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Operation Red Dawn: Saddam Hussein was captured 15 years ago


Bengaluru, Dec 13: Fifteen years ago on this day former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was captured near his hometown of Tikrit, during Operation Red Dawn by US forces. Operation Red Dawn, named after the 1984 film Red Dawn, was an American military operation conducted on 13 December 2003 in the town of ad-Dawr, Iraq, near Tikrit, that led to the capture of Saddam Hussein.

In this Jan. 29, 1998, file photo, Iraqi Deputy Premier Tariq Aziz, left, greets President Saddam Hussein on Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan in Baghdad, Iraq. PTI file photo

Col. James B. Hickey, the commander of the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, the U.S. Army unit responsible for securing the Tikrit region, made it his mission to find Saddam. His brigade established a fruitful partnership with TF 20, the SOF group tasked with tracking down former government and military officials in Iraq. The brigade and task force coordinated operations collaborated on missions and shared information.

US government had announced a bounty of $25 million on Saddam Husein for information leading to his whereabouts. On 12 December, the Americans caught a break when SOF troops in Baghdad detained one of Saddam's most-trusted and sought-after associates from the Tikrit area. Returned to the city for questioning, he revealed that Saddam was hiding out in one of two safe houses near the village of Ad Dawr by the Tigris River 10 miles southeast of Tikrit.

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Next day, the raid kicked off under the cover of darkness at 1935 hours. The US forces met no armed resistance and secured the two objective locations in twenty-five minutes. A search of the sites came up empty but an investigation of a nearby orchard located a hole covered by a mat and rubble and sealed with a Styrofoam lid next to a two-room hut. Inside the hole was Saddam, who surrendered as soon as his underground hiding place was exposed.

President George W. Bush announced the capture of Saddam Hussein on Dec 14. Two years after, the Iraqi leader was put on trial in Baghdad for crimes against humanity. In 2006, Saddam Hussein, former president of Iraq, and his co-defendants Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and Awad Hamed al-Bandar are sentenced to death in the al-Dujail trial for the role in the massacre of the 148 Shi'as in 1982.

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