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Anatomy of Hussein's capture

The cellar floor didn't look quite right ...

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... at least, not in one spot. Bricks and dirt were spread about in a studied way, as if someone were trying to conceal something beneath. So US troops taking part in the early evening "Red Dawn" sweep shoveled the debris away. They discovered a hole, which led to a modest hiding chamber, complete with ventilation fan. The chamber was quite small, considering that it held not just a man but in some ways decades of Iraqi national history.

Eight months after a giant statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled to the ground in Baghdad in a gesture of celebration, the US finally has Mr. Hussein for real. It was probably the most intensive manhunt in history, with thousands of troops, secret units, and intensive pressure from Washington. The US even fluttered $25 million in reward money at those who might be able to reveal the tyrant's whereabouts.

The result will be a trial of a man personally responsible for an intricate infrastructure of oppression. Perhaps only now can Iraqis begin to truly shed the dead weight of a regime which shaped their lives so much in its 24 years of power.

"The capture of this man was crucial to the rise of a free Iraq," said Presdient Bush Sunday. "It marks the end of the road for him and for all who bullied and killed in his name."

For the troops that took part in the capture - a total of some 600, from the US 4th Infantry Division, and Special Forces - the raid was not exactly business as usual. They didn't know that Mr. Hussein was their target, exactly. But the operation was clearly a search for an HVT, in military parlance, "High Value Target."


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