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Video Suggests Saddam Survived

Saddam on Abu Dhabi TV--2003/4/9 Image from Abu Dhabi television of man identified as Saddam Hussein waves to a crowd, Iraq, video still
Abu Dhabi TV
Abu Dhabi television aired pictures Friday of what it said was Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the streets of Baghdad last week, greeted by an enthusiastic crowd as he waved and was hoisted onto a car hood to greet throngs of fellow Iraqis.

Abu Dhabi television said the film was shot April 9, the day U.S forces moved into Baghdad. The footage, if authentic and if actually of Saddam, would mean that an American bombing of three houses on April 7 aimed at killing the Iraqi president was unsuccessful. The United States said it was studying the footage.

April 9 was the day a crowd of Iraqis, with the help of U.S. Marines, toppled a 40-foot statue of Saddam in a main square of the capital.

Clad in a black beret and an olive military uniform, Saddam moved through the crowd as people cheered: "With our bloods and souls we redeem you, Oh Saddam."

Helped by guards, Saddam ascended the hood of a car and appeared a bit embarrassed as he took in cheers. Some of those cheering him held AK-47 assault rifles.

Alongside him stood a man who resembled his younger son, Qusai. Though there was nothing to indicate definitively when the pictures were shot, haze was visible in the background that could have been dust — but also could have been smoke from U.S. bombardments.

At U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, a spokesman said he could not comment on whether the footage showed the real Saddam or a lookalike.

"If he is still alive, it's a matter of days," said Ensign David Luckett, the spokesman. He said experts were studying the footage.

"His days are certainly numbered. He is no longer in power and that is quite obvious in the country of Iraq as the Iraqi people celebrate their freedom," he said. "It was never about one person, it was about liberating a country," Luckett said.

The U.S. military has talked similarly about Osama bin Laden, who appears to have eluded capture or death thus far.

Abu Dhabi TV's correspondent, Jaber Obeid, said the person who handed the tape to the network assured them that it was shot in Baghdad on April 9.

The videotape was shot from a distance and alternated between zooming in on Saddam and panning the crowd that was rushing him. In the video, Saddam has a large gold chain around his neck and appears both pleased and haggard. His face appeared narrower than it was in televised speeches given days before.

The United States is still searching for Saddam inside Iraq, especially in Baghdad and the northern city of Tikrit, his hometown. Resolving the fate of Saddam — either capturing him or killing him — would be a major step for American forces in their invasion of Iraq.

In late March, during the first days of the war, Saddam appeared several times on Iraqi state television, first looking tired and puffy-eyed and, later, stronger as he promised to fight on and defeat the American invasion.

On April 7, a man identified as Saddam was shown on Iraqi TV in the streets of Baghdad being greeted by people. However, that footage showed a Saddam who appeared leaner and somewhat younger than the man who had been giving speeches in recent weeks.

Later that day, U.S. forces bombed the upscale al-Mansour neighborhood after being tipped off that Saddam had entered a building there. After the attack, a U.S. source said the target was a restaurant, but officials later said the intended objective was 100 yards from the only restaurant in the neighborhood — and had been hit as targeted.

U.S. intelligence had solid information from multiple sources that Saddam went inside the targeted building and didn't leave before it was struck, U.S. officials have said. But British intelligence has reported that he survived the attack. The Times of London quoted an unidentified source saying Saddam may have come and gone through a tunnel.

Gen. Tommy Franks, the U.S. commander in Iraq, has said Saddam's DNA would be used to test any remains that are suspected to be his.

Franks said coalition forces also have DNA from other top Iraqi leaders. He did not explain how the DNA was obtained. It can be culled from a wide range of sources, including licked envelopes.