Skip to comments.The night I caught Saddam
Posted on 10/02/2005 8:16:19 AM PDT by gpapa
An Iraqi who worked with US special forces tells Alex Leith how he wrestled with the dictator after flushing him from his hiding hole
The photograph shows Saddam Hussein moments after he was pulled from his foxhole, bloodied and bewildered. Crowded around are members of an American elite special forces unit. But kneeling on his prostrate body and staring defiantly into the lens is a young man in a camouflage anorak. His look betrays more than the professional satisfaction of a job well done.
(Excerpt) Read more at timesonline.co.uk ...
The photograph quickly found its way on to the internet, and it was at first assumed that the young man was an American soldier. He is, in fact, a 35-year-old Iraqi exile named Samir. And at last he is ready to tell the story of the night he helped to capture Saddam. He has agreed to give an interview for a documentary I am producing, his one proviso being that I conceal his full name. He is still fearful of reprisals against his family in Iraq.
We meet in a hotel in St Louis, Missouri, where Samir settled after fleeing Iraq in 1991. As a 20-year-old student he was one of thousands of Shiites and Kurds who rose against Saddam at the end of the first Gulf war, encouraged by the promise of western assistance.
As Saddam set about imprisoning, torturing and murdering thousands in revenge, Samir made a run for it, spending three years in a refugee camp before making a new life as a garage mechanic in the States.
The second Gulf war in March 2003 gave him hope that he might see his family again. He offered his services to the US military and was quickly hired as a translator. By December 2003 he was working in northern Iraq as translator to a special forces unit, Task Force 121. Its role was to hunt down and capture the 55 most wanted members of Saddams regime, represented by the infamous deck of cards. Saddam was top of that list, known to the forces hunting him as High Value Target 1 or HVT1.
Intelligence suggested Saddam had gone to ground somewhere near Tikrit, his home town, where he could rely on family and tribal ties for protection. Task Force 121 worked with the US Armys 4th Infantry Division as they captured numerous members of the old regime. With each arrest they came a little closer to Saddam.
Months of painstaking work finally paid off in December 2003, when Mohammed Ibrahim Omar al-Musslit, one of Saddams bodyguards, was picked up. Known as the Fat Man, he was one of only two men thought to know Saddams whereabouts.
Al-Musslit was interrogated in one of Saddams old palaces. At first he lied, but he did not hold out for long, says Samir. He started crying and said, Dont kill me, I will take you to Saddam before it gets too late. Saddams going to know Ive been captured. Lets go now.
On a map of the area around Tikrit he pointed out the small town of Ad Dawr where, he claimed, Saddam was hiding on farmland belonging to a family of loyalists. Members of Task Force 121 took al-Musslit on a reconnaissance mission in an Iraqi van with tinted windows so that he could point out the exact location. Then, as night fell troops cordoned off a 2km x 4km perimeter around the farm. Apache helicopters flew overhead.
At 8pm strike teams raided two buildings where Saddam was thought to be hiding. They were empty. But al-Musslit also knew of a dilapidated set of outbuildings where there was a small underground hideout. The soldiers tried to find this location, taking him with them, but he lost his way on the maze of dirt roads in the dark.
He kept telling us, This one. No, no, the other one. No, this one, the other one. said Samir. Finally, with night-vision goggles, al-Musslit found the buildings.
They formed a small walled compound among the orange groves on the bank of the Tigris river. A hovering helicopter lit the area. As the soldiers swept through the site they captured two young farmers. But there was no sign of Saddam.
Inside the compound there was a small bedroom and a lean-to kitchen. In the bedroom, clothes and shoes were strewn about; the kitchen contained food, including a box of Mars bars. Washing hung from a clothes line crudely strung between two date palms in the courtyard. Dried fruit and meat hung from a nearby tree. But there was no Saddam. Even the sniffer dog failed to find a scent.
Samir confronted the two farmers. They were young brothers barely out of their teens. We know Saddam is here, he told them, and we know there is a bunker. Where is it?
Both feigned ignorance. Samir recalls with a mixture of incredulity and grudging admiration their refusal to give Saddam up, but he knew they were lying and he felt that a little more pressure might yield results. While one brother was kept outside, the other was dragged into the compound.
We scared him with the dog to make him talk, but he didnt. I punched him in the face, I was shaking him up and down (telling him), Were gonna find Saddam, and if you lie to us were gonna put you in jail for a long time. Youre not going to see your family again. It was no use. Either fear or devotion prevented the farmer from giving up Saddam.
Finally, al-Musslit was brought into the compound. The special forces soldiers had by now come to the conclusion that the Fat Man had lied. They started shouting at him, demanding to know where the bunker was. Samir translated: You told us Saddam is here. You told us there is a bunker in the ground. Tell us now! Show us where the bunker is!
Thats the bunker, said al-Musslit quietly, thats the bunker you guys are standing on. The soldiers looked confused. Al-Musslit shuffled over and tapped with his foot. Dig, he said. Dig in here.
Pulling the rug aside, one of the soldiers began digging at the soft earth. About 15in down he stopped abruptly. There, among the dirt and sand, were two rope handles. The soldier gently cleared the earth around the handles and tugged. A large Styrofoam block came away revealing the entrance to a hole barely large enough for a man.
Samir stared in disbelief. We used to see Saddam on TV, the hero, the powerful man, the scary man. Just no way I believe hes in that hole a small, dirty hole.
The hole was about 6ft to 8ft deep. At the bottom of it there was a narrow entrance into a tunnel. Squeezing into it would have been no mean feat for a 66-year-old such as Saddam.
One of the soldiers directed a burst of gunfire into the ground at the base of the hole and there was a scream of terror from inside.
Samir, a soldier shouted, come and talk to him. Tell him to come out before he gets killed.
Samir moved to the edge of the hole and stared into the darkness. Around him the men of Task Force 121 aimed their weapons into the gloom, the lights on the guns offering some illumination.
I want to see your hands up! Put your hands up! Samir yelled.
From within the hole, a voice responded in Arabic: Dont kill me! Dont shoot! Dont shoot! Dont kill me!
Saddam could not understand the order to put his hands up, says Samir. First he put up his right hand and they told me to tell him we want to see the other hand up. When I told him I want to see the other hand up for some reason he thought we wanted his left hand. He put his right hand down and he just put the left hand up. And I tell him, No, both hands up.
Finally two shaky hands emerged. For Samir all thoughts of personal safety evaporated. Maybe Saddam pull a gun and fire or commit suicide; or maybe like a bomb is gonna come out of the hole. For some reason I didnt think about it. Saddam is near the man who destroyed my life I want to see him, I want to pull him out.
Samir lunged for the hands. Suddenly the soldiers around him were joining in, pulling Saddam by his clothes, his hair, his beard any part of him they could get hold of. He was lifted clear of the hole and thrown onto the ground. Saddam uttered only one phrase in English: America, why?
His appearance was shocking. Eight months on the run had taken their toll. He looked so old and tired. And he looked so scared and shaken. He was hair all over long beard, long hair. His hair was greasy God knows how many times he never took a shower.
Samir could scarcely control his emotions. I was so angry at him. For some reason I really, really almost lost my mind.
Saddams bewildered and frightened demeanour quickly gave way to outraged anger. I have people to fight for me, he spat back at Samir. The heroes, the Iraqis, the greatest Iraqis who are going to fight the Americans. I am Saddam Hussein. I am the president. You dont talk to me like this! I am Saddam Hussein!
Grabbing Saddam by the beard with both hands, Samir started shaking him, yelling in his face: You killed Kurds! You killed Shiites! You destroyed the country. Then he spat at him.
I wanted him to feel like he is nobody, Samir explains now, the same way he made us feel for many years.
Saddam responded with primal rage. He had never been spoken to in such a way. Struggling against Samirs grip, he tried in vain to bite his arm. Samir let him go in disgust, but Saddam was not finished.
You are nothing but a traitor. Youre a spy. You are not Iraqi, Saddam shouted. I didnt destroy the country the Americans destroyed the country. I am Saddam Hussein. The Iraqis good Iraqis know who Saddam is. Not you. You are no good. You love the United States. You are a spy. This was too much for Samir.
He made me really upset and I had to punch him in the face. I punched him a couple of times in the face with some kicking in the face and head and he started bleeding from his mouth.
As Saddam spat back, special forces soldiers pulled Samir off. But Samir managed to persuade his boss to let him be photographed kneeling over his former president.
There was one final confrontation between the two men. As they waited for a helicopter to land, Samir noticed that Saddam was staring up at the stars. I said to him, How beautiful is the sky? You see the sky? You see the beautiful stars? Youre never going to see them again. Were gonna take you to Cuba. Youre gonna be in prison until the day you die. This is what you get. This is what you deserve.
Saddam replied that he was not looking at the stars he was looking to Allah. Samir was incensed by the suggestion. I told him, You dont even know the word Allah. If you know Allah and you believe in Allah, you wouldnt do what you did to the country. You killed Iraqis. You killed the children. You killed the old people. You are against God. He told me, God loves me. Im Saddam Hussein. Im a good man, and people know who Saddam is.
As the helicopter touched down, the dictator's bravado disappeared. When the soldiers guided him forward to strap him into the aircraft, he began to struggle, says Samir.
We had to pick him up and throw him in the helicopter.
This guy's "story' sounds a lot more like a Jerry Bruckheimer-ized -action-dramatization of Saddam Hussein's capture.
*exits the theater to get my money back*
Would've been nice to actually see the photo.
Real or fake...a photograph allegedly taken while Saddam was dragged out of his bunker by US forces.
Secret photo of a cowering dictator
By BRAD CLIFTON
January 9, 2004
THIS appears to be the moment Saddam Hussein was dragged from his hole and exposed to the world but it is a snapshot the US military did not want the world to see.
The photograph, apparently taken in the seconds after Saddam's capture near Tikrit last month, appeared for the first time yesterday on a military-related website.
The image shows a US soldier posing for the camera as he pins the bearded dictator's body and face to the dirt.
A clearly-distressed Saddam lies on his stomach as members of the US 4th Infantry Division surround him.
US military officials refused to confirm if the photograph was genuine.
The photo was published on the US website Military.com after it was supplied to one of the site's contributors, former journalist John Weisman.
"This photograph of Saddam Hussein in the moment of his capture was e-mailed to me by a friend in special forces who was damn proud of what his former colleagues in Iraq had accomplished when they pulled the dictator out of his hole," Mr Weisman said. "I thought the photo deserved wide dissemination."
Mr Weisman said he had refused military requests to remove the photograph from the site. The officials had claimed it was a security risk.
"While the soldiers in the field may have loved the idea of showing Saddam au naturel, not everyone felt that way," Mr Weisman wrote on the website.
"In fact, Military.com received a call from an official asking them to remove the photo for national security reasons.
"To me, this official was being myopic and his perception has not been echoed by the guys in the trenches, who obviously know a great picture when they see one.
"I'd like to see this photograph posted in every public building in the US so Americans can be reminded to thank the American soldiers who put their lives on the line every day to keep this nation safe and free."
Military.com spokesperson Anne Dwane insisted the picture was genuine.
"Much of our material comes in anonymously and, given our military membership, we have no reason to doubt it,' Ms Dwane said. "It certainly looks like Saddam."
If the authenticity of the picture is proved, it would have been taken by a member of the 600-strong force that captured Saddam at a farmhouse near Tikrit.
Although official army photographers were on hand to record the moment, the picture may have been snapped by a soldier, many of whom were known to carry small cameras while on patrol
Glad he wants to remain anonymous.
Other places the photo had his face obscured:
If he had kept his mouth shut, his head down, and minded his own business, he would still be living in his palaces.
Why didn't they tell us who supplied the picture? I'll bet it was the hate-Bush contingent of the Michael Moore/Cindy Sheehan antiwar cabal.
Great pic.So who gets the reward?Not the "fat man" i hope.BTW,it's nice to see Sodom got slapped around a little bit.From what i hear,his treatment in captivity is pretty good.A firing squad or a rope is too good for him.Maybe they ought to crank up that industrial shredder just one more time....
He got his buck!
Wow, this guy is missing out on getting rich, especially in Iraq. He could be selling millions of rolls of wallpaper with this pic!
Wow. Great story.
Here's to hoping the guy just finished giving the scumbag a rabbit punch for opening his bloody mouth.
They cannot hang this bastard quickly enough.
Why oh why was there any initial hesitation in dropping that grenade down the hole?
Personally, I think he should be made into a zoo exhibit for the rest of his life, living in his own waste in a cage.
"Don't feed the dictator."
I saw this guy interviewed on Fox News last year. I believe it's for real!
Also found here
"I Punched Saddam in the Mouth"
River Front Times ^ | April 13, 2005 | CHAD GARRISON
Posted on 04/26/2005 10:30:35 PM CDT by West Coast Conservative
"I Punched Saddam in the Mouth"
Meet Samir, the St. Louis auto mechanic who pulled Saddam Hussein from his spider hole
By Chad Garrison
Published: Wednesday, April 13, 2005
In a south-city Saint Louis Bread Co., a young auto mechanic named Samir puts down his coffee long enough to carefully eye the other patrons. Assured no one is paying him any mind, he lowers his voice to a guttural whisper, fidgets with the zipper on his black tracksuit and rubs his grease-stained fingers along a finely manicured goatee. Then, in a syncopated rhythm of street slang and accented English, he transports himself back in time to a bitter-cold December night in Iraq.
It had to have been the most sublime moment of his life. Samir tells how he arrived in Tikrit as an Arabic interpreter for United States Special Forces in late 2003, how he peered into a hidden bunker and heard a voice begging for mercy, how he reached into the darkness and pulled out Saddam Hussein.
"I was so angry," says Samir, who immigrated to St. Louis eleven years ago after fleeing Iraq. "I began cussing at him, calling him a motherfucker, a son-of-a-bitch -- you name it. I told him I was Shiite from the south and was part of the revolution against him in 1991. I said he murdered my uncles and cousins. He imprisoned my father.
"All these years of anger, I couldn't stop. I tried to say the worst things I could. I told him if he were a real man he would have killed himself. I asked him: 'Why are you living in that dirty little hole, you bastard? You are a rat. Your father is a rat.'"
In Arabic, Saddam told Samir to shut up. And when Saddam called him a traitor, an enraged Samir silenced his prisoner with a flurry of quick jabs to the face.
"I punched Saddam in the mouth."
Samir's extravagant story is difficult to believe -- until he pulls out his laptop computer and rifles through the dozens of photographs he shot that night. There's the photo of Samir posed next to the bodyguard who will ultimately lead U.S. forces to Saddam. There's the photo of Samir standing behind the stack of $12 million in U.S. currency seized near Saddam's hideout. And there's the most riveting image of all: Samir kneeling behind the bruised and bloodied dictator just minutes after his inglorious capture.
"I would die for this picture," Samir says. "Without this photo, no one would believe me."
It's largely because of the photos that Samir insists his last name not be used for this article. He's afraid that extremists loyal to Saddam, or opposed to the U.S. invasion, will retaliate against him or members of his family who continue to live in Iraq.
But more than that, Samir's anonymity as a 34-year-old civilian contractor free from military censor enables him to openly discuss the spellbinding saga. His version is far more real-to-life than the "official" Pentagon account.
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