Military Commander Details Mission That Killed Hussein's Sons
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 23, 2003 U.S. military officials in Iraq believe a coalition missile barrage at roughly 1 p.m. local time July 22 struck the fatal blow to Uday and Qusay Hussein.
Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez this morning described the 101st Airborne Division operation in northeast Mosul, Iraq, that led to the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons, numbers two and three on U.S. Central Command's list of most wanted members of the former regime, and two others.
Published media reports have said the other two individuals were Qusay Hussein's 14-year-old son and a bodyguard. Sanchez was unable to confirm this, saying officials are still working to positively identify the other two bodies.
Speaking at a press conference in Baghdad, Sanchez, the commander of Coalition Joint Task Force 7, said July 22 was "a landmark day for the people and the future of Iraq."
In a White House appearance a few hours later, President Bush agreed. "Yesterday, in the city of Mosul, the careers of two of the regime's chief henchmen came to an end," Bush said in an appearance with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Joint Chief's Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator in Iraq.
"Saddam Hussein's sons were responsible for torture, maiming and murder of countless Iraqis," he said. "Now more than ever, all Iraqis can know that the former regime is gone and will not be coming back."
Sanchez said the operation began late July 21, when an Iraqi civilian gave coalition forces information as to the whereabouts of Uday and Qusay.
That night, coalition commanders planned the operation, gathered the required troops and weapons systems, and cordoned off the neighborhood. Iraqi police established an outer perimeter, Sanchez said.
The general said the mission began at 10 a.m. July 22 as a "cordon-and-knock operation," in which coalition troops secure an area then knock and ask if the individuals they are looking for are in the residence. In this instance, troops "knocked" using a bullhorn to order everyone out of the building. When they got no response, soldiers entered the home at 10:10 a.m. local time.
"Immediately upon entering the building, shots were fired," Sanchez said. "We immediately determined that the targeted individuals were barricaded in the fortified portion of the building, which was the second floor, and they started engaging with small arms," believed to be AK-47 rifles.
Three soldiers were injured on the stairs and another outside the building before the unit withdrew and called in a quick-reaction force and "heavy weaponry."
The injured soldiers were evacuated within minutes. At this point, ground commanders decided it was appropriate to "prep the objective prior to reentry," Sanchez said. In military speak, this means to use heavier firepower to make the situation safer for the soldiers on the ground. In this case, commanders called for the use of OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters and their 2.75-inch rockets, Mark-19 grenade launchers, AT-4 rockets, and helicopter- and humvee-mounted .50- caliber machine guns.
At noon, the general explained, soldiers attempted entry again and again took fire from the second floor and chose to withdraw. Clearly, further "preparatory fires" were called for.
At 1 p.m., forces on the ground fired 10 tube-launched optically tracked wire- guided missiles, commonly called TOWs, into the house. "We believe that it is likely that the TOW missile attack was what wound up killing three of the adults," Sanchez said.
At this point, he explained, officials considered using heavier weapons, such as those on AH-64 Apache helicopters and Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, which were standing by, but decided against that course of action because of the risk of unintended damage to the surrounding neighborhood.
Twenty-one minutes later, forces again entered the home, took fire as they reached the second floor, and "killed the remaining individual."
Officials went to great lengths to confirm that two of the bodies were those of Uday and Qusay. Sanchez said that four separate senior members of the former regime identified the bodies independently, including number four on the list, Abid Hamid Mahmud, Saddam Hussein's personal secretary.
Officials studied x-rays that showed old wounds on one of the bodies were consistent with injuries Uday Hussein was known to have suffered in an earlier assassination attempt that left him partially paralyzed. Dental records also provided conclusive evidence of the identities of the two. Sanchez explained that because of damage to the body, dental records provided a 90 percent match for Uday. But dental records showed a 100 percent match for Qusay.
Autopsies will follow, he said, adding that officials are considering how to provide proof of the brothers' deaths to the Iraqi people. "We will provide follow-on information over the course of the coming days," he said. Sanchez also refused to rule out providing photographs of the bodies to the Iraqi public.