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Iraqi Farm Owner Detained by U.S. Troops

December 16, 2003

ADWAR, Iraq (AP) _ An owner of the farm where Saddam Hussein was captured once served as a guard at a presidential palace, and he and two of his brothers were taken away by U.S. troops during the raid, his wife said Tuesday.

Khalda al-Douri also said her family did not know Saddam was hiding in a mud-brick hut on their land. She said she had last been on the property by the Tigris River on Friday, the day before Saddam was found hiding in a camouflaged hole near the hut.

``I didn’t see Saddam there. I only saw goats,″ said Mrs. al-Douri, a schoolteacher whose house is less than a half-mile from the farm.

The U.S. Army officer responsible for Adwar said American soldiers had searched the farm about seven weeks ago after a tip and found some weapons, although he didn’t offer details of the arms cache. But he said they hadn’t seen any sign of anyone hiding there or of Saddam.

``I spoke to the people in that farm. I didn’t see any old person like in the picture of Saddam,″ said Capt. Hugh Charles-Walters of Miami, of the 4th Infantry Division.

Mrs. al-Douri and other relatives said her husband, Qais Nameq al-Douri, 38, was a guard at one of Saddam’s palaces in Baghdad from 1991 to 1995, when he left because of a heart problem.

She said her husband had been bedridden in recent weeks as a result of a heart attack he suffered a year ago, and she insisted he wasn’t aware Saddam was hiding in the hut.

``If Saddam was here why would Qais be home all the time with me?″ Mrs. al-Douri, 40, said.

When a dozen or so U.S. soldiers stormed into the al-Douris’ two-story house at 7:40 p.m. Saturday, they found her husband in bed, she said. ``I told them my husband was ill with a heart problem.″

She said a doctor who was with the troops examined her husband, took his pulse and blood pressure and started him on intravenous fluid. Then they handcuffed him with the IV drip still attached, wrapped him in a blanket and carried him away, Mrs. al-Douri said, bursting into tears.

At the family’s farm itself, soldiers detained two of al-Douri’s brothers _ Alaa, 18, who owns a taxi, and Jasim, 17.

While family members argued they didn’t know about Saddam’s presence, one of al-Douri’s uncles said they would have offered the fugitive shelter if asked.

``I would certainly protect him from infidels,″ said Mousa Saleh Ahmed, referring to American soldiers.

The family members said they thought Saddam came from his brother’s farm in Tikrit, crossing the Tigris to Adwar by boat and taking refuge at the hut without telling them.

``He must have come just a few hours before the Americans found him,″ said Ahmed, the uncle.

Despite the troubles Saddam’s capture has caused them, al-Douri’s relatives said they didn’t hold that against the former leader.

``He was our president,″ Mrs. al-Douri said. ``He didn’t do what Bush has done to us. Bush cut off electricity, gas, water and oil. There’s no security. So how can we prefer him over Saddam?″

Besides, she added, he was a guest on their land even if he didn’t ask.

``Maybe he couldn’t come the proper way, and knock on the door. He didn’t choose to come to us; he just came to us,″ she said.

Residents of Adwar said that no one in the town would have told U.S. authorities about Saddam and that someone from the outside must have provided the tip.

People here didn’t miss the irony of Saddam being captured in a town he had immortalized as the place where he swam across the Tigris to escape capture when he was a political dissident in the 1960s. Every year on Aug. 28, the town marked the feat with a swimming contest across the river.

But some also said it was no coincidence that Saddam’s show of bravery and humiliating capture were here.

``We Muslims only believe in fate. It was God’s will,″ said one, Dhaif Rayhan Mahmoud.

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