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thedrifter
04-19-03, 09:30 AM
New Tape of Hussein Prolongs Debate on His Fate
By DAVID JOHNSTON and JAMES RISEN


WASHINGTON, April 18 A new videotape of Saddam Hussein was broadcast today by an Abu Dhabi television network that said the tape was made on April 9, the day Baghdad fell to allied forces. The tape shows a smiling Mr. Hussein thronged by a mob of well-wishers in broad daylight in a public square in the Iraqi capital.

American intelligence officials who reviewed the tape, along with an audiotape said to have been made the same day, expressed doubt about when it had been made, saying it was unlikely that Mr. Hussein would have risked a public appearance on the same day that American troops seized control of Baghdad.

But the tapes certainly left open the possibility that Mr. Hussein somehow survived the war and seemed likely to prolong the debate about whether he was alive or dead.

Yet even as some intelligence officials voiced doubt about the new tape's authenticity, they said it contained valuable visual clues that might enable them to establish when and where it was made.

A similar tape, purporting to show the former Iraqi leader strolling in the Mansur neighborhood of Baghdad in daytime, was broadcast on April 4. By comparing the tape with satellite photographs of the same neighborhood on the same date, intelligence officials have concluded that the tape was made before the war began, according to senior American intelligence officials.

President Bush and his advisers are said to be almost evenly split on whether Mr. Hussein is alive or dead. The uncertainty has frustrated the Bush administration even as senior officials say publicly that the question of Mr. Hussein's status is no longer important because he is out of power.

Even so, the release of each new tape seems intended to keep alive Mr. Hussein's political presence in the psyche of the region. Some Iraqis reported seeing Mr. Hussein on April 9 outside the Adhamiya Mosque in northern Baghdad.

The mosque was later assaulted by American marines. But by the time the troops arrived, the witnesses reported, the man they identified as Mr. Hussein had departed in a convoy of cars.

So the hunt for him and his inner circle continues.

And beyond Mr. Hussein is the question of the fate of his sons Qusay and Uday, and the 52 other Iraqi leaders on a list issued to American troops. American intelligence officials have concluded that two on the list are dead: Yahya Abdullah al-Ubaydi, a Baath Party leader from Basra, and Naif Shindak, a Baath leader from Najaf.

The United States military is no longer certain about Gen. Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," who was widely reported to have been killed in the bombing raid in Basra, officials said. General Majid's wife and family have gone to Syria.

Intercepted conversations among the family saying he had been killed provided the initial evidence that he had been hit in the raid. But the United States has not been able to corroborate those conversations.

Some of the most wanted figures are believed to have fled to Syria, including Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, who had previously been seen in Iraqi cabinet meetings and other meetings with Mr. Hussein and his sons.

Some of the former leaders who have been captured are Gen. Amir al-Saadi, Mr. Hussein's science adviser; Sawawi Ibrahim Hasan, a presidential adviser; Watban Ibrahim Hasan, a half brother; and Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, another half brother, captured on Thursday.

The effort to kill or capture Mr. Hussein has been one of the most intensive covert operations of the war. Mr. Hussein and several other senior Iraqi leaders were identified by the Bush administration as "high-value targets," intelligence officials said. Mr. Bush signed a legal order authorizing the military to engage in operations to kill Mr. Hussein, the officials said. The hunt has involved a full arsenal of intelligence-gathering technologies and human sources. Before and during the war, Arabic-speaking officers with the Central Intelligence Agency and Special Operations forces slipped into Baghdad disguised as Iraqi civilians to surveil, and in some cases videotape, possible leadership sites and other bombing targets.

Sempers,

Roger