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Saddam's spider hole to be sealed

The U.S. military released this picture of the hut where Saddam was found. He was hiding in a hole underground.
The U.S. military released this picture of the hut where Saddam was found. He was hiding in a hole underground.

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TIKRIT, Iraq (Reuters) -- Saddam Hussein's last hiding place will not be destroyed but instead will be sealed up to prevent the narrow dirt hole from becoming a tourist attraction, the U.S. Army has said.

The U.S. 4th Infantry Division, which captured Saddam in Dawr village on December 13, asked the Army for permission to destroy the hole and a nearby mud hut where the fallen Iraqi leader spent his final days on the run.

Commanders in Baghdad this week turned down the division's request, a spokeswoman for the 4th ID said.

"They said we are not going to destroy it, but rather cover it in case we need to have access to it in the future," Major Josslyn Aberle told Reuters.

"It's going to be covered and it is going to take some work to get into it."

Division engineers Monday were ordered to draw up a plan to seal the hole, most likely with concrete, she said. There is no definite timetable for sealing it shut.

The hole, which was until recently a de rigueur stop for soldiers and visiting VIPs, is no longer open for visits, Aberle said.

Officers in the 4th ID said they had asked for permission to destroy the hole to keep it from becoming a shrine to Saddam or a tourist attraction.

The Army had been guarding the hole until two weeks ago, when security at the site was turned over to the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.

About 600 4th ID soldiers and U.S. special forces captured a bearded and bedraggled Saddam inside the 5-feet long hole, which had only a strip light and ventilation fan inside.

It is barely large enough for an average-sized male to crouch inside the entrance.

Nearby was a small mud hut where Saddam was staying, in which soldiers found two beds, a refrigerator containing lemonade and hot dogs, ointment and an open box of Belgian chocolates.

A wealthy Iraqi arrested earlier provided information that led to the capture of Saddam.

The hole is on a farm beside the Tigris River about nine miles south of Saddam's hometown and power base in Tikrit, which is now where the 4th ID makes its home.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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