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Captured official says Saddam, sons alive

June 22, 2003 05:05 IST

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein has survived the US-led war on Iraq and his sons Uday and Quasay have fled to Syria, according to a captured top lieutenant of the deposed dictator.

Abid Hamad Mahmoud al-Tikriti, who was arrested by American forces in Iraq on June 16, has told interrogators that he himself fled to Syria with Uday and Qusay, the New York Times quoted unnamed defence officials as saying.

Mahmoud has said that he was forced to return to Iraq, but Saddam's sons, and perhaps Saddam himself, are in Syria, according to Pentagon officials.

The officials said they would try to verify the claim.

The US regarded the information as having huge significance, and that clandestine American military activity aimed at capturing Saddam and his sons had increased sharply, the Times wrote.

If Mahmoud's account is true, it would be 'the most authoritative confirmation that neither Saddam nor his sons were killed in American attacks in March and April', it added.

Mahmoud, who ranked behind only Saddam and his sons in importance in the Iraqi government, has told interrogators that during the weeks after the war with the US, he spent time in hiding with the former Iraqi leader and then fled to Syria with Uday and Qusay.


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