrit, and Ar Ramadi which is a stronghold for remnants of the Baathist regime.
The area is “the heart of the heaviest resistance in the country,” Myers said, adding that it is the scene of the coalition’s “biggest challenges and also some of the greatest success.”
About 80 percent of the attacks against coalition forces take place in this region.
In other news, theories that the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein would stem the tide of violence against coalition forces have been disproved so far, with five U.S. deaths over the weekend.
Three soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division were killed Saturday in a grenade attack, and an additional 4 were wounded. The attack took place while they were guarding the Ba’qubah Children’s Hospital in northeast Baghdad.
Another soldier from the 3rd Infantry Division was killed Saturday when his convoy came under fire near Abu Ghuraib. Two more were wounded in that attack.
One member of the 1st Marines Expeditionary Force was killed Sunday in a grenade attack in northern Babil province.
Several Iraqis were killed in a raid on a home in the Mansour district of Baghdad Sunday, but American military officials would not comment on what they called an ongoing operation.
“It seems the Americans came thinking Saddam Hussein was inside my house,” Prince Rabiah Muhammed al-Habib told the AP. Al-Habib is considered an influential Iraqi tribal leader.