Saddam Hussein may have obtained safe haven in the former Russian province of Belarus. Western intelligence says several intelligence agencies in the Middle East and Europe think he and his family were on a March 29 chartered cargo plane that flew from Baghdad to Minsk. “There’s no proof that Saddam was on the plane but we have proof that a plane left on that day from Baghdad airport and arrived in Minsk,” says a senior intelligence officer. “If you can think of anybody else who could obtain permission to fly out of Baghdad in the middle of a war, then please tell me.”

The plane took off from an unspecified Baghdad-area airport and crossed Iranian air space on the flight toward Minsk. Iran did not attempt to interfere with the flight. Evidence of the cargo flight was found by the U.S. military when they captured Baghdad International Airport on April 4.

U.S. officials say Saddam had been exploring fleeing to Belarus over the last year. He was in close contact with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Minsk was a major military supplier to Iraq.

Within hours after the departure of the cargo flight, rumors swept Baghdad that Saddam had escaped. “There was a significant decline in Iraqi combat strength starting from around March 31,” an intelligence source says. “In interviews with coalition interrogators, Iraqi commanders have attributed the decline in combat to the feeling that Saddam had fled.”

There’s truth behind every rumor.

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