PARIS, May 25 (UPI) -- A senior member of Saddam Hussein's government handed Baghdad over to U.S. troops in exchange for a pay-off and a safe exit from Iraq, Le Journal du Dimanche claimed Sunday.
Citing a senior Iraqi source, the French newspaper reported that Soufiane al Tikriti, head of the Special Republican Guard in Baghdad, ordered his troops not to defend the capital against attack by U.S. and British forces, and particularly to hold fire against coalition helicopters circling over the city.
In exchange, Le Journal claimed, Tikriti was paid several hundred thousand dollars and, along with 20 family members, was ferried in a U.S. aircraft out of the country on April 8.
Baghdad fell in about 48 hours, the newspaper observed, with very little fighting.
"Soufiane al Tikriti was the man of the Americans in Baghdad," the newspaper wrote. "He signed onto an agreement guaranteeing that the 10,000 elite soldiers of the Special Republican Guard would not fight."
Citing their Iraqi "source," Le Journal reported Tikriti had come into contact with U.S. intelligence officers via a close associate, Ezzedine al-Majid, living in London.
According to the newspaper, the Pentagon sent notice to reporters that Tikriti had been killed as he fled the capital in a white Toyota Sedan.
Tikriti's disappearance "interested nobody," Le Journal said, because he was not among the 52 most-sought-after members of Saddam's government.
An official reached at the U.S. Embassy in Paris said she had not seen the article. "We would not be commenting from here, in any case," she added.