Sunday, July 27, 2003

Suddenly Saddam feels his age. Deprived of the elaborate security apparatus that maintained him in power for more than three decades, the 66-year-old deposed Iraqi dictator spends his days scurrying from one safe house to another, desperately trying to avoid the clutches of the American special forces who are now hot on his trail.

As coalition forces yesterday continued to interrogate several of Saddam's personal bodyguards, who were picked up on Friday in a raid on a house in al-Ouja, the dictator's birthplace, there was mounting confidence among coalition commanders that the former Iraqi leader is running out of places to hide.

Certainly, if Saddam were to be caught now it is unlikely that he would look anything like the confident, dark-haired, moustachioed figure depicted in countless portraits and statues. Just as his sons had grown beards and adopted traditional Arab dress to help conceal their true identities, so Saddam today would most probably be found sporting long grey hair and a long grey beard.

During the Gulf war in 1991, Saddam evaded capture by driving around the country in a camper van. A former bodyguard of his eldest son Uday last week claimed that Saddam had used a similar tactic during the present conflict, even driving around Baghdad in beaten-up old bangers after the Americans had taken control of the Iraqi capital.

The big difference between the last conflict and this, however, is that the Iraqi people now appear to have found the courage to betray their former leader.

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