U.S. Puts $25M Bounty on Saddam Hussein
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ The U.S. government put a $25 million bounty on Saddam Hussein and $15 million on his sons Thursday, seeking to quell a spreading insurgency fueled by uncertainty over the ousted Iraqi leader’s fate.
Saddam’s capture is seen as crucial to ending anti-American resistance, which Thursday alone saw at least two Iraqis killed and 10 U.S. soldiers wounded.
``We believe it is important to do everything we can to determine his whereabouts, whether he is alive or dead, in order to assist in stabilizing the situation and letting the people of Baghdad be absolutely sure that he’s not coming back,″ Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters in Washington.
The last reported sighting of Saddam was April 9 in the Azamiyah neighborhood of northeastern Baghdad as the capital fell. He was targeted by at least two major U.S. airstrikes, but there was never any proof either was successful. Based on information from captured colleagues, officials increasingly believe they were not.
Saddam loyalists are reportedly warning Iraqis not to cooperate with American occupation authorities, saying the ousted leader will one day return to punish those who do. The where-is-Saddam mystery is encouraging the resistance, officials say, as daily attacks against U.S. forces increase.
At least 26 American troops have been killed in hostile fire since major combat was officially declared over on May 1.
In the latest violence Thursday:
_ A two-Humvee convoy hit an explosive in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, wounding six U.S. soldiers, said Sgt. Patrick Compton, a military spokesman.
_ An attacker standing in a car’s sunroof in downtown Baghdad fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. Army convoy, wounding three soldiers. Troops returned fire, killing one Iraqi bystander and wounding two others, witnesses said. After the attack, a limping U.S. soldier sobbed and shook as a colleague help him into a car.
_ A sniper fired on a patrol in the west Baghdad neighborhood of Kadamiyah, wounding a soldier from the Army’s 1st Armored Division, Compton said. Soldiers fired back, killing the attacker and wounding a 6-year-old boy who was with the man, he said. The soldier and the boy were in stable condition in a military hospital, Compton said.
_ In Baqubah, northwest of Baghdad, witnesses said a plastic bag filled with explosives blew up in a crowd of a few hundred Iraqis, who were protesting the U.S. Army’s detention of Ali Abdul Kareem al-Madani, the city’s top Shiite cleric. Witnesses said one man was killed and five wounded. But Capt. Josh Felker of the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division said the explosion occurred when a grenade blew up in a man’s hands, wounding three bystanders.
_ Soldiers fired at vehicle that failed to stop at a military checkpoint in Baghdad, wounding three adult occupants, the military said.
The $25 million Saddam bounty, announced by the occupation government, will go to anyone who provides information leading to ex-dictator’s capture or proof that he is dead. Anyone doing the same for either of his sons, Udai and Qusai, will get $15 million.
Word of the reward is being sent to Iraq and the rest of the Arab world on Radio Sawa, a public diplomacy arm of the U.S. State Department.
The reward for Saddam matches the $25 million that Washington is offering for another top fugitive: Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader missing since U.S. forces helped dislodge the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
A day after President Bush rankled critics by taunting would-be attackers with the phrase ``bring ’em on,″ the ground forces commander in Iraq cautioned reporters against putting too much emphasis on U.S. casualties and not enough on the progress made in rebuilding Iraq.
``There is still a war going on in this country. The enemy isn’t taking a break. They’re attacking us every day. But there is no crisis. We shouldn’t lose perspective. A lot has been accomplished,″ said Maj. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez.
``We’re not really concerned about it. We can handle it. We’re killing them on a daily basis when they attack us. We’re going to win,″ he said.
Anger at the U.S. troops has been high, especially in Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad, where an explosion at a mosque killed 10 people Monday. Residents blamed the United States, but U.S. Central Command said the explosion was ``apparently related to a bomb manufacturing class that was being taught inside the mosque.″
Maj. Geoffery Watson, the intelligence officer for the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade, appeared to contradict the Centcom account when he told reporters in Fallujah that he knew of no intelligence on the ground pointing to a bomb-making class.
However, he said the mosque had been broadcasting anti-American messages to the neighborhood ``identifying the United States as occupiers.″
``The mosque was of concern for a few weeks,″ Watson said.
The blast caused tempers to flare in a city already known for its anti-U.S. sentiment. Fallujah’s mayor and a leading cleric, however, called for calm and urged residents to cooperate with U.S. forces.
AP writers Sabah Jerges and Borzou Daragahi contributed to this report from Baqubah and AP writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed from Fallujah.