U.S. Focuses on Remaining Iraqi Fugitives

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

U.S. intelligence agencies are turning their efforts toward rounding up remaining principals of Saddam Hussein's regime who may be playing a more direct role than the now-captured former president did in running guerrilla operations in Iraq, officials say.

In an early round of interrogations since Saddam's weekend capture, intelligence officials have pressed him on the whereabouts of some of those leaders and for his knowledge of impending attacks.

Officials in Washington said the interrogation effort had made little progress. They described Saddam as compliant but sarcastic and unhelpful. He denied Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or ties to the al-Qaida terror network, among the chief stated reasons for the U.S.-led invasion of his country.

He's a known liar, President Bush said in a news conference Monday. "He is the kind of person that is untrustworthy, and I'd be very cautious about relying upon his word in any way, shape or form," Bush said.

But a U.S. Army general in Baghdad said new intelligence stemming from Saddam's capture already was providing a clearer picture of the guerrillas' operations. Some came from Saddam's document-filled briefcase, found not far from where he was captured, said Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, assistant commander of the 1st Armored Division.

As a result, the Army rounded up some new suspects. A former Iraqi general was among those detained, a senior defense official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Additional details yielded by Saddam's Saturday night capture include evidence that Saddam played a moral and financial role in the anti-U.S. resistance, Hertling said. Saddam had $750,000 when American soldiers found him Saturday hiding in a hole dug into a farmyard near his hometown of Tikrit, north of Baghdad.

"I'm sure he was giving some guidance to some key figures in this insurgency," Hertling said. "When you take down the mob boss, you don't know how much is going to come of it."

The prime leaders still at large include Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, his son Ahmed and Hani Abd al-Latif Tilfah al-Tikriti, all of whom are thought to be involved in the guerrilla war against the U.S.-led occupation, U.S. officials said.

The elder al-Douri and Tilfah both had senior roles in Saddam's security apparatus before the war: al-Douri was vice chairman of Saddam's Revolutionary Command Council, Tilfah director of the Special Security Organization, Saddam's chief internal security agency.

Former members of Saddam's security forces are thought to comprise a significant portion of the armed resistance in Iraq. Prisoners have suggested both al-Douris are playing organizing roles, but the father may be sick, officials said.

The extent of Saddam's knowledge of the insurgency is unclear. Intelligence officials say they believe he has been too worried about survival to serve as much more than an inspiration to the resistance.

In response to his capture, officials fear resistance fighters might mount some initial strikes, aimed at proving it remains viable. But over the long term, officials hope Saddam's removal will persuade some to give up the fight.

Saddam's capture won't help U.S. troops counter guerrillas who were never loyal to the former dictator, such as religious extremists and foreign fighters, Hertling said. Many of them have entered Iraq since the invasion.

"He's answering willingly to the questions that are being asked of him," Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top military commander in Iraq, told CNN on Monday. He said Saddam wasn't "freely giving us information yet, but we'll continue to work toward that end."

Saddam greeted his initial interrogation with a mix of sarcasm and defiance, said the officials, who discussed the questioning on the condition of anonymity. Some of his responses are regarded as attempts to rationalize and justify his actions, the officials said.

He also has denied knowledge of the fate of Capt. Scott Speicher, a Navy pilot shot down over Iraq on the first night of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Saddam denied taking any prisoners when asked about Speicher.

Saddam's reported denial of having weapons of mass destruction "is a kind of signal of the mental chess game that we are going to have with him in the interrogation process," said Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., chairman of the House intelligence panel.


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