Saddam Hussein had an unexpected message for US troops after he was discovered hiding out in an underground bunker.
Hussein spent eight months as the world’s most wanted man, sparking a huge manhunt, which eventually resulted in him being captured by US officers in ad-Dawr near Tikrit in Iraq in 2003.
Operation Red Dawn kicked off after US officers were given a tip-off about Hussein’s whereabouts which led them to a farm and on 13 December – 18 years ago today – a soldier finally discovered where the dictator had been hiding after lifting up a carpet and spotting a hole. Advert10
The hole led to an underground bunker that was just big enough for one person to lie down inside and a pipe had been fitted allowing air to get in.
Hussein was discovered in the bunker, prompting a soldier to say: “Ladies and gentlemen, we got him.”
As he emerged from the hole, Hussein said: “I am Saddam Hussein. I am the president of Iraq and I am willing to negotiate.”Advert10
To which a US soldier replied: “President Bush sends his regards.”
He was described as being in ‘good health’ by US officials.
Major General Ray Odierno, who was one of the soldiers involved in the capture, said Hussein was ‘bewildered’ and ‘disoriented’ when he was discovered.
After Hussein’s capture, then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “It removes the shadow that has been hanging over them for too long of the nightmare of a return to the Saddam regime.”
While former US President George Bush said the capture meant Hussein would ‘face the justice he denied to millions. For the Ba’athist holdouts responsible for the violence, there will be no return to the corrupt power and privilege they once held’.
Hussein had ruled Iraq for 24 years. He was responsible for countless deaths and atrocities during his reign, including launching an air strike on Iran which led to a war between the two countries and ordering a gas attack in Halabja, in Iraq, which killed more than 5,000.
He disappeared after coalition forces from the US and UK invaded Iraq and went into hiding.
After he was caught, he was finally able to face punishment for his crimes and in an Iraqi court in 2006 he was found guilty of crimes against humanity.
He was sentenced to death by hanging and was executed the next month.