(AP) NEW YORK – Saddam Hussein has been seen north of Baghdad and is paying a bounty for every American soldier killed, the leader of an Iraqi exile group said Tuesday.
Saddam has $1.3 billion in cash taken from the Central Bank on March 18, is bent on revenge, and believes he can “sit it out and get the Americans going,” said Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress.
But Saddam also bought suicide vests for himself and his secretary on April 1 from the mukhabarat, the Iraqi secret police, he said.
The ousted Iraqi leader has been sighted on several recent occasions moving in an arc from Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, around the Tigris River toward his hometown of Tikrit and into the Dulaimi areas to the west of the Tigris, Chalabi said.
The latest sighting was about two weeks before Chalabi left on his current U.S. trip — and the best sighting was three days old.
“Now, he’s put a price on American soldiers. He will pay bounty for every American soldier killed in Iraq now. This has been spread around in the western part of the country,” Chalabi told the Council on Foreign Relations.
He said the casualty rate for American soldiers “is close to one a day, which is not good.”
The United States has been putting more troops into areas where the killings are taking place, but Chalabi said soldiers in their armored vehicles “are sitting ducks for terrorists.”
The United States instead should move quickly to create an Iraqi security force under U.S. command, he said. This can be done in six weeks with help from community leaders to weed out criminals and members of Saddam’s Baath Party and would allow the United States to reduce its force.
“They can actually provide order quickly,” he said.
Chalabi, 58, has been mentioned widely as a future Iraqi leader — though he denies any ambitions to lead the country. He also has many critics who are opposed to anyone ruling Iraq after spending so many years abroad and who oppose his business dealings in Jordan.