U.S. troops carry out dozens of raids in search for Hussein

This is an undated file photo of Saddam Hussein with his sons, Odai, left, and Qusai.
This is an undated file photo of Saddam Hussein with his sons, Odai, left, and Qusai. (AP)
TIKRIT, Iraq - U.S. soldiers intensified their search for Saddam Hussein yesterday, launching dozens of raids and detaining more than 175 suspected loyalists to the deposed Iraqi leader.

With the raids unfolding here, an Arabic-language television station released an audiotape yesterday that was purported to be of Hussein, mentioning the death of his two sons in a U.S. raid last week and vowing to expel the Americans from Iraq.

Soldiers fanned out across villages and farms in the area around Tikrit, Hussein's hometown and a stronghold of support and family ties.

The Americans launched 58 raids in all yesterday, many of them in the pre-dawn hours, hoping to apprehend a longtime bodyguard of Hussein's as well as two other midlevel figures in his fallen government.

A military spokesman said last night that U.S. soldiers were interrogating three men but were unsure whether they were the ones they sought.

Capt. Jeff Fitzgibbons, the spokesman, said none of the men had provided useful information so far.

Still, the scale and intensity of the raids here reflect the growing confidence that the Americans have picked up Hussein's trail and are closing in fast.

Military officials here and in Baghdad say the death last week of Hussein's sons, Odai and Qusai, has prompted a flood of information from Iraqis about Saddam Hussein that has continued unabated.

As a result, the tempo of military operations has picked up as well.

"We are getting a lot more information," said Staff Sgt. J.J. Johnson, a military spokesman. "A lot of people were holding back, and now they are coming forward."

In the nine-minute audiotape, a voice resembling Hussein's said he was glad Odai and Qusai Hussein were killed because such a death "is the hope of every fighter."

"Even if Saddam Hussein has 100 sons other than Odai and Qusai, Saddam Hussein would offer them the same path," said the calm, even voice.

"That is the hope of every fighter for God's sake, as another group of noble souls of the martyrs has ascended to their creator."

The tape also referred to Mustafa, Qusai's teen-age son, who was killed in the gunfight in Mosul. "Odai, Qusai and Mustafa died in Jihad field ... in a brave battle with the enemy," the voice said.

"The aggression armies surrounding them with all kinds of weapons and ground troops were not able to conquer them until they used their warplanes on the house that they were in," the speaker said.

In Baghdad, police were investigating the killing of a former dean of Baghdad University, Dr. Mohammad Abdullah Falah Alrawi, who was shot at his medical clinic in Mansour, an upscale Baghdad neighborhood.

Alrawi was a senior member of Hussein's ruling Baath Party and served as one of Hussein's personal physicians. Alrawi resigned from his university post shortly after the war; his son, Yasser, said yesterday that his father had resigned in large part because he knew that the U.S. de-Baathification policy would have prevented him from keeping his job anyway.

No one has been arrested in the shooting, but friends and relatives of Alrawi said yesterday that they believe the killing was probably motivated by his standing in the Baath Party and presumed influence in the former regime.

"Maybe it was because he was in the Baath Party, maybe it [was] because he had a high position," said Dr. Alberqder Faiz, a dentist who was across the hall when the shooting took place. "I don't know."

A colleague said Alrawi was killed Sunday night by a man who arrived at his Baghdad clinic complaining of abdominal pain. As soon as the man entered the doctor's office, the colleague said, he shot Alrawi once in the head and ran off with two others.

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