US assassins 'kill Iraqi chiefs' in Baghdad
AMERICAN special forces have assassinated several senior Iraqi officials in a series of bomb and sniper attacks in Baghdad and other cities, it was
American government sources say that in the past week of covert operations "more than a handful" of Republican Guard commanders and Baíath Party
officials have been killed.
The ultimate aim of the undercover squads, according to sources, is to kill Saddam Husseinís closest associates and even the Iraqi president himself.
A source said at least some of the explosions seen and heard in Baghdad were not the result of air strikes, but bombs planted by special forces.
The operations suggest US efforts to destroy the Iraqi governmentís leadership are far more extensive than previously known.
CIA officials declined to comment, but Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said: "As we have said before, we have special forces in the north, west
and south of the country."
The undercover teams carry sophisticated weapons and communications equipment capable of receiving real-time targeting intelligence to guide them to
the locations of sought-after individuals and also of transmitting information about targets with similar speed.
The agents are believed to be getting help from small numbers of trusted Iraqi exiles, who have slipped back into Baghdad, and opponents of the regime
in the city.
Former SAS commander Clive Fairweather, who helped plan the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980, said special forces operating in hostile cities would need
to have help from Iraqis to stay alive.
He said it would be extremely difficult for Westerners to move around trying to pretend to be locals. A car would probably be used to get from place
to place, as this would provide cover and make it less likely anyone would try to speak to the agents.
"You could not really pretend to be an Arab for very long. And just imagine trying to hide in the shed behind someoneís house. In the end, someone is
going to come to the shed.
"You would need support, but it might not be much."
He said special forcesí biggest problem, apart from not getting caught, would be getting enough sleep because of the amount of work they would have to
do providing targets for warplanes.
"Their main task at the moment will be communications to aircraft, and aircraft will be queuing up like cabs on a rank to use them," Fairweather
"Theyíve got a whole lot of potential tasks: number one is the removal of Saddam Hussein, which comes down to shaping plans and eating away at the
people in his infrastructure.
"But whatever they do, they are waiting on someone to betray Saddam. You can do what you like, but unless you know where heís going to be in six or
eight hours, you donít have time to plan something. You need to know a future event."
The covert teams are just one part of the so-called invisible war being waged in Iraq by the CIA and the Pentagonís special operations divisions.
Special forces are also involved in organising tribal groups to fight the Iraqi government from the north.
They are also searching for weapons of mass destruction that would help swing the tide of world opinion behind the war.
American government officials made no request for details of the operations to be withheld from publication in the US, as they have sometimes done in
other cases involving on-going covert operations.
Law experts in the US have argued that assassinating enemy soldiers or civilians who engage in military activity is legitimate during war.
America has a policy going back more than 20 years which bans political killings, but the Bush administration has concluded that it does not prevent
the president from lawfully singling out a terrorist for death by covert action.
The CIA in particular has been given the go-ahead to undertake much more risky and sensitive operations to kill enemies in the war against terror
following the September 11 atrocities.
In November, Hellfire missiles launched from a CIA drone killed six suspected al-Qaeda operatives as they drove through the desert in Yemen. One of
them, Ahmed Hijazi, was a naturalised American citizen. The main target of the strike was Abu Ali al-Harithi, who was suspected of masterminding the
attack on the destroyer USS Cole in October 2000.
Iraq said on Friday that it had captured at least three Iraqis who it said had been spying for coalition forces.
The men told state television they were paid by the CIA to identify targets for US planes and missiles and scout locations where raids had already
Meanwhile, Germanyís foreign intelligence agency said yesterday it had been unable to find any evidence that Saddam uses a series of doubles.
The Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) analysed photographs and recordings of the Iraqi leader in an attempt to find out if it was the same person.
Michaela Heber, a spokeswoman for the FIS, said: "We donít have any evidence for it."