A US commandos force arrested former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who disappeared immediately after the toppling of his regime. The search and arrest of Saddam was a priority for the US political and military leadership, especially after the operations targeting these forces escalated in several Iraqi regions.
Everyone saw the scene of Saddam covered with grass, dirt, and sand, coming out of what looked like a primitive room underground, ventilated through a plastic pipe.
Saddam was bearded, with bushy hair, and appeared surprised rather than scared. He was surrounded by members of the Delta Force, which was tasked with capturing him.
However, to date, none of the soldiers who participated in the operation dared to reveal the details of the process in Ad-Dawr, Tikrit, which traditionally supported Saddam.
Under US law, details of the operations are supposed to be kept confidential until 2028. However, retired Army Master Sergeant Kevin Holland revealed details of the operation during an episode of "Danger Close" podcast with Navy SEAL and Task Unit Commander Jack Carr.
Last December, Carr persuaded Holland to reveal information about the operation during a videotaped interview.
The Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, follows a strict approach that prevents members from speaking to the press. Still, it seemed that Holland wanted to relieve his conscious.
Nine months have passed since the fall of Baghdad, and Saddam remained free at large. He was last seen on Apr. 09, when he mounted a car to address the crowds.
The US launched Operation Red Dawn to capture Saddam, setting a large reward to whoever provided information leading to his arrest.
Holland reported that over 30,000 soldiers and intelligence were recruited to this operation, In addition to a small group of Delta Force, including Holland.
All efforts were fruitless until the forces captured Saddam's private guards, namely M.A.M, who gave details about the former president's hiding place.
The hideout was in a farm set in a deserted expanse lined with only one road, Holland said, where Iraqis loyal to Hussein would station themselves to notify them of any approaching forces.
Holland recalled that M.A.M. led the force to Saddam's hiding place, which they reached at 8:30 PM, describing how the squadron uncovered and unplugged the hole and saw it was lined with bricks like someone was hiding in it. They threw a grenade into it and heard an Arabic voice gradually growing louder.
After that, the squad that used the lights of its searchlight weapons made sure that Saddam was hiding in this place. Soldiers then attempted to use a dog, but, according to Holland, the animal was too scared to enter.
'So, finally, once he pulls the dogs back, we start hearing somebody talk in Arabic, and the interpreter starts talking back,' Holland continues.
"Then hands come out of the hole and a big bushy head of hair, and then we grab him and jerk him out — and it [was] like, 'Well, that's him,'" Holland said.
Holland recalled one of his squad members who helped pull out the deposed Iraqi president saying, "Holy cow, it's him," in shock.
He said that Saddam was armed with a Glock 18, so another Delta Force member punched him in the mouth to get the gun away.
He then said he was the president of Iraq and he was ready to negotiate, according to Holland. "He said that in English." They told him that President Bush sent his regards.
Holland then described how they transported the leader by helicopter to a military base in Tikrit and eventually to Baghdad to be imprisoned by the new government.
Holland confirmed that he went down to the room where Saddam was hiding, using the light on his gun, but then went back out to ask for another light to improve visibility.
According to the informants, Saddam spent most of his time outside, specifically on the farm near his hideout, and two private guards were in charge of cooking.
Holland explained that after realizing he would not be killed, Saddam gave off the impression that he was back in charge, noting that he was restrained and one held him by the beard.
"'Another guy had him by the back of the head and shook his head back and forth to make him quit touching us."
According to Holland, General Ricardo Sanchez concluded after he visited Saddam in his prison that the latter was cooperating, willing to talk, and accepting his fate.
Saddam was tried and convicted by an Iraqi court of crimes against humanity and was sentenced to death by hanging and executed on Dec. 30, 2006.