I awoke to a report on NPR that Saddam Hussein had been captured in Tikrit and that crowds were filling the streets with joy. They even go so far as to say DNA tests have confirmed that it is indeed the former Iraqi despot. So far, the online sources I’ve found have been a bit more cautious:
Reports: Hussein Possibly Captured (washingtonpost.com) U.S.troops in a raid in Tikrit Iraq last night captured an Iraqi identified as Saddam Hussein, officials in Baghdad and Washington said early this morning.
Dara Noor Din, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, told the Associated Press that the council was informed of the former dictator’s capture in a telephone call from L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for Iraq.
“Bremer has confirmed to the Governing Council that Saddam was captured in Tikrit,” Noor Din said. “He spoke on the phone to several members, including Ahmad Chalabi.”
A U.S. military offiical also said Hussein was found in a raid on a house in Tikrit.
Tikrit is Hussein’s hometown and U.S. forces have centered their search for him there.
The Washington Times/AP report is more definite: News Agency Says Saddam Detained in Iraq Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has been detained in Iraq, Iran’s official news agency reported Sunday.
“Saddam Hussein was arrested in his hometown of Tikrit,” IRNA quoted top Iraqi leader, Jalal Talabani as saying. It gave no further details.
Update (0647): It’s apparently official now. The timestamp on the updated WaPo report (via AP) is 0603, but it has only been posted in the last 10 minutes:
Saddam Hussein has been captured alive in his hometown of Tikrit, a member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council said Sunday.
Council member Dara Noor al-Din told The Associated Press that the council was informed of the former dictator’s capture in a telephone call from L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for Iraq.
“Bremer has confirmed to the Governing Council that Saddam was captured in Tikrit,” Noor al-Din said. “He spoke on the phone to several members, including Ahmad Chalabi.”
Chalabi is a leading member of the council who has close links to the U.S. administration of President Bush.
In Washington, senior military officials confirmed there was a raid based on intelligence that Saddam was at a certain house and that some people were taken into custody. They were unwilling to be more specific.
Earlier, Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, also reported that Saddam had been detained in Iraq. “Saddam Hussein was arrested in his hometown of Tikrit,” IRNA quoted top Iraqi leader, Jalal Talabani as saying. It gave no further details.
Nazem Dabbagh, a representative of Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdestan, confirmed Talabani’s statement when reached by phone Sunday by an Associated Press reporter in Tehran.
In Baghdad, residents fired small arms in the air in celebration, and gunfire echoed in neighborhoods across the city. Earlier in the day, rumors of the capture sent people streaming into the streets of Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city, firing guns in the air in celebration.
“We are celebrating like it’s a wedding,” said Kirkuk resident Mustapha Sheriff. “We are finally rid of that criminal.”
“This is the joy of a lifetime,” said Ali Al-Bashiri, another resident. “I am speaking on behalf of all the people that suffered under his rule.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S.-led occupation in Baghdad notified reporters that a “very important” announcement will be made at a news conference scheduled for 7 a.m. EST, but did not say who would be the speaker. The spokeswoman requested anonymity.
Rumors that the former dictator was in custody were making the rounds in Tikri, but reporters attached to the 4th Infantry Division, the U.S. unit in charge of security in the area, said there was no unusual activity there overnight or early Sunday.
Saddam, who ruled Iraq for 23 years until his ouster in April, has been a fugitive since then with a $25 million bounty on his head.
Rumors about Saddam’s capture or death periodically surface, and a hotline set up by the occupation authorities for tips on his whereabouts is flooded with callers.
Ravenwolf posts links to other stories at Command Post.