ARMY LT. GEN. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of allied military operations in Iraq, said at a news conference Tuesday night in Baghdad that four
Iraqis were killed in a fierce six-hour gunbattle that broke out when U.S. troops arrived to search the house, which reportedly belonged to a cousin
Without saying how, Sanchez said ďmultiple sourcesĒ had confirmed that the brothers were among the four dead people.
ďWeíre certain that Odai and Qusai were killed today,Ē Sanchez said. ďThe bodies are in a condition where you could identify them.Ē
U.S. officials told NBC News separately on condition of anonymity that senior Iraqi figures in U.S. custody had positively identified the brothers
after their bodies were taken to Baghdad. Old bullet wounds further cemented the identification of Odai Hussein, who was shot 17 times and badly
wounded in an assassination attempt in 1996.
How Saddam's sons were identified
The two other casualties were a teenage boy ó possibly Qusaiís 14-year-old son, Mustapha, who was known to travel with him ó and a man who could be a
bodyguard, U.S. officials said. Sanchez said he could not confirm those reports.
The house was badly damaged, and its roof caved in after it was apparently hit by a missile. U.S. Central Command said in a statement Wednesday
morning that four coalition soldiers were being treated for undisclosed injuries. Some civilians appeared to have been caught in the cross-fire, and
several were taken to a hospital.
Sanchez would not speculate on what impact the deaths would have on security in Iraq, where U.S. troops have been the target of almost daily attacks.
But the brothers were below only Saddam himself in importance to the regime, and their capture or elimination was a key goal of U.S. postwar
The White House said in a statement that it was ďpleasedĒ that the brothers were dead. ďOver the period of many years, these two individuals were
responsible for countless atrocities committed against the Iraqi people and they can no longer cast a shadow of hate on Iraq,Ē it said.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed the killings and called it ďa great day for the new Iraq.Ē
ďThese particular two people were the head of the regime, which was not just a security threat because of its weapons program but was responsible for
the torture and killing of thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqis,Ē Blair told reporters Wednesday in Hong Kong.
ĎWALK-IN TIPí FROM IRAQI SOURCE
The United States had offered a $25 million bounty for Saddam and $15 million for each of his sons. Sanchez said that the raid Tuesday morning was
based on ďa walk-in tipĒ from an Iraqi source and that the U.S. government expected to pay the reward.
The New York Times, quoting Kurdish officials, said the two men were seen racing from a car into a house in Mosul, 280 miles north of Baghdad, about 9
a.m. (1 a.m. ET) and were filmed. The film was handed over to the U.S. military, which identified the men and surrounded the house with troops from
the 101st Airborne Division, the Times said.
July 22 ó Iraqis were hoping that the reports were true but said the real news would come only when Saddam himself was killed. NBCís Tom Aspell
reports from Iraq.
U.S. officials told NBC News that the owner of the villa in the al-Falah neighborhood of Mosul was a cousin of Saddamís who is an important tribal
leader in the area.
Sanchez said U.S. troops encountered small-arms fire when they arrived to search the home and called in helicopters to subdue the resistance. The
ďsuspects barricaded themselves in the houseĒ and ďresisted fiercely,Ē he said.
BROTHERS FEARED ACROSS IRAQ
The development was considered a significant coup for U.S. forces. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, told reporters in Washington that it
was a ďgreat day for the Iraqi people, a great day for the American military.Ē
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told MSNBC.comís Tom Curry that the U.S. troops did ďa superb jobĒ and praised ďthe
professionalism in conducting this strike.Ē
ďOur forces are taking the fight to the insurgents ó not sitting back waiting,Ē Warner said. ďIím optimistic that this most recent action will clearly
reveal that once again we have been able to get the key people that are inspiring and financing and otherwise providing for this insurgency.Ē
Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, told reporters in New York: ďThis is very important. This will contribute considerably to reducing
attacks on coalition soldiers. Both of those characters are hated figures in Iraq.Ē
U.S. SOLDIER KILLED
Word of the deaths took several hours to reach most Iraqis, many of whom do not have television sets or radios.
Tuesday night, heavy gunfire and loud explosions were heard in Baghdad, the capital, where NBC News producers said celebrations had begun. In the
confusion, a U.S. Army unit believing it was coming under fire shot a man twice in the chest and a girl who looked to be 6 to 8 years old in the head.
Their conditions were not known.