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04-11-03, 07:17 AM #1
Issues List of 50 Most-Wanted Leaders
U.S. Issues List of 50 Most-Wanted Leaders
Troops on Streets Will Join Manhunt
By Walter Pincus and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, April 11, 2003; Page A29
Despite the swiftness with which U.S. forces toppled the Iraqi government, administration officials said yesterday that they had made little progress in capturing or killing the senior Iraqi leaders who have been the target of clandestine manhunts and pinpoint impromptu airstrikes.
In an effort to draw the thousands of U.S. troops now on the Iraqi streets into the hunt, the U.S. intelligence community and the Pentagon have circulated to senior commanders a classified list of the top 50 most-wanted Iraqi leaders.
Of the 50 -- what one official described as "the worst of the worst" -- only three have been killed and none has been captured, senior administration officials said.
Early today, the U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, said U.S.-led forces had bombed a house about 60 miles west of Baghdad that belonged to deposed president Saddam Hussein's half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, former head of the secret police. There was no immediate word on casualties in that attack.
The fate of Hussein and his sons, Uday and Qusay, remained unclear yesterday. Military and intelligence officials also did not have any concrete knowledge of where the other top Iraqi officials had gone.
"With respect to Saddam and Uday and Qusay and Mr. [Tariq] Aziz [the deputy prime minister], we don't know where they are," Air Force Maj. Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr. told reporters at U.S. Central Command war headquarters in Doha. "But we'll continue our pursuit of any intelligence that might indicate where they are. I don't know that they're alive and I don't know that they're dead."
Finding Hussein and the others is "not really important to us," Renuart added.
However, some U.S. intelligence and military analysts said they believe Hussein's capture or death is important to convincing Iraqis that he will never return. "Finding them or their bodies is important to the enterprise," one senior analyst said.
Moreover, the senior Iraqi officials are the ones most capable of mounting a low-level insurgency, analysts said. "People from the middle and upper ranks of the security apparatus . . . have the motivation, skills and connections to lead a low-intensity insurgency against coalition forces in order to make a comeback," said Michael Eisenstadt, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Because they have nothing to look forward to in a post-Saddam Iraq."
There were conflicting views about whether the leaders had stuck together in the hope of forming a government in exile or scattered throughout Iraq and beyond. "Some are together," one intelligence official said. "But you're getting so much conflicting information from disparate sources on the ground."
The situation in Iraq presents different challenges from the battleground at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, from which al Qaeda members -- including, possibly, Osama bin Laden -- escaped in December 2001 because there were no U.S. troops on the ground to stop them. In Iraq, U.S. troops and secret CIA paramilitary teams are on the ground, but not in large numbers. In addition, the most-wanted Iraqi officials are not in uniform, and therefore are harder to find.
"There are all kinds of roads we don't have checkpoints on and don't control," one intelligence official said. "We can't blanket the country, and these guys are running for their lives."
Four days after B-1B bombers struck a building where Hussein had reportedly gone to meet with Iraqi intelligence officials, no U.S. military personnel were at the site to secure it for forensic experts who might be able to determine whether Hussein is dead. Senior military officials said they expected to have troops at the site within days.
Ali Hassan Majeed, also known as "Chemical Ali," is the only senior leader said to have been killed since the war began. The other most-wanted officials who are believed to be dead "are far down on the list" in importance, one senior intelligence official said.
Some intelligence analysts suggest that Hussein and many of his associates have fled Baghdad together and could be preparing for a final stand, perhaps in Tikrit, the former Iraqi leader's home city. They dismiss the view, held by a minority of analysts, that he has fled the country to save himself.
"We will die here in Iraq," Hussein told CBS's Dan Rather in a Feb. 26 interview. "And we will maintain our honor, the honor that is required of our people."
Hussein "has always been considered a survivor," one intelligence analyst said yesterday, "and he may try and hold out as long as possible, thinking he will survive as he has done in the past."
U.S. military officials said yesterday that organized resistance continued near Tikrit and the northern city of Mosul. Pentagon briefers said aircraft had struck Special Republican Guard military barracks, which included an obstacle course, a small-arms firing range and a parade field.
Warplanes also destroyed a "VIP retreat house . . . used by a small network of VIPs when they needed to move from place to place around the country while maintaining command and control for Saddam's regime," Army Maj. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal told reporters.
Also struck, he said, was "a facility that was used to jam radio broadcasts of foreign news services and internal groups that tried to disseminate news and ideas contrary to the regime's viewpoint."
McChrystal said the number and strength of Iraqi forces around and inside Tikrit remained unclear, and he held out the possibility that substantial numbers of paramilitary units were there as well. "I think we are prepared to be very, very wary of what they may have and prepared for a big fight," he said.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
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