“Ladies and gentlemen, we got him."
Those six words signalled the end of one of the most intense manhunts in history – Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had been caught.
The tyrant had spent nine months on the run and evading US forces, but now his time was up.
As he crawled out of the ‘spider hole’ looking disheveled and unrecognisable with a salt and pepper beard, he shouted at the soldiers who found him: "don’t shoot, don’t shoot."
“I am Saddam Hussein," he added. "I am the president of Iraq, and I am willing to negotiate.”
To which one of them replied: “President Bush sends regards.”
This week marks 15 years since the extraordinary operation – named Red Dawn – came to jubilant end.
Forces had been tipped off that the despot was somewhere near his birth place of Tikrit in Iraq.
This information led them to a farm. It was while searching the area that a solider lifted up a blanket to reveal a small hole.
Inside the six-eight foot deep concrete bunker and armed with a pistol, Saddam was hiding.
It was just big enough to for a person to lie down and a pipe had been installed to let air inside so he didn’t suffocate.
For decades he had ruled Iraq and inflicted brutality and bloodbaths but in April 2003 he refused to be overthrown and vanished.
“Saddam gone! Saddam gone!” was chanted throughout the country before his statue came crashing down.
A US armoured recovery vehicle smashed the marble staircase leading to Saddam’s statue – a tribute on his 65th birthday – in the capital’s Firdoz Ali-Baba Square.
A soldier then clambered atop the machine’s giant jib and attached a chain to Saddam’s throat before smothering the face in the Stars and Stripes.
He would go on to replace it with an Iraqi flag, winding it round the dictator’s throat like a cravat, before the statue was pulled down to huge cheers.
Locals then began smashing at the concrete head and dragged it down the street.
During his reign, Hussein expelled 40,000 Shi’ite Muslims and ordered the execution of Ayatollah Mohammed al-Bakr Sadr, an ally of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Iraq also launched an air attack against Iran and the war ended in a stalemate in 1988, with approximately one million deaths.
He also ordered the destruction of Dujail, a village in northern Iraq, leading to the deaths of more than 140 people.
In the same year, more than 5,000 people are killed when he ordered a poison gas attack on Kurds in Halabja in northern Iraq.
In November 2006, an Iraqi court found Saddam guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to death by hanging.
He was hanged in Baghdad on December 30, 2006 aged 69.
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