U.S. forces say they continue to close in on Saddam

Monday, August 4th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TIKRIT, Iraq (AP) _ A top secret military team and other American forces have conducted a series of raids in the hunt for Saddam Hussein, keeping the ousted leader on the move since his sons Odai and Qusai were killed two weeks ago, the military said Monday.

Special Operations Task Force 20 _ which is roaming Iraq on the hunt for Saddam and other high-profile targets _ captured four key figures last week, 4th Infantry Division spokeswoman Maj. Josslyn Aberle said at a news briefing.

``It's just a matter of time. He can't stay in one place very long,'' Aberle said. Military officials had not previously acknowledged Task Force 20's involvement in the raids.

The army would not release the four men's names or their connection to Saddam. Two of Saddam's ``very close associates'' were captured Friday in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, Aberle said.

Two others, described only as high-profile targets, were caught Saturday during a raid in Baiji, just north of Tikrit, she said, adding that the military is not ready to release their names. Tikrit is 120 miles north of Baghdad.

Soldiers believe they came within 24 hours of capturing Saddam's new personal security chief _ and possibly the former Iraqi leader himself _ during a July 27 raid in Tikrit, which is 120 miles north of Baghdad.

Intelligence on Saddam's whereabouts is constantly evolving and the army is poised to strike, she said.

``It was the same with Odai and Qusai, they had not been up in Mosul _ or in that house where they were captured _ very long before the intelligence came in and we got them,'' she said. The two were killed in a prolonged gunbattle in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq.

Military officials estimate that Saddam moves every four hours. The army has distributed composite photos of how he may have changed his appearance, hoping that they may catch him on the move.