In need of a surgeon to save his life, Saddam Hussein’s aides have sought help from Moscow, according to the British daily The Sun.

The paper cited a senior UK government official who said British intelligence intercepted a message Saturday suggesting that Saddam is still alive in a secret hideaway in Baghdad but requires medical intervention the Iraqis cannot provide.

British intelligence chiefs believe the Iraqi leader suffered abdominal injuries when cruise missiles struck a bunker Thursday where he was reported to be meeting with his inner circle

Saddam’s two sons, Uday and Qusay, also are believed to have been injured, or possibly killed, in the attack.

The sources say Saddam was pulled from the rubble and whisked away in an ambulance, The Sun said. They believe he underwent a major operation and a blood transfusion, and at one point thought he might be dead.

The senior British official said Saddam’s aides “requested urgent medical assistance for a senior government official who was injured.”

“Saddam’s name was not mentioned during the conversation – but there is little doubt it was him they were talking about,” the official said.

“They said he was not critically injured but demanded urgent treatment because he had lost blood and could get worse. This regime wouldn’t go to that trouble for anybody else – including members of his family.”

Some intelligence sources believe a video of Saddam after the missile attack was pre-recorded. Yesterday, Iraqi state television showed Saddam chairing meetings with top officials, but American officials said there was no way to tell whether the footage was current or taped before the war began.

In the call for help, picked up by British intelligence in Cheltenham, the victim was described as having suffered third-degree burns, a crushed abdomen and trauma, which are typical of a bomb attack.

“There was some discussion of having the injured man medevaced out of Baghdad to be treated elsewhere,” the source said. “But no mention was made of where that would be. The official who took the call said the request would be passed on to Moscow.”

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