US defense officials say Saddam Hussein's former top aide has told interrogators the former Iraqi president and his two sons survived the US led war in Iraq.
Officials say the aide, Abid Hamid Mahmud, claims he saw the ousted leader and his sons Qusay and Uday in early April, as US forces closed in on Baghdad.
The officials say Mr. Mahmud told interrogators that Saddam and his sons decided to split up at that point to increase their chance of survival.
They say Mr. Mahmud claims that he, along with Qusay and Uday, spent time in Syria after the war, only to be expelled by the Syrian government and forced to return to Iraq.
Defense officials caution that they are not sure if Mr. Mahmud is telling the truth. But newspaper reports today (Saturday) say his statements have reinforced a sense among intelligence analysts that Saddam may still be alive. The former Iraqi leader was the target of US airstrikes in Baghdad during the war.
Coalition forces captured Mr. Mahmud at a still-undisclosed location in Iraq on Monday. Mr. Mahmud was Saddam's personal secretary and one of his key advisers. He was listed at number four on the US list of most-wanted Iraqis, behind only Saddam himself and his two sons.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad today (Saturday), Iraqi Shi'ite Muslims demonstrated outside the headquarters of the US civil administration, demanding religious leaders play a major role any new local government.
Two-thousand people gathered outside the former presidential palace to show support for an influential Shi'ite religious school, known as Hawza, which they want to have a prominent role in a future Iraqi administration.
In another development, the US journal Science reports that UN officials believe they can now account for most of the uranium missing from a looted storage facility at Iraq's main nuclear research site, near Baghdad.
Science (a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) says that according to an official with the International Atomic Energy Agency, almost all of the missing material has been recovered. However, it says the status of other radioactive material at Iraq's Tuwaitha research site and other locations in the country remains unclear.