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U.S. military: Saddam's 'on the run'

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U.S. troops guard a flatbed truck carrying two vehicles that were destroyed during a raid Sunday in Baghdad.

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CNN's Harris Whitbeck on raids by U.S. troops in Tikrit, Iraq.
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Gallery: Photos released by the United States of the corpses of Uday and Qusay Hussein   (These images are graphic and are not recommended for children and some adults. Viewer discretion is advised.)

Viewer discretion advised -- graphic video of what the U.S. says are the bodies of the Hussein brothers.
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TIKRIT, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. forces early Sunday raided three farmhouses in Saddam Hussein's ancestral hometown of Tikrit where officials said intelligence indicated Saddam's security chief -- or possibly the deposed dictator himself -- had been recently.

An official in Baghdad told CNN the security chief was not found at any of the locations and that no one was taken into custody.

Another U.S. military source, this one in Tikrit, told CNN the raids were based on "very reliable" intelligence that Saddam likely had been at the farms before the raids.

The official told CNN the military believes it has Saddam "on the run," that he is in the Tikrit area and is changing his location every two to four hours.

The official in Baghdad said, however, the raids targeted Saddam's security chief, not the former Iraqi leader.

Officials said they believe they are closing in on the deposed Iraqi president but would not predict when he would be captured, other than to say it is just a matter of time.

"I've been hunting this guy for a long time," one military official said. "I know how slippery he can be."

DNA samples will be taken from the farmhouses to determine whether Saddam had been there, officials said.

Neighbors reportedly told soldiers with the 4th Infantry Division the security chief had been in the area shortly before the raids were carried out. No casualties were reported on either side, the official said.

But a raid in Baghdad's upscale Mansour district turned tragic, according to witnesses and an Iraqi police officer who said he'd been briefed by U.S. military officials. There, witnesses described U.S. commandos dressed in black cordoning off the area around a house and then opening fire on several vehicles.

The Iraqi police officer told CNN that the civilians, apparently unaware the military had closed the area, began driving. Three civilians were killed, he said, and four others wounded.

He said U.S. military officials told him the operation targeted Saddam.

Coalition military spokesman Capt. Jeff Fitzgibbons told CNN that the operation was conducted by Task Force 20, which is made up of special operations forces from the various branches of the armed services. But he would neither confirm nor deny the operation's target or the reports of civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers arrived in Iraq for a weeklong visit and speculated on Saddam's recent activities.

"Right now he is so concerned about his survival that he is not in contact with the former regime, the Baathists, except -- best we can tell -- by couriers, not very often," Myers told CNN. "He is much more concerned with his own personal survival than he is with any revival of the regime. And we'll get him."

Troops attacked

Elsewhere Sunday, a U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded in a grenade attack, military officials said, bringing to five the number of American troops to die in Iraq this weekend.

The troops, attached to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, were attacked in Haswah about 19 miles (30 kilometers) south of Baghdad, at about 2:35 a.m. (6:35 a.m. EDT).

The attack happened shortly before Myers arrived in Iraq.

Myers, speaking with CNN's Jamie McIntyre, who traveled with him to the region, said, "The American people understand that this is a long-term effort and we've got to be patient."

"We've got to stick with it," he said. "I don't think the American people are impatient with this."

start quoteThis is what I would call a terrorist magnet end quote
-- Gen. Ricardo Sanchez

U.S. Army Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, said attacks against U.S. forces have increased in "sophistication, especially in the improvised explosive devices that they are using, and we're working to learn from that and to be able to counter them."

But he said the methods are crude, though there is some evidence the attacks are being coordinated on an area basis.

He said there is evidence that terrorists and religious extremists from outside Iraq have entered the country to engage coalition forces, but no evidence indicates they are being sponsored by other governments.

"This is what I would call a terrorist magnet, where America, being present here in Iraq, creates a target of opportunity," Sanchez said on CNN's "Late Edition."

"But this is exactly where we want to fight them. ...This will prevent the American people from having to go through their attacks back in the United States."

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U.S. Army soldiers inspect a home during a raid on three farms in Tikrit on Sunday.

U.S. Central Command said three U.S. soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division guarding a hospital northeast of Baghdad were killed Saturday in a grenade attack. Another soldier attached to the 3rd Infantry Division was killed in an attack on a convoy in Abu Ghraib, on the outskirts of Baghdad.

The attacks were the latest of the almost daily guerrilla strikes against U.S. soldiers. Since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1, 49 U.S. troops have died in hostile action. A total of 243 U.S. troops have been killed since the Iraq war began in March. (Interactive: U.S. deaths)

Other developments

• No one was injured in an attack late Sunday in Basra, a spokesman for the British forces in the southern Iraqi city told CNN. An unknown number of assailants fired several rocket-propelled grenades at a shop which the coalition suspects of selling alcohol, the spokesman said. A team of British soldiers was dispatched to the scene of the attack, the spokesman said. Basra is in a predominantly Shiite Muslim area, and under strict interpretation of Islamic law, alcohol is forbidden.

• British troops discovered an Iraqi ammunition depot Sunday, a spokesman for the British forces said. When royal engineers were called to the scene, they discovered live ammunition, including rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and mortar artillery. The engineers detonated the ammunition in controlled explosions in order to secure the area for the civilians who live nearby, the spokesman said.

• One of Saddam's second cousins has requested the release of the bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein for burial. Ezzedine Mohamed Hassan al-Majid said he made the request in a letter to U.S. provisional authority administrator L. Paul Bremer. The bodies of Uday and Qusay were displayed to journalists Friday, three days after the brothers were killed by U.S. troops in Mosul. The corpses are still in the custody of U.S. forces. (Full story) (Attack timeline, Iraqis react, Viewer discretion advised: Gallery of still photos)


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