BAGHDAD, Iraq — Although top U.S. officials say Saddam Hussein’s capture won’t bring a sudden end to the guerrilla insurgency in Iraq, the U.S. military here sees it as a key “turning point” in the war for hearts and minds.

“It’s a psychological turning point for all of us, both Iraqis and coalition troops,” said Maj. David Tucker II, commander of the 1st Armored Division’s 315th Psychological Operations Company.

The division, which is responsible for this city of more than 5 million, has moved swiftly to persuade the local populace that it can now cast off any lingering fears that Saddam’s regime might regain power.

“First of all, we’re going to make sure that the entire Baghdad population … understands that he has, in fact, been captured,” Tucker said. “That’ll be our main focus over the next few days.

“Saddam Hussein represented fear to them and now with him captured, that chapter’s closed and that fear will eventually fade away as well.”

To get its point home, the division is using a variety of methods.

On Tuesday, troops began passing out handbills in Arabic and English that show a photo of Saddam after his capture Saturday night in Tikrit by troops of the 4th Infantry Division.

“They show Saddam’s face on them as a detainee,” Tucker said, “because people want to see proof. It gives them a photographic image — Saddam after his capture.”

The accompanying text reads: “Saddam Hussein CAPTURED The capture of Saddam Hussein is the defining moment for the new Iraq. The future starts here.”

“We’ve printed 200,000,” Tucker said. “So we’ll push these out; if the demand is still there, we’ll do another printing of them.”

Troops on Friday will begin distributing a newspaper that will carry the Saddam capture story on its front page, along with a photo of him in captivity. An article on an inside page will spell out details of his capture and explain its importance.

The division publishes the paper, called Baghdad Now, in Arabic and English, for distribution to the Baghdad public. It appears the first and 15th of every month, with 500,000 copies printed each time.

And, since Sunday night, the division has broadcast hourly public service spots on radio station IQ4, 104 FM, a civilian outlet in Baghdad, giving details of Saddam’s capture.

In addition, tactical psychological operations teams are going neighborhood to neighborhood, making loudspeaker announcements of the capture, passing out the handbills, and talking with Iraqis who may approach them for discussion.

After several more days, the division will likely shift its informational effort from a focus on Saddam’s capture to one on practical next steps in rebuilding Iraq, Tucker said.

But the division will continue to draw on Saddam’s capture in its efforts to influence public opinion.

“What’ll happen is we’ll integrate his capture into future messages that kind of reinforce the end of his regime, which now is very much based in fact. … It was before, but this is a very symbolic moment to close out that part of Iraq’s history.

“It doesn’t mean that the fight is over for all of us, but it just means that Saddam will never return, which is what we’ve said all along. This just puts an exclamation point on that.”

Once Saddam’s capture was announced Sunday, the division had to move fast to keep pace with events, Tucker said.

It had to quickly write an article that would be used on radio and in Baghdad Now. A story originally planned for the paper’s front page was pulled and moved to an inside page, to be replaced with the Saddam story, Tucker said.

And a handbill had to be designed.

Sgt. Brett Karpowicz, 26, of Long Island, N.Y., worked on the handbill as a multimedia illustrator with the coalition’s Joint Psychological Operations Task Force in Baghdad.

Several days or more can often pass before senior division leadership approves the content and design of a handbill or similar item to be issued to the public.

But Sunday night’s Saddam handbill was an entirely different matter, said Karpowicz; it was approved quickly.

“When something’s this big, everybody wants to see it,” he said. “This was actually popped out pretty fast. … Anytime you get a first-time ‘Go,’ that’s a good day for me.

“It kind of puts you in awe of how fast information gets disseminated,” Karpowicz said. “This was history being made.”

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