General: Capture of bodyguards shows noose is tightening on 'HVT No. 1'
ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. soldiers detained several of Saddam Hussein’s personal bodyguards in a raid Thursday in Tikrit after an informant tipped troops to their location, said Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.
Odierno spoke Friday in a live video teleconference briefing from Tikrit to the Pentagon.
While investigators still were interviewing the detained guards Friday morning, of the 13 people taken into custody, “between five and 10 [are] believed to be Saddam Hussein’s personal security detachment,” Odierno said.
The 4th ID commander said he believes the deaths of Saddam Hussein’s sons this week has boosted significantly the number of Iraqi informants alerting U.S. forces to the whereabouts of weapons caches and key Hussein supporters.
And, he said, the deaths of Odai and Qusai, killed Tuesday during a raid by soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division in the northern city of Mosul, have not led to an increase of violence against U.S. soldiers in that region.
Soldiers rely most heavily on human intelligence to track down the High Value Targets, or the administration’s 55 most wanted, especially Saddam.
The capture of some of Saddam’s elite bodyguards on Thursday means troops are getting close, and it’s a matter of time before Hussein himself, “or HVT No. 1, as we call him,” is caught, Odierno said.
“They are moving around quickly, they are very unsettled and are not living a very good life right now because we are constantly on their trail.”
Also Thursday night, another informant gave troops near the town of Samarra, about 70 miles northwest of Baghdad, detailed directions to a buried container, which, when unearthed, netted 10 AK-47 rifles, 34 rocket-propelled grenade launches, 150 RPG rounds, 80,000 feet of detonation cord, 45,000 sticks of dynamite, 11 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), 33 SA-7 launchers and 28 submachine guns.
Troops near Samarra have come under several IED attacks recently, and “we believe now this might have been where [U.S. opponents] were getting some of that equipment to build IEDs,” Odierno said.
The number of attacks against U.S. forces have decreased in Odierno’s region, roughly the area of north Baghdad up to Irbil, and east to the Iraq-Iran border.
“We’ve had an overall decrease. When we count the number of attacks … it’s been cut by about 50 percent from June to July. But … some of them have become more sophisticated, specifically IEDs, which continue to get more sophisticated.”
The remote IED can be denoted from roughly 300 to 500 yards, and some of the devices rigged with wires can be detonated from as far away as 1,000 to 2,000 yards, Odierno said.