Stephen M. Silverman
December 14, 2003 11:51 AM

Victory for Operation Red Dawn: Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was captured after an intense manhunt Saturday night by U.S. forces who found him in a camouflaged, underground hideout on a farm near his hometown of Tikrit. Upon his capture, he was reportedly told: “Greetings from President Bush.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, we got him,” U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer told a news conference early Sunday, eight months after U.S. troops entered Baghdad and brought down Saddam’s regime.

“In the history of Iraq,” President Bush said in a noontime address from Washington on Sunday, “a dark and painful era is over. A hopeful day has arrived. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq.”

Saddam, who once lived like a king in a palace beyond imagination, took final refuge in a tiny crawl space described as a spider hole. He offered no resistance upon his capture, at about 8:30 p.m. local time, and was found with a pistol and $750,000 in U.S. currency, said Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno in a televised newscast from Tikrit on Sunday morning, adding: “He was caught just like a rat.” The rat now faces interrogation, with some sources saying he could face the death penalty.

Odierno said an unnamed individual had fed information regarding Saddam’s whereabouts to intelligence forces. He also said the troops who captured him were “very happy, but they always do everything in a very professional way.” The operation required about 600 soldiers, he said.

American TV networks, which went into special broadcasts to cover the capture, showed footage of an American doctor examining Saddam, who, it was said, had not washed for days. He was also sporting a long, shaggy beard.

Once he was cleaned up and shorn, the former leader was posed for another photo — one that showed him sad-eyed, defeated and resigned to his fate.

According to the Associated Press, once Saddam’s capture was announced, radio stations in Iraq played celebratory music, residents fired small arms in the air and passengers on buses and trucks shouted, “They got Saddam! They got Saddam!”

Washington hopes the capture will help break the organized resistance in Iraq that has killed more than 190 American soldiers since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1 and that has set back reconstruction efforts.

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