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Fort Carson division found an ace in the hole in Iraq

By: sgt. 1st class mike cline Fort Carson
November 26, 2017 Updated: November 26, 2017 at 4:05 am
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Caption +
Samir, a 34-year-old Iraqi-American military interpreter who helped find Saddam and pull him from his hideaway in December 2003. U.S. Army photo.

Fort Carson's 4th Infantry Division turns 100 this year and is celebrating with a series of articles highlighting the unit's history. This article features the division's actions after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

After the collapse of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime, the 4th Infantry Division operated in the area around the city of Tikrit, the Husseins' family and tribal home. The Defense Department created a deck of cards presenting the country's most wanted, and at the top was the ace of spades: Saddam Hussein.

To capture the deposed dictator, intelligence analysts with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team developed a "three-tier strategy" based around five families who had known Hussein since his youth. Army intelligence personnel created diagrams showing Hussein's network. As individuals were captured or detained, interrogations revealed further connections.

Army intelligence personnel soon focused on members of Hussein's inner circle of bodyguards.

"The Muslit family was the key - they provided all the inner circle of bodyguards," then-4th Infantry Division intelligence analyst Master Sgt. James Ferguson said.

On Oct. 11, 2003, the youngest Al-Muslit brother was caught and transferred to 4th Infantry Division custody.

During interrogation, he exposed Basim Latif, driver and close friend of Ibrahim Al-Muslit. The latter was one of the few people Hussein trusted and, therefore, a possible key to finding his location. Latif was previously interviewed and released but was brought back for further questioning. During the interrogation, he finally revealed Ibrahim Al-Muslit's current location and that he reported directly to Hussein.

Events began to move quickly after the Latif interrogation. Early in the morning Dec. 13, 2003, Task Force 121 raided one of the locations provided by Latif and captured Ibrahim Al-Muslit.

"We knew we were close," Ferguson said. "One of the task forces had captured Ibrahim Al-Muslit, and that's the one everybody was tracking as being the key."

During interrogation, Ibrahim Al-Muslit finally revealed that Hussein was hiding at a farm in Ad Dawr, south of Tikrit. Later that evening, as part of Operation Red Dawn, the 1st Brigade Combat Team led by Col. James Hickey and Task Force 121 targeted two farmhouses near the Tigris River. The initial search failed to locate Hussein; however, two cooperating human intelligence sources eventually revealed his hiding spot.

After converging on the revealed location, there was a shack where a scrap of canvas laid on the ground. When it was removed, a Styrofoam plug with rope handles was found. The plug concealed the entrance to a small underground room. When the soldiers pulled the cover off the "spider hole," a shaggy, bearded man raised his hands and said, "I am Saddam Hussein. I am the president of Iraq, and I am willing to negotiate."

At 8:15 a.m., Saddam Hussein was in custody. The ace in the hole was found. Then-4th Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno would later brief reporters that Saddam Hussein "was caught just like a rat."

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