As DEBKA-Net-Weekly went to press this week, there were increasing indications that the deposed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein has been hiding in Belarus since late March or early April. With his sons, Uday and Qusay, their families and an entourage of close and trusted aides, Saddam appears to be the guest of President Aleksandr Lukashenko at a villa estate in the walled Zhdanovidhi military compound 10 miles west of Minsk.
The villa estate was built in the seventies especially for Soviet ruler Leonid Brezhnev under the supervision of Yuri Andropov, the KGB chief who later stepped into his master’s shoes. For Saddam, this sanctuary is very much a home from home. The villa estate like his palace compounds in Baghdad contains residential spaces atop underground bunkers that are linked by tunnels to his host’s presidential palace at Drozdy three miles away.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources, Saddam’s sanctuary is guarded by ground-air missile batteries and two cordons of Belarus security agents, members of the local KGB, or Committee of State Security. The inner cordon of members of Lukashenko’s praetorian guard is posted inside the villa estate along with the personal bodyguards of Saddam and family. The outer ring consists of Belarus KGB Spetsnaz commandos, trained by the Russian FSB General Security Bureau.
Our sources have received exclusive information that a Russian intelligence general is a fellow-guest of Saddam’s in the compound. His identity is unknown except that he is reportedly a staff member of the Russian First Chief Directorate based in Yasenevo on assignment as liaison man between Saddam and the former Russian prime minister and KGB chief Yevgeny Primakov. In this capacity he spent five to six months before the war in close proximity to the Iraqi ruler, going everywhere with him.
This unnamed Russian general makes his reports in two copies: one each to Primakov and Russian president Vladimir Putin. According to the information reaching Washington, he never leaves the small house assigned him on the estate sheltering Saddam, suggesting that he may be held in semi-detention as surety for the Belarus and Russian presidents keeping Saddam and his entourage safe.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly has learned that Saddam flew out of Baghdad international airport on March 29 or 30, when it still bore his name. He was picked up with a party of some 300 by two Boeing 727 airliners hired in Europe for a long-term charter in the last week of March by a Brussels-based electronics firm fronting for the Belarus KGB. When the hired planes landed at Minsk military airfield on 25th or 26th of March, they had all their identifying marks painted out, before taking off on what was logged as a charter flight to Damascus. After landing at Damascus military air base for refueling, the two planes flew off and came in low over Baghdad airport. A short while later they were flying over Syria on course for Minsk carrying the fleeing Iraqi ruler and entourage.
Our experts are convinced that Lukashenko would never have ventured on so reckless a course as providing asylum for the man most wanted by the United States without a firm nod from Putin. The last DEBKA-Net-Weekly issue (No. 105 published on April 11), ran an article captioned Washington-Moscow Blowout over Saddam, which revealed that the US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, when she visited Putin at the Kremlin on April 5, warned him that the US government is fully aware that Russian intelligence knows where Saddam Hussein is hiding. We have since discovered that she was referring to Zhdanovidh.
According to our sources, the occupants of the White House and US intelligence chiefs did not fall off their seats when they learned about the collaboration between Putin and Lukashenko and their foreign intelligence agencies. DEBKA-Net-Weekly reveals for the first time that President George W. Bush and his administration’s intelligence and security advisers discovered the full extent of Russian-Belarus-Iraqi dealings from documents in the Iraqi intelligence archives opened up in Baghdad by US forces.
More Intelligence Data Uncovered in Baghdad.
Saddam Hussein and his undercover agents were adepts in the cloak-and-dagger arts. They spread their nets in many corners of the world. Iraq’s wide-ranging links with foreign services are now being laid bare by the American experts poring over the rich store of documents discovered at Iraqi command and intelligence centers in Baghdad, Tikrit, Faluja and a number of air force facilities.
Saddam’s services maintained especially strong connections with Russian intelligence, Western intelligence sources familiar with the documentation questioned by DEBKA-Net-Weekly report. Particularly intense was the relationship with the counterintelligence department of the Russian General Security Bureau, the FSB, and GRU military intelligence. It was no ad hoc arrangement; the Russians relayed materials useful to Iraq day by day and Baghdad was free to ask questions or request clarifications from Moscow.
The exchanges of information took place via Russian liaison offices operating out of the Russian embassy in Baghdad. One of those bureaus was in constant contact with the 5th Directorate of the GDI, or Department of Iraqi General Intelligence, while the second was run by plainclothes GRU officers with diplomatic immunity. They liaised with Iraqi military intelligence headquarters, the MSS, located in Baghdad’s Aladhamia district.
Western intelligence agencies now going through Iraq’s domestic and foreign intelligence headquarters with a fine tooth comb believe that the unnamed Russian general who liaised between Moscow and Saddam and his sons, stayed in Baghdad up until April 6. Using the cover of a private intelligence consultant, he was also likely the point man between the Iraqi leader and the headquarters of the First Chief Directorate at Yasenevo near Moscow.
The Iraqis maintained three independent liaison bureaus. One worked out of the offices of Syrian air force intelligence in Damascus; its primary task was to maintain contact with Russian military intelligence officers operating in the Syrian capital. The bureau is still functioning and now operates out of the Iraqi embassy building in Damascus. Two other Iraqi offices are still open, in Moscow and in Minsk, functioning at Iraqi diplomatic premises as if the war never happened.
Iraq’s espionage service also maintained ties with other intelligence agencies in Eastern Europe such as the Croatian Security Information Service, or SIS, elements of Croatian military intelligence, the OSH, Belarus’ KGB, Ukrainian military intelligence agency, the SID, Serbia’s counter-espionage service and the intelligence arm of the Albanian Liberation Army, which according to material found in Iraq ran espionage and information-gathering networks in Italy, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Denmark and Britain.
The documents found in Baghdad also indicate that the Iraqi MSS had a limited intelligence relationship with Chinese central intelligence, the French DGSE and Germany’s BND. Iraqi intelligence maintained particularly close ties with sister agencies in the Muslim world, especially with Pakistani military intelligence, or SIS, and Indonesia’ central intelligence agency, BAKIN.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources believe the revelations turned up in the Iraqi intelligence archives, if exposed, could cause earthquakes in many governments and intelligence agencies around the world, including countries such as Britain, Australia, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Germany, France Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – and even the United States itself. But it could take months if not years for the experts to finish picking over the treasure trove of secret materials.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly continues to follow this developing story.