COMICAL ALI 'HELD' (NO JOKE)
Jun 25 2003
From Paul Martin In Baghdad
COMICAL Ali, Saddam Hussein's ludicrous spin doctor, has been arrested in Baghdad, it was claimed last night.
Information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf had been hiding out at a relative's house since April watching satellite TV - banned under Saddam.
US troops set up a road block in the Baghdad suburb and caught him in his car on Monday night.
Al-Sahaf - who became a comic hero for his ridiculous denials of the truth in the Gulf War including "We are winning" as Baghdad fell - gave himself up without a fuss.
It was thought he might have killed himself when he disappeared on the day the Iraqi regime collapsed, still insisting Saddam would prevail.
But after his arrest the man, infamous for his amazing lies, begged US soldiers to save him from the embarrassment of being taken away publicly in a conspicuous armoured Humvee.
He was allowed to go into the house where he has apparently been holed up with his wife Lamia, daughter Thefaf and doctor sons Ziad and Isama, to collect a toothbrush, razor and book.
He wore a short-sleeved shirt, rather than his trademark army uniform and beret but was told to remove his tie for fear he might try suicide.
The Americans hope that Sahaf, who did not appear in their deck of cards of Iraq's most wanted, will tell them where Saddam is hiding.
A senior coalition source said: "He has some serious talking to do ... this time."
Relatives said Sahaf has been in a state of shock since the regime collapsed.
He was the last member of Saddam's Ba'ath party to abandon his post, giving his final briefing on the morning the tyrant's statue was symbolically toppled in the capital.
In it he cheerily insisted: "There is no presence of American infidels in Baghdad. They are going to surrender or be burned in their tanks". As he was speaking, US troops were pouring into view behind him, waving to cheering Iraqis.
A colleague at the radio station where he had sent desperate propaganda broadcasts in the last days, told how he had returned and poignantly removed his beret and epaulettes, threw the keys of his Mercedes and his satellite phone into the Tigris River and vanished.
His disappearance prompted rumours he had hanged himself on a lamppost, unable to cope with the reality that Saddam had finally gone.
But he is reported to have spent much of his time watching banned satellite television which his homes have had for many years. Friends said his main pleasures were a few shots of Scotch whiskey and regular barbecues of skewered beef and lamb.
Meanwhile, a worldwide industry exploiting his cult status is growing around the world.
A website set up in his honour crashed after receiving 4,000 hits per second.
And fans have bought thousands of t-shirts with his picture and his most fanciful sayings including: "We slaughtered them and we will continue to slaughter them. God is grilling their stomachs in hell."
I think it's cool that they had to write "NO JOKE" at the top, to remind everybody what newspaper they are reading...