WASHINGTON—MOSUL, Iraq -- Sheik Nawaf Zaidan had been looking a bit edgy lately, his neighbors say.
A well-connected building contractor in his 50s, he had complained to merchants in his affluent area of Mosul that he had been unable to sleep much, only about one or two hours a night. When the electricity went out a few weeks ago, he ran over in a panic and begged for an immediate line from a generator.
"I've got Uday, Qusai and big, big problems," he is said to have told a neighbor, to whose home Zaidan had been spirited by U.S. troops.
It was an understatement. By that time, U.S. forces were already shooting .50-caliber machine-gun rounds through his front door nearby.
After almost four hours of heavy fire, Uday and Qusai Hussein -- the two most feared men in Iraq after their father, Saddam -- were dead along with a bodyguard, U.S. officials said.
Only one combatant inside the house remained alive: Qusai's 14-year-old son, Mustafa. The teenager fired a final burst of AK-47 fire at the troops until he too was overwhelmed and killed, officials said.
The assault on Zaidan's imposing three-story home along a busy thoroughfare out of this northern Iraq city has been hailed as a turning point in the U.S. effort to win the peace in postwar Iraq. During four hours of shooting -- U.S. officials initially had said the battle lasted six hours -- the three men and one boy inside the home held back a force of about 200 soldiers aided by heavy weaponry and assault helicopters.
A day after the battle, journalists were still trying to piece together an accurate account of the frenetic events at the Zaidan residence. Some questions remain, such as the identity of the tipster who alerted U.S. intelligence on where the Hussein brothers could be found and why American forces opted to use deadly force rather than wait out the fugitives and attempt to capture them alive.
There also may be questions about whether Uday died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. ABC News reported that a U.S. official said there is an exit wound on top of Uday's head.
But based on statements by the U.S. military commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, and comments of neighbors and witnesses, a recounting of the day's events can be made. The circumstantial evidence raises suspicions that Zaidan fingered his houseguests, despite the fact that Zaidan and the Husseins belonged to the same tribe and Zaidan had received business concessions or favors from the regime.
In any case, it was a combination of a speedy reaction to information and overwhelming force that put an end to the two brothers, who -- true to their family's Mafia-like credo -- chose to die together with guns in their hands rather than surrender.
After an unidentified Iraqi told U.S. forces on Monday night that Uday and Qusai were inside house No. 6 in the prosperous Falah district, U.S. military commanders scrambled late into the night to craft a battle plan that would begin at 10 a.m.
Fueling the rumor that Zaidan was the tipster, he had made sure ahead of the battle that his wife and daughters were away. Unusual for him, said members of the Ziad Mohammed Katib family, who live two doors up the street, Zaidan had gone out around 6 a.m. Even more strangely, he took his wife, son and young daughters with him.
According to Ziad Katib's 15-year-old son, Yehia, by the time Zaidan and his son returned -- alone, without the female family members -- American forces had already arrived outside Zaidan's house prepared to search it, by force if necessary.
Zaidan and his son, Shalan, returned around 9 a.m., according to another neighbor, Shalan Rashid Khazraji. The Katib and Khazraji families agree that Zaidan and his son were quickly taken into custody by the Americans, but the families give slightly different versions.
According to the Katibs, American troops grabbed the two when they came to a gate.
Khazraji said that at 9:30 a.m., Zaidan dashed out one gate while his son ran out another, and they were swiftly swept up by U.S. soldiers.
Neighbors also said that for detainees, Zaidan and his son appeared to have been given kid-glove treatment. The pair were first allowed to sit in an American vehicle and then they were taken into an elaborate, three-story house nearby. While talking to a son of the owner of that house, Zaidan made his remark about having Uday and Qusai in his home, posing "big, big problems," according to Khazraji, who said the comment quickly reverberated around the neighborhood.