The tired, bearded figure of Saddam Hussein was shown on giant TV screens today to prove the former dictator of Iraq had been captured alive by U.S. troops.
America's chief administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer walked to the rostrum of a Baghdad press conference and uttered the words: "Ladies and Gentlemen, We Got Him!" There were cheers from the assembled press corps. Bremer described it as "A great day for Iraq."
Saddam Hussein was found hiding in a "spider hole" in the cellar of a rural farmhouse near the Western Iraqi town of Ad Awr 15 miles south of Tikrit, by 600 troops from the U.S. 14th Infantry Division. Operation Red Dawn struck at 8.30 p.m. local time catching Saddam and his entourage almost unawares. No shots were fired.
There were more whoops and gasps when a video was shown of Saddam being given a brief medical examination. Iraqis in the room screamed insults at the screen and punched the air in triumph. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, told the conference that Saddam was cooperating with coalition forces. Two unidentified "close allies" of Saddam were also arrested and weapons and more than $750,000 cash were confiscated.
News first broke when a spokeswoman for U.S.-led coalition forces in Baghdad said a "very important" announcement would be made at a news conference at 1200 GMT. The only comment was that there had been several arrests including "a high-value target".
Hussein's capture Saturday was confirmed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He said it "removes the shadow" hanging over Iraq.
An announcement by the Iraqi ruling council of the capture led to open celebrations on the nation's streets with cheering Iraqis firing guns into the air.
The whereabouts of Saddam the U.S. most wanted man in Iraq are not known. However the conference was told that the former president may face trial in Iraq by an Iraqi court.
But violence continued in Iraq today with as many as 18 dead and 30 wounded after a suicide bombing at an Iraqi police station in Khalidiyah, about 35 miles west of Baghdad.