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Saddam's bunker can withstand nuke attack, says its designer
Shyam Bhatia in Kuwait exclusively for rediff.com |
March 31, 2003 16:39 IST
As US forces review their strategy by pausing their advance to Baghdad, the German designer of Saddam Hussein's underground bunker has warned it will take a modern miracle to eliminate the Iraqi president from his fortress beneath the Tigris.
US commander of allied forces, General Tommy Franks, insists there will be no let up in the assault on Baghdad, but frontline soldiers south of Baghdad have been digging trenches, laying mines and camouflaging vehicles to protect their positions, instead of preparing for an advance on the Iraqi capital.
Weekend reports indicate there could be a delay of about six days in US-led forces' advance to Baghdad to allow supplies and reinforcements to reach the front.
Some military officials have even hinted there could be a pause lasting more than two weeks.
The reason why the US-led allied forces have been forced to take a break is their long supply line stretching up to Kuwait, which has become vulnerable to attacks in towns such as Nasiriyah and Najaf.
Last Thursday, Pentagon announced that another 100,000 US soldiers would be sent to the Gulf by the end of next month to reinforce the 125,000 US and British troops already there.
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, said: "The one thing that we have on our side and we are already using is patience."
Meanwhile, the German designer of Saddam Hussein's underground bunker has warned that targeting the Iraqi president in his hideout would require an attack using 16 cruise missiles directed to the same spot.
Karl Esser said in a statement that the Iraqi leader was "100 per cent safe" in the steel-and-concrete structure buried 100 metres below Baghdad.
"I am absolutely certain that Saddam Hussein will not be taken out by a rocket attack on his main palace in Baghdad as long as he remains underground in the bunker I designed," he was quoted as saying in the German media.
The Munich-born designer, whose grandmother built a bunker for Hitler, said he was proud of his work, which may prevent the coalition forces' stated aim of "decapitating" the Iraqi leadership.
The �60-million bunker was built 20 years ago, under the directions of Esser and Austrian architect, Lorenzo Buffalo, working for Boswau and Knauer of Germany.
Esser said: "I was asked [to build the bunker] as I had a lot of experience. My grandmother was responsible for Hitler's bunker under the Berlin Reich chancellery and I have continued in the family tradition."
He said he met Saddam on a number of occasions when the construction got underway in the early 1980s, including one three-hour session where the two discussed in detail the plans for the bunker.
He recalled, "If you see him, he doesn't make much of an impression. He looks like an Arab tax collector or banker. But when he speaks, you realise there is more to the man than meets the eye.
"Those around make it really clear that he is a man to be reckoned with. You could hear a needle drop when he walks into the room."
Esser said, "If they want to get at Saddam, they would have to level the palace completely and get rid of the debris. Then they would need to hit the site with their 80-kilo Tomahawks 16 times at the same spot to get through. That's 16 times. Then they need to know exactly where he is in the bunker. Is he in the toilet, or in bed?"
The Baghdad bunker is hidden beneath a swimming pool, walkways and parking areas of the presidential palace guest house. Its nine feet-thick walls are designed to withstand a nuclear explosion of the scale that destroyed Hiroshima at
the end of the World War-II.
The bunker, complete with a living room for Saddam and his family and bathrooms with gold fittings, has a command room with secure communication equipment. An escape tunnel under the Tigris river is protected by a three-ton door.
Esser concluded that it would be almost impossible to penetrate Saddam's bunker. "I'm pleased my bunker has proved up to the job," he said.
rediff.com Senior Editor Shyam Bhatia is the co-author of Saddam's Bomb, on Iraq's search for nuclear weapons.