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2 Who 'Know' Hussein Claim He's Tough to Beat

January 21, 1991| From a Times Staff Writer and

U.S. and allied troops face a tougher fight than they think, predict two men who claim ties to the Iraqi leadership. One says he was President Saddam Hussein's bodyguard and hired killer, and the other says he sold Iraq many of its weapons.

The bodyguard, who out of fear identified himself only as Capt. Karim, and the arms dealer, Sarkis Soghanalian, told CBS-TV in separate interviews that:

-- Hussein has a secret underground base where he is hiding much of his air force.

Karim, who made this claim, refused to say where the base is because this would injure "my country" and not hurt Hussein, who is "finished" anyway.

-- Iraq has superior artillery because it owns French howitzers altered to fire about 12 miles farther than allied guns.

This information was given by Soghanalian, who said the howitzers are backed up by thousands of modified Soviet long-range cannon as well as advanced artillery pieces, which he bought from South Africa for resale to Iraq by way of Austria.

The claims were aired on the CBS television show "60 Minutes." Karim was interviewed in Paris, where the Iraqi ambassador to France, Abdul Razzack Hamshimi, denied that Karim ever was a bodyguard to Hussein. CBS showed a 1986 Iraqi TV tape, however, that it said seemed to confirm Karim's former occupation.

The captain said he defected in September because he feared that Hussein would kill him.

"I know too much," he said.

Karim said he had placed a bomb on a helicopter at Hussein's request and killed Hussein's sister's husband--his defense minister at the time. The minister, Adnan Khairallah, who also was Hussein's cousin, died in a helicopter crash in Iraq in 1989.

Last December, Karim said on a French TV show that a Hussein son-in-law had placed the bomb.

Baghdad Radio and Television said the helicopter went down in a sand storm.

Karim also said on "60 Minutes" that Hussein had once ordered a man's head cut off and delivered in a bag to the man's wife. In addition, he said he knew that Hussein had ordered men killed in acid baths. Karim said that he had watched once while a man was burned to death at Hussein's orders.

Karim said he once served as a courier for special parts used in an Iraqi atom bomb project. The components were obtained from an Iraqi with an American passport, he said, whose name he could not recall. Karim said he carried the parts from Budapest to Belgrade and then sent them on to Baghdad.

Two or three years ago, Karim said, he decided to kill Hussein.

"Face to face (in the morning) and I decided to kill him, and I have my Kalashnikov (a Soviet-made assault rifle), and between me and him just 10 meters . . . but I don't know why, I stopped," he said.

"Maybe I am afraid (or) something . . . I don't know."

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