Saddam Hussein's sons Odai and Qusai – two of the most feared and powerful members of their father's deposed regime – were killed in a six-hour firefight Tuesday when U.S. forces stormed a palatial villa in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul, a senior American general said.
"We are certain that Odai and Qusai were killed today," said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez at a news conference in Baghdad. "The bodies were in such a condition where you could identify them."
Four coalition soldiers were wounded and two other Iraqis were killed in the raid, but Saddam was not among them. The house belonged to one of Saddam's cousins, a key tribal leader in the region.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters the Iraqi people should be assured that two "leaders of a brutal regime" are gone. President Bush is described as "pleased" with the news that the Hussein brothers are dead.
In the official version, the shoot-out sequence began when an Iraqi informer walked into a U.S. military location in Iraq Monday night and provided information that the two brothers were staying in a villa on the north side of Mosul. But, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart, sources say U.S. intelligence had already sniffed out the same lead and the tipster only confirmed their suspicions.
Inside the villa, troops uncovered "small arms," "several documents linked to the brothers," plus the "body of Mustafa Hussein," Saddam's grandchild and Qusai's son, who was known to travel with his father, plus the "body of a lower-level bodyguard."
Military intelligence agents made the first identification by examining the bodies; then persons who knew the brothers well also confirmed their identity.
As for where Saddam's sons have been all this time, officials say they do not have a clear roadmap. There was also no sign of Saddam Hussein in the Mosul area and there has been no new intelligence on his whereabouts since U.S. forces launched a quick strike against a convoy of SUVs on the Iraqi-Syrian border.
The deaths of the sons could have a major impact on the Iraqi resistance, which has been mounting about a dozen attacks a day against U.S. occupation troops. The guerrillas are thought to be former military officers and Baath Party leaders loyal to Saddam and his family, especially the sons, who played primary roles in the military and feared security services.
Odai and Qusai ranked second only to their father in the deposed regime. They were Nos. 2 and 3 on the U.S. list of 55 top former Iraqi officials wanted by Washington. The U.S. had offered a $25 million reward for information leading to Saddam's capture and $15 million each for his sons.
Ironically for the brothers, if they had taken their father's advice they might still be alive today. U.S. officials now say they had reliable reports that just before Baghdad fell and the family made a run for it, Saddam had urged his sons to split up so as not to attract attention. Clearly, they didn't listen.
In Washington, L. Paul Bremer, Iraq's top civilian administrator, said he did not want to comment on how the deaths of Saddam's sons would affect security in Iraq.
However, Bremer said: "It certainly is good news for the Iraqi people."
"This will contribute significantly to reducing attacks on coalition soldiers," said Ahmad Chalabi, a delegate from the Coalition Provisional Authority, speaking at the United Nations.
Hours after the raid in Mosul, gunfire erupted throughout Baghdad, making travel very dangerous. The shooting was believed to be celebratory as news of the killing of the sons spread through the capital.
"It's probably very appropriate that they would be celebrating about now," Sanchez said.
Qusai, Saddam's younger son, was his father's likely successor, U.S. intelligence officials said. He ran much of Iraq's security apparatus, controlling several militias, internal security services and the military forces of the once-vaunted Republican Guard.
He was described as quiet and level, particularly compared to Odai, Saddam's eldest son, who had a reputation for brutality and flamboyance. Odai controlled Saddam's Fedayeen, the paramilitary force that fought U.S. troops during the war; many of its survivors are thought to be part of the ongoing guerrilla campaign in Iraq.
Odai also controlled information and propaganda in Saddam's Iraq, and was chairman of the country's Olympic committee.
Saddam has a third, younger son, according to some reports, and three daughters. All kept a low profile in his regime.
Mosul, a town 240 miles northwest of Baghdad that housed Iraqi army bases, is outside the so-called "Sunni Triangle" in central Iraq home to much of the remaining support for Saddam, a Sunni Muslim who used his Baathist Party to oppress the country's Shiite majority.
The triangle is also a center of anti-American resistance: In the latest attack, Tuesday, a U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded in an ambush along a dangerous road north of Baghdad. His death brought to 153 the number of U.S. troops killed in action since the March 20 start of war, six more than during the 1991 Gulf War.
In other developments: