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New details of Saddam capture

Pulled from spider hole, Saddam asks: "America, why?"


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(CNN) -- After an extensive search of an Iraqi farm on December last year, U.S. Special Forces and a translator named Samir brushed aside leaves and dirt from one area of the farm, uncovering the spider hole where Saddam Hussein was hiding.

"I grabbed him," Samir told CNN in a recent interview. "I was like I am not going to let him go."

"I told him that if you're a real man, you should have killed yourself," he added.

At one point, Samir said the former dictator called him a traitor and a spy -- words that resulted in the once-ruthless dictator getting punched in the face.

"He made me really upset and I had to punch him. I was so angry," he said, adding that the Special Forces made him stop after a couple of blows.

Samir spoke to Ron Young, a special contributor to CNN, on condition that only his first name be used due to security concerns.

Samir said he knew immediately that it was Saddam in his grasp, even though the former Iraqi leader looked ragged.

"I told them, 'This is Saddam.' They didn't believe me at first. They said, 'Ask him his name.' I said, 'This is Saddam.' They said, 'No, ask him,'" Samir recalls with a laugh.

"I asked him, 'What's your name?' First, he said, 'Uh.'

"I said, 'What's your name?' He said, 'I'm Saddam.' ... I had to really yell at him and stuff. He said, 'I am Saddam Hussein.'"

Samir said the former dictator only spoke two words of English: "America, why?" -- a line Saddam said three times.

"I remember one of the forces told me to tell him, 'The reason we are here (is) because President Bush sent us to find you,'" Samir said.

"His response was, 'My shoes' -- he said in Arabic -- 'My shoes are better than you and your family.'"

For Samir, the journey to the farm in Saddam's homeland was a long, difficult and unlikely trek. A Shia in the Iraqi town of Nasiriya, he grew up hating the Iraqi dictator.

During the 1991 Gulf War, he and other Iraqis rebelled against Saddam's Baath Party, but when the American forces left, Samir feared retribution.

He first went to the Iraqi-Kuwait border. He says the Saudi government then set up a refugee camp for thousands of Iraqis and he stayed there for a couple of years.

Eventually, the United Nations granted him refugee status and he made his way -- with "six bucks in my pocket" -- to the midwestern U.S. city of St. Louis. He learned English in St. Louis and later became a U.S. citizen.

'Little bitty dirty hole'

When he heard President George W. Bush talking of going to war against Iraq, Samir wanted to help. He applied for a job as a translator and got it. He arrived in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003.

It would be a few months later when his life would change forever.

Samir said he and the U.S. Special Forces were led to the Iraqi farm by one of Saddam's former bodyguards.

"We had his bodyguard. He's the one we were looking for, because we knew he would lead to Saddam. I was the translator for this guy. And he started crying. He said, 'Don't kill me. I'll show you where Saddam is.' And we got him to the farm by 8 o'clock p.m. on a Saturday night.

"Forces went inside and they searched the whole farm, and there's no sign of Saddam."

Samir said the bodyguard then pointed to the "little bitty dirty hole" and said, "Dig in here." The hole had been covered by leaves and dirt.

"When you think about looking for Saddam Hussein, that dictator, the one who has the power over all of his people, it just doesn't cross your mind. But he was there. He was there," Samir said.

Forces fired in the hole and Saddam "started yelling inside. And they said Samir come talk to him, tell him to come out. And he starts yelling, 'Don't shoot, don't kill me, don't shoot.'"

Once Saddam was in his hands, Samir said he looked at the former dictator and said, "You call yourself a hero and a leader of the Arab nation, you are a nobody."

Last month, Samir met Bush. He showed the president a famous picture of him on top of Saddam during the capture.

"I told him, 'Sir, this is me on Saddam.' And he said he saw it. He saw the picture."

For Americans who say the war was not worth it, Samir has this message, "I want to tell them what they do in Iraq is the right thing, because they save a life, they are changing the Iraq."


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