This Day in History | 2003 – Saddam Hussein captured

The ousted President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, is under arrest after he was captured by US soldiers.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we got him,” US administrator Paul Bremer told journalists in Baghdad. “The tyrant is a prisoner.”

Saddam Hussein was found hidden in a tiny bunker at a farmhouse about 10 miles (15 km) south of his home town, Tikrit.

A US military spokesman, Major-General Raymond Odierno, said the operation was launched soon after a tip-off from a member of Saddam Hussein’s own extended family.

“Over the last 10 days we brought in about five to 10 members of these families, and finally got the ultimate information from one of these individuals,” he said.

There was a $25m reward offered by the US authorities for information leading to his capture.

A similar reward was claimed for revealing the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay, who were killed in a raid by US forces in the northern city of Mosul in July.

Saddam Hussein was found in a “spider hole” or cellar just big enough for a person to lie down in, and six to eight feet (1.8m to 2.5m) deep.

The entrance was topped with a polystyrene lid and covered with a rug, bricks and dirt. Saddam had been breathing through an air vent and extractor fan.

The former Iraqi dictator was armed with a pistol, but Major-General Odierno said he gave himself up without resistance.

He seemed “disoriented” and “bewildered”, the Major-General said, and was arrested at 2030 local time (1730 GMT).

Two unidentified people said to be “close allies” of Saddam Hussein were also arrested. Weapons and more than $750,000 in cash was confiscated.

Video footage was released by the US military showing a dishevelled Saddam with a long black and grey beard undergoing a medical examination.

The former president had not been seen since US forces entered Baghdad in April.

Despite one of the most intensive manhunts in history, he has evaded capture for eight months.

As the news spread throughout Iraq, people began celebrating in the streets of Baghdad and the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk by sounding their horns and firing into the air.

Saddam’s stronghold towns of Tikrit and Fallujah, however, were sombre and quiet.

Courtesy BBC News

In context

Saddam Hussein was transferred to the Iraqi authorities on 30 June 2004 following the handover of sovereignty to Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s interim government. His trial opened in Baghdad the next day.

Saddam Hussein was defiant. He challenged the legality of the proceedings, which he said were brought about by the “invasion forces”.

In July 2005, the tribunal laid the first charges against Saddam Hussein and seven other former regime members for crimes against humanity against Shi’ites in the town of Dujail in 1982.

The case was chosen by prosecutors because they believed it would be the easiest to compile and prosecute.

Saddam Hussein pleaded not guilty when his trial opened in Baghdad on 19 October, 2005.

His co-defendants included Barzan al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and former head of Iraq’s intelligence service and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former Revolutionary Court chief judge.

All three were sentenced to death by an Iraqi court on 5 November 2006 after a year-long trial.

The former president was executed on 30 December 2006 after Iraq’s highest court rejected an appeal.

The Iraqi government filmed the event to prove that Saddam Hussein was dead. It stopped short of showing the actual hanging. Unofficial footage taken on a mobile phone revealed that he was taunted by his Shia executioners right up until the moment of his death. More camera-phone pictures emerged a week later showing his body with a severe neck wound – shocking images that exacerbated tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

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