American soldiers overpowered and arrested a bodyguard who rarely left former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's side yesterday and said they obtained documents and information that could help them close in on the former dictator.
As "one of Saddam's lifelong bodyguards," Adnan Abdullah Abid al-Musslit was believed to have detailed knowledge of the former president's hiding places, said Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell, who led the raid. He said documents taken from the home and information obtained from the men would be useful in the hunt for Saddam.
"Every guy we get tightens the noose," said Russell, commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 22nd Infantry Regiment. "Every photo and every document connects the dots."
The stocky bodyguard struggled to break free as soldiers arrested him, and they had to wrestle him to the ground and drag him down the stairs, Russell said.
"Were we surprised? He's a bodyguard. That's why we went in with our steely knives and oily guns," Russell said. "If everything else had failed and we just got that one guy, we would be happy."
But the series of pre-dawn raids in the heart of the deposed dictator's hometown trapped a total of 12 people, including Daher Ziana, the former head of security in Tikrit, and Rafa Idham Ibrahim al-Hassan, a leader of the Saddam Fedayeen militia.
The raids began at 4am when soldiers fired three shotgun blasts into the locks of the house where al-Musslit was living with his family.
Moments later, soldiers pulled al-Musslit from the house, bleeding and barefoot. Soldiers stripped him to his underwear, searching for weapons, and dragged him into an Army Humvee.
A medic examined the right side of his forehead, where blood seeped through the wide tan cloth that was wrapped over his eyes as a blindfold.
Al-Musslit had retired from his job as one of Saddam's most trusted bodyguards, but the former Iraqi leader called him back into service before the war started, Russell said, citing intelligence gathered from Tikrit residents.
About a block away, soldiers stormed a house where Ziana was living, emerging from one the house's ornate arched entrances with four men with their hands tied behind their back. One of the men was identified as Ziana, Saddam's security chief in Tikrit.
Soldiers cut white sheets from the home into strips to make blindfolds for the men, who sat under guard in the front yard.
Six women, some clutching the hands of small children, wailed as soldiers threw photographs and documents into the driveway. A large portrait of Saddam lay alongside a picture of Ziana in uniform. One album featured a photo of women posing with Kalashnikov rifles.