On this day: Saddam Hussein is captured

December 13 2003: An Iraqi dictator is caught

By Jennifer Lipman, December 13, 2010

On March 20 2003 the US-led invasion of Iraq began and within three weeks the Iraqi government had fallen. But while the statue of Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein was famously toppled on April 9, the army’s attempts to hit him with air strikes failed twice and when Baghdad fell his whereabouts were unknown.

In the months after the invasion, rumours of sightings abounded, but it was not until December that he was found in an isolated farmhouse in ad-Dawr near Tikrit.

Footage showed the former dictator unshaven and with long hair, although he was said to be in good medical condition when he was transported to a US base nearby. He remained in prison for more than three years and was eventually hanged on December 30 2006.

Following the capture the then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon congratulated US President George W Bush for the feat.

Sharon told his American counterpart: “Today was a great day for the democratic world, for those fighting for freedom and justice, and for those who object to terror.

“The entire world can breath a sigh of relief, because the dictator who ruined Iraq cannot interfere with its reconstruction and rehabilitation," Mr Sharon said.

“All dictatorships, especially those contaminated with terror, have learned an important lesson today.

Meanwhile a Palestinian spokesman for Yasir Arafat's Fatah party said: "Saddam is a dictator and the Iraqi people suffered under him, but on the other hand, it was the (American) occupation that caught him.

"There will be a sense of confusion in the public."

Historically, Iraq had a thriving and large Jewish population. But under Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Jews were persecuted and by the time of Saddam’s capture there were fewer than 20 Jews left in the country.

During the Second Intifada he sent $35 million to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and paid the families of suicide bomber $20,000 for killing Israelis.

What history professor Bernard Wasserstein said in the JC: The removal from the scene of Saddam Hussein promises to revolutionise the political landscape of the Middle East and revive the prospects of a lasting settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Six Arab countries sent forces to try to strangle the fledgling “Zionist entity” at its birth in 1948: Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Of these, Iraq is the only one which has not only never made peace with Israel, but has also yet to sign any diplomatic accord, or make any serious proposal for some form of accommodation, with Israel.

See more from the JC archives here

Last updated: 9:16am, December 13 2010