‘He became a tramp after being like a god’

It is five years since US forces in Iraq captured Saddam Hussein. Ukrainian photo-journalist Efrem Lukatskiy was there when the world's most wanted man was arrested after spending six months on the run. In an interview with RT, he relives the moment the b

Sixty-six-year-old Saddam was found hiding in a hole not far from his home town of Tikrit in central Iraq. Bearded and disheveled, he bore little resemblance to the well-groomed yet ruthless dictator who had governed Iraq with an iron fist.

Lukatskiy was one of the few journalists on site to record the moment Saddam was caught. In his 20 years as a photographer, working in trouble spots from Chechnya to Gaza, he’d never seen anything like it.

“There was a rug lying on the dirt out in the yard. A soldier kicked the rug and his boot hit a steel loop sticking out of the surface. After pulling the loops, they raised a large chunk of dirt, opening an entrance to a dugout,” described Lukatskiy. “No one in his right mind would go into a hole like that. There could be a mine planted there or a kamikaze willing to blow himself up along with everyone around.”

Lukatskiy said that a short discussion took place about what to do, when finally they decided they would throw a grenade into the whole. As they were about to drop the grenade a shout was heard coming from the whole.

«'Don’t throw it! I am Saddam Hussein. I’m coming out'. That’s how it was,» recalled Lukatskiy

Saddam Hussein was captured by US troops on December the 13th 2003, after more than 6 months on the run. Initially there were many random sightings of Saddam, but none could be authenticated and Saddam would sometimes release recordings of his protest against the invasion.

However, finally US soldiers were led to a farm town near Tikrit. More than 600 marines and several hundred helicopters reportedly took part in operation Red Dawn.

When Saddam finally emerged, Lukatskiy says hardly anyone believed it was him.

“The man who came out looked more like a bum than the Saddam Hussein we used to know and see on TV. He was filthy. That pit looked like a grave, and it was as small as a grave. From all his palaces, he came to live in a grave. I understand that look in his eyes pretty well. Becoming a filthy bum after being a like a god is a very hard blow, so it’s no wonder he looked that bad,” Lukatskiy said.

After a trial lasting three years, Hussein was sentenced to death and executed in December 2006. It provoked a mixed reaction worldwide, winning the approval of some countries in the west. But many in the Muslim world were appalled by his Saddam’s treatment.

But Lukatskiy believes it could not have happened any other way. After all, he says, violence begets violence.


RT Guest: Andrey Sushentsov