Saddam's bodyguard warns of secret arsenal
Herald Sun Sunday, Australia - 02feb03:
SADDAM Hussein's senior bodyguard has fled with details of Iraq's secret arsenal.
His revelations have supported US President George W. Bush's claim there is enough evidence from UN inspectors to justify going to war.
Abu Hamdi Mahmoud has provided Israeli intelligence with a list of sites that the inspectors have not visited.
AN underground chemical weapons facility at the southern end of the Jadray Peninsula in Baghdad;
A SCUD assembly area near Ramadi. The missiles come from North Korea;
TWO underground bunkers in Iraq's Western Desert. These contain biological weapons.
William Tierney, a former UN weapons inspector who has continued to gather information on Saddam's arsenal, said Mahmoud's information is "the smoking gun".
"Once the inspectors go to where Mahmoud has pointed them, then it's all over for Saddam," Tierney said.
Tierney, who has high-level contacts in Washington that go to the White House, said the information we publish today on Mahmoud's revelations "checks out, absolutely checks out".
Mahmoud was a mem ber of the elite unit that protects Saddam.
It is called the Murasiq Qun – the "Inner Circle".
He was known as "The Gatekeeper".
Mahmoud is a muscular Saddam lookalike often photographed standing behind Saddam when he is seated, or to his left when on the move.
Last week, Mahmoud was being debriefed at a high-security base in Israel's Negev Desert.
Ariel Sharon, the country's hard-line prime minister, has only allowed snippets of Mahmoud's sensational claims to be shared with the CIA and MI6.
"Sharon intends to shatter the growing anti-war movement," a source close to Mr Sharon said.
"He plans to call all those European leaders who are wavering to let them know how Saddam has continued to fool Hans Blix and his weapons inspectors."
Mahmoud's revelations include locations of five bunkers buried beneath man-made sand dunes.
Stockpiled in the bunkers are warheads identical to the empty shell cases found two weeks ago by the UN inspectors.
Mahmoud said those shells were on their way to be refilled and stored in the bunkers.
A transcript from his debriefing includes:
"Saddam's weapons of mass destruction are also concealed in a tunnel complex deep beneath the sewers of Baghdad and in an underground complex in Ouja, to the north of Tikrit.
"The complex was built five years ago with help from Chinese engineers.
"The entrance to the site is through a house in Tikrit. It is the home of one of Saddam's cousins and is more than half a mile from where the weapons are stored."
In another excerpt from his debriefing, Mahmoud boasts: "I was inside the innermost circle where Saddam eats and sleeps.
"I was among the handful of bodyguards closest to him.
"Very few people are allowed close to Saddam.
"Many of the TV images you see of him were taken years ago. Most people now only speak to him over the phone. He usually calls them.
"If they have to call him back with information he wants, it is passed through his sons (Uday and Qusay) or (Deputy Prime Minister) Tariq Aziz.
"All those close to him have codes, which they use to access the outer circle. But even they can only come so close to Saddam before there is a cut-off point – the Inner Circle. Even Tariq Aziz is checked to see if he is carrying weapons.
"Saddam knows fortunes are being offered to have him assassinated."
Saddam's paranoia increased after Uday, his eldest son, narrowly escaped assassination when gunmen riddled his car with bullets in 1996. Uday was partially paralysed and uses a wheelchair.
To avoid falling victim to even his own bodyguards, Saddam is a walking arsenal.
"He has concealed guns all over his body," Mahmoud said.
"He also has panic buttons to press if he even suspects somebody is about to attack him."
Israeli intelligence sources have hinted that the deal with Mahmoud included smuggling his family out of Iraq.
Mossad agents have done this before.
At the start of Saddam's reign of terror, they persuaded an Iraqi pilot to fly his Russian fighter to Israel – after spiriting out his wife and children.