Claims that US troops captured Saddam Hussein have been challenged by reports that he was discovered only after Kurdish forces had taken him prisoner.
The deposed president was drugged and abandoned ready for the American soldiers to recover him, a British tabloid newspaper reported Sunday.
Saddam came into the hands of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) after being betrayed by a member of the al-Jabour tribe, whose daughter had been raped by Saddam's son Uday, leading to a blood feud, reported the Sunday Express, quoting an unnamed senior British military intelligence officer.
Washington's claims that brilliant US intelligence work led to the capture of Saddam are also being challenged by reports sourced in Iraq's Kurdish language media that say its militia set up the circumstances in which the US merely had to go to a farm identified by the Kurds to bag the fugitive former president.
American forces took Saddam into custody about 8:30pm local time on the Saturday, but sat on the dramatic news until 3pm the next day. But early on Sunday, a Kurdish language wire service reported explicitly: "Saddam Hussein was captured by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. A special intelligence unit led by Qusrat Rasul Ali, a high-ranking member of the PUK, found Saddam Hussein in the city of Tikrit, his birthplace. Qusrat's team was accompanied by a group of US soldiers. Details of the capture will emerge but the global Kurdish party is about to begin."
The Western media in Baghdad were electrified by the revelation, but as reports of the arrest built, they relied almost exclusively on accounts from within US military and intelligence organisations, starting with the words of the US-appointed administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer: "Ladies and gentlemen, we got 'im."
A report from the PUK's northern stronghold, Suliymaniah, last week claimed a vital intelligence breakthrough after a telephone conversation between Qusrat Rasul Ali and Saddam's second wife, Samira, which had prompted the Kurds to move units of their Peshmerga fighters to where Saddam was hiding.
The report, from the MENA agency, as monitored by the BBC, said the Americans had insisted that it be an American arrest because they worried that such a coup for the Kurds might provoke an Arab-Kurd civil war.
A Kurdish member of the Iraq Governing Council, Mahmud Othman, also suggested a critical role for Kurds in the arrest when he said on the Sunday: "Before 4am (more than 12 hours ahead of the US announcement) today, Qusrat Rasul Ali called me to inform me that his men, with the Americans, had managed to capture Saddam Hussein."
US intelligence officers have concluded that Saddam was directing the postwar insurgency inside Iraq, playing a far more active role than thought.
Despite his bewildered appearance when he was hauled from his hiding hole last weekend, he is believed to have been issuing regular instructions on targets and tactics through five trusted lieutenants.
Documents found in Saddam's briefcase indicated that he had been kept informed of the progress of the insurgency, but did not suggest he had overall control of operations by former Baath Party loyalists. But since the arrest and interrogation of guerilla leaders named in the paperwork, US investigators now believe Saddam headed an elaborate network of rebel cells.
The investigators have put together a picture of Saddam's support structure, enabling him to issue commands without using satellite phones, which monitoring devices can hear.
© 2003. The Age Company Ltd