The former Iraqi dictator was taken into custody by American troops and special operations forces at approximately 8:00pm (17:00 GMT) on Saturday 13 November, the top US military commander in Iraq said on Sunday.

"This was done during a cordon and search operation at a remote farmhouse near the city of Tikrit, said Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez. "There were no injuries, and in fact not a single shot was fired."

Sanchez said after receiving intelligence on Saturday morning about Saddam's possible whereabouts, two likely locations were identified near the northern town of Adwar.

"The 1st Brigade Combat Team from the 4th Infantry Division was assigned the mission to kill or capture Saddam Hussein," Sanchez said.

Hiding place

He said a 600-strong force entered the two suspected locations, but initially did not find its target. The soldiers then conducted an intensive search.

"The place where Saddam had been caught is an old hideout, known to many Iraqi leadership members. I don't believe that Saddam used such a very well known hideout"

Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf,
Former Iraqi information minister

A suspicious structure near the second designated location was then discovered, along with a small underground hiding place.

"The area is a small, walled compound with a metal lean-to structure, a mud hut, and during the search a spider hole was detected. The spider hole's entrance was camouflaged with bricks and dirt.

"After uncovering the spider hole, a search was conducted and Saddam Hussein was found hiding at the bottom of the hole. The spider hole is about six to eight feet (2m to 2.65m) deep and allows enough space for a person to lie down inside of it."

Sanchez said his forces also found "two AK-47s, a pistol, $750,000 in $100 denominations, and a white and orange taxi" during a search of the area.

Secret roles

Sanchez said two other Iraqis were detained along with Saddam, who was being held in an undisclosed location.

Lieutenant General Sanchez says
his troops did not fire a shot 

Officials of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) earlier said their forces took part in the operation to capture Saddam, but US statements did not mention a role by Kurdish forces.

Washington defence officials said a secret special operations team had been working with the troops that captured Saddam.

At the 4th ID's military base, set in a former Saddam palace complex, soldiers and officers broke into subdued cheers at the announcement of the capture.

"It's great," said Sergeant Ningh Waan, 28, adding with a laugh: "It's a big step toward us going home."