Without firing a shot, American soldiers captured a heavily bearded Saddam Hussein in an underground hide out on a farm near his hometown of Tikrit. President Bush is hailing news of Hussein's capture, saying a "dark and painful era is over."
It was an historic moment, summed up in six words, "ladies and gentlemen, we got him!" Iraqi journalists erupted in cheers and yelled "death to Saddam" as they watched video of their former leader.
Hussein is being held and interrogated at an undisclosed location. Members of the Iraqi governing council visited him today. "We found him tired and haggard. He was unrepentant. Tried to justify his crimes by saying he was a just and firm ruler. But now, he's a prisoner," says Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi governing council.
Saturday night, U.S. special operations forces and 600 soldiers from the 4th infantry division descended on this mud hut in a small town near Tikrit. They found Hussein hiding inside in an 8 by 6 foot hole in the ground. He had weapons but did not go down fighting, the way his sons did.
"This is the classic case of how the mighty have fallen. Not just that he he's been thrown out of his palaces, and all of his palaces, but that he's found like a rat in a hole is great news for the morale of us troops and for the morale of most of the people," says Richard Clarke, an ABC news consultant.
As news of the capture spread, some Iraqis took to the streets to celebrate, dancing and firing off weapons. In the northern city of Kirkuk, 4 people were killed and 60 wounded in celebratory gunfire.
President Bush cautioned this does not mean the end of violence against U.S. troops and their allies in Iraq. "We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the middle east," says President Bush.
Such men are a direct threat to the American people, and they will be defeated. U.S. officials are unclearr how much command and control Hussein had over the insurgency while he was in hiding. Time magazine quotes one U.S. official who says "have we actually cut the head of the snake or is he just an idiot hiding in a hole?"