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U.S.: Leading Saddam aide caught

American soldier killed in Baghdad attack

Pentagon sources say Gen. Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, left -- former personal secretary and senior bodyguard to Saddam Hussein -- has been captured.
Pentagon sources say Gen. Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, left -- former personal secretary and senior bodyguard to Saddam Hussein -- has been captured.

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CNN's Jamie McIntyre reports on the capture of Gen. Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, Saddam's personal secretary and cousin.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. forces in Iraq have captured Gen. Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, who was Saddam Hussein's personal secretary, national security adviser and senior bodyguard, Pentagon sources said Wednesday.

Mahmud is the ace of diamonds in the U.S. military's deck of 55 most-wanted Iraqis and No. 4 on the list behind Saddam and his sons Uday and Qusay. (Flash card deck: Iraq's most-wanted; non-Flash gallery)

Mahmud may know a lot about the location of Iraq's possible weapons of mass destruction and whereabouts of the former Iraqi leader, one official told CNN.

Pentagon sources said he was captured Monday in a raid by U.S. special operations forces near the north-central Iraq town of Tikrit, along with other members of Saddam's special security forces.

The United States kept Mahmud's capture secret for a day in case Saddam also was hiding in the same area, sources said.

Separate raids Tuesday on two farmhouses near Tikrit netted more than $8 million in cash and one of Saddam's other bodyguards, according to Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, in a videoconference from Baghdad.

Odierno said 15 to 20 people connected with Saddam's special security forces had been apprehended in the raids. (Gallery: Raids in Tikrit)

Also seized were Russian-made night vision goggles, sniper rifles, military uniforms, some 400 million in Iraqi dinar currency and an undetermined amount of cash in British pounds and euros.

Odierno linked the huge stockpile of cash with what the United States believes is an effort by Saddam loyalists to pay people to attack U.S. troops.

"They have put a bounty on shooting on American soldiers and trying to kill U.S. soldiers," Odierno told reporters.

"They try to recruit individuals and will say, 'If you kill Americans, we'll pay you so much money.' And so they pay them in cash. And they have different kinds of cash to pay different kinds of people," he said.

A U.S. soldier was killed Wednesday and another wounded in a drive-by attack in southern Baghdad, a U.S. military spokesman said. Witnesses told CNN the troops were shot by an Iraqi man who approached the vehicle on foot.

Since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq, more than 50 U.S. troops have been killed in hostile actions and accidents, according to the Pentagon.

In a separate incident Wednesday, U.S. troops shot and killed two Iraqis who were part of an angry crowd of former Iraqi soldiers that surrounded an American convoy outside coalition provisional authority headquarters, according to the U.S. military. (Gallery: Confrontation in Baghdad)

"This particular convoy ... felt threatened as Iraqis swarmed their vehicles and started breaking out windows and throwing rocks at extremely close range," said U.S. Army Capt. Scott Nauman.

"The personnel in the convoy who were directly being attacked did shoot two people. It did appear to be in self-defense."

Sources told CNN that apparently a single U.S. soldier opened fire with an M-16.

The captain said demonstrators had pelted his soldiers with rocks for about an hour when the convoy passed and the crowd approached.

The former soldiers were protesting a lack of pay and other issues. They have not received a paycheck in three months, Nauman said.

Some 250,000 former Iraqi soldiers no longer have jobs after the United States dismissed them following Saddam's overthrow.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Wednesday that while major combat is over, President Bush warns of danger from a "loose-knit group" of Baath Party loyalists.

"There continue to be elements that support Saddam Hussein," Fleischer said. "These are violent people. They governed Iraq with violence."

Other developments

• Bush offered a strong defense Wednesday of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a staunch ally. Blair and Bush have faced accusations of exaggerating the threat from Saddam Hussein to justify war with Iraq. "I'll say something right now. He operated on very sound intelligence. And those accusations are simply not true," said Bush, responding to a reporter's question during a meeting with senators at the White House. Blair joined Bush in going to war with Iraq in the face of massive opposition in his country and much of Europe. He now faces multiple inquiries from the British Parliament, including some from his own Labor Party, about whether claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction were exaggerated.

• Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Wednesday there is no sign of a central or regional organization behind attacks on U.S. troops, but added that they are likely to continue for some time. "In those regions where pockets of dead-enders are trying to reconstitute, General Franks and his team are rooting them out," he said. Ambushes have killed 16 U.S. troops in Iraq since Bush declared an end to major combat May 1, and another 36 have died in accidents. U.S. forces have launched a major effort to hunt down remaining pockets of resistance, dubbed "Operation Desert Scorpion."

• India is considering a U.S. request to send more than 15,000 troops to Iraq as a stabilization force, senior Indian officials told CNN. A Pentagon team, led by Assistant Defense Secretary Peter Rodman, visited New Delhi on Monday to clarify troop-deployment issues.

CNN correspondents Jane Arraf, Satinder Bindra, David Ensor, Jamie McIntyre, Barbara Starr and Ben Wedeman and CNN Producer Paul Courson contributed to this report.

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