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Whitbeck: U.S. troops find weapons in Saddam's hometown

The Tikrit homes raided belong to supporters of Saddam Hussein.
The Tikrit homes raided belong to supporters of Saddam Hussein.

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• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

(CNN) -- U.S. troops have been searching for former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, focusing on Tikrit, his ancestral home. CNN Correspondent Harris Whitbeck was with troops as they raided several homes in the area Monday in a search for reported weapons caches. Later, Whitbeck spoke with CNN anchor Carol Costello.

WHITBECK: The raids that have been staged out of this base, one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces, have been staged by the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, which has been operating in the area and is responsible for maintaining stability and security in the region.

They have been conducting all sorts of raids for several weeks now, and the raid that they conducted today wasn't necessarily to look for Saddam Hussein. They were looking into reports of some arms caches that had been located in some houses that belonged to supporters of Saddam's.

They went into these houses very early this morning and found a significant amount of arms, weapons, ammunition. They also found a lot of documentation and a lot of photographs that showed Saddam Hussein apparently putting a medal on the chest of one of those senior family members.

Also, one of the women, as they were being pulled out of their house, apparently started chanting pro-Saddam Hussein chants, if you will, and she was actually bound and gagged because of that.

Now, soldiers here say that these raids are very useful to them, because it helps them to gather intelligence on what is going on in the region, and it also helps them to figure out what kind of movements are being made by Saddam Hussein loyalists.

Specifically, however, today's raid was to look for these weapons, which they did find. And, again, they feel that intelligence that is being gathered from some of those who were detained might help them gain a better understanding of the overall picture in this region, which is considered to be a hot zone, if you will, because this is the tribal homeland of Saddam Hussein.

And just a few days ago, there were reports that his new security chief had been in the area. A raid was staged on one of his farms, and he, of course, was not found. He had left there, according to sources on the ground, just a few hours earlier.

The commander of the region here is optimistic. He says it is just a matter of time, a matter of short time, according to him, before Saddam Hussein is finally caught. Why is that? Because he's moving around trying very hard not to get caught.

He's moving around every two to four hours, and that makes military sources here on the ground seem to feel that they will get him eventually. Not saying that it will necessarily be here in Tikrit, but they are focusing on Tikrit, because of the fact that this is basically his land.

COSTELLO: They keep saying they're missing him by two to four hours. Are they finding evidence in the homes they are searching as to that?

WHITBECK: Well, they are not saying that they're missing him every two to four hours. They say that they have intelligence which indicates that he is moving around every two to four hours.

Again, you know, there was this incident where they missed his new chief of security, and some reports indicate that Saddam might have been in the vicinity as well. Again, all commanders on the ground can do is keep staging these raids, and they keep staging them quite continuously based on intelligence that they are gathering from people here on the ground.


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