Saddam Hussein’s underground lair with dictator’s underpants and stench of sweat

Saddam Hussein was captured nearly 20 years ago today from a creepy underground lair littered with his underwear and filled with the smell of his sweat.

The former Iraqi dictator, who first came to power in 1979 and led the nation on-and-off until he was apprehended on December 13, 2003, had been hunkering down for months avoiding a multi-million pound manhunt. Helicopters whizzed overhead as hundreds of troops descended upon the farmland near Tikrit on the fateful day he was finally found.

Hussein was dragged out of an eight-foot hole and taken into custody. A US officer, Major Gordon Tate, told The Mirror shortly after he was found: "He lived like a lion and was captured like a rat."

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The publication's defence and security editor Chris Hughes, who visited the bunker in the wake of Hussein's capture, recalled the moment he first saw the den. After making the lengthy journey from Baghdad and entering the hideout, he said: "The air in the underground hideaway was rank and stank of body odour and it was hard to imagine how Saddam could have hidden there."

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"Nearby the hole was an outhouse, with a bed and an untidy cooking area, an outside toilet and shower and a pair of discarded despot underpants," Hughes said of the unusual living quarters. "Then the creepiest surprise of all – just yards away, was a clearing in the trees from where Saddam could have seen one of his 20 palaces in Tikrit."

Vile pictures of the lair show a tiny hole for an entrance, patchy makeshift walls and unkempt spaces. A picture taken of Hughes in the bunker even shows him holding up a pair of the dictator's underwear.

Hussein became regarded as a serious threat to the US in the early 2000s. It took many attempts to find him, including 12 serious raids on homes in Iraq and some 600 operations against individual targets who officials believed may have known where he was.

A whopping 300 interrogations of people close to the despot were also conducted in a bid to finally discover his whereabouts. Hughes continued: "Saddam’s capture was a milestone in Iraq’s history.

"Especially for a deluded and angry American president who saw some sort of causal link between the Iraqi regime, the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11 and Weapons of Mass Destruction."

When troops discovered Hussein he appeared more dishevelled than expected and had grown a large beard. He even had to be shaved to confirm his identity.

He would later stand trial before the Iraqi Special Tribunal before being executed on December 30, 2006.

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