BAGHDAD, Dec. 14 – Saddam Hussein was captured in an underground burrow near his hometown on Saturday, brining cheer and praise from all international scenes.
Video and pictures of Hussein broadcast across Iraq and worldwide showed a bearded, disheveled 66-year-old; his heavy, black-and-gray beard subsequently was shaved, and those images also were broadcast. U.S. officials described Hussein as cooperative when he was captured.
L. Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, announced Hussein’s capture, saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him, the tyrant is a prisoner.”
The news prompted emotional celebrations across Baghdad, with some residents cheering and dancing in the streets and others crying with joy. Shouts of "God is great! Saddam has been captured!" echoed through several neighborhoods. In a traditional act of merriment, thousands of people fired automatic weapons into the air, sending many others scurrying for cover from stray bullets, which sparked at least three large explosions in the capital.
"Today is a historic day, a happy day, for the Iraqi people," said council member Adnan Pachachi, who served as Iraq's foreign minister before Hussein's Baath Party came to power 35 years ago. "We have been waiting for this day for a very long time."
The news of his capture also affected the stock market, catapulting the Dow industrials well above the 10000 mark the average reached last week.
"People are always optimistic when one of the great uncertainties about geopolitical events is resolved. Markets hate uncertainty, period," said Bob Gay, global head of fixed-income research for Commerzbank Securities in New York and a former Federal Reserve economist. "Hussein's capture reduces that -- lots of people think that the fact that he wasn't captured provided some motivation to continue the terrorist attacks in Iraq."
At churches throughout Denver, some pastors hastily added comments about Iraq to their sermons.
The Rev. Drew Stephens, associate pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, said his church tries to stay out of politics and has mostly focused on praying for American troops. As things calm down in Iraq, the Southern Baptist church plans to send missionaries there.
Hussein's capture "shows us that eventually, the scales of justice will be balanced," Stephens said.
A reference to Hussein's capture was worked into a series of prayers before the Lord's Prayer at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Denver, where the third Sunday in Advent was being celebrated. Most of the congregation's members opposed the war.
Jim Thomas, a church elder, said he hopes and prays the capture of the deposed leader will lead to a quick end to hostilities in Iraq. But he doubts it.
"All along, he was just one man," Thomas said. "We're fighting one person. Until we're able to put our efforts in the context of everything that's going on in the region, we're not going to be successful."