Saddam Hussein’s senior bodyguard has fled Iraq with what at least one former U.N. weapons inspector calls “the smoking gun” – proof positive of the Iraqi dictator’s possession of undisclosed weapons of mass destruction, according to a report in Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper.

The bodyguard – one of the reported many doubles Saddam deploys to confuse potential assassins – is named Abu Hamdi Mahmoud. According to the report, Mahmoud gave Israeli intelligence officials a list of weapons-laden sites the current crop of U.N. inspectors have not visited, including:

  • “An underground chemical weapons facility at the southern end of the Jadray Peninsula in Baghdad;

  • “A Scud assembly area near Ramadi. The missiles come from North Korea;

  • Two underground bunkers in Iraq’s Western Desert. These contain biological weapons.”

Former United Nations weapons inspector William Tierney characterizes Mahmoud’s revelations as “the smoking gun,” according to the Melbourne-based paper. “Once the inspectors go to where Mahmoud has pointed them, then it’s all over for Saddam,” said Tierney.

Saddam even swims with bodyguards

A member of Saddam’s elite inner circle of bodyguards called the Murasiq Qun, Mahmoud was known as “The Gatekeeper,” said the report, which noted that the muscular Mahmoud is a “Saddam lookalike, often photographed standing behind Saddam when he is seated, or to his left when on the move.”

Though Mahmoud was reportedly debriefed last week by Israeli intelligence at a high-security base in the Negev Desert, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who strongly won his re-election bid Tuesday, is only allowing small parts of Mahmoud’s sensational claims to be shared with the American CIA and the British MI6 intelligence service, said the report.

“Sharon intends to shatter the growing anti-war movement,” a source close to Sharon told the Herald Sun. “He plans to call all those European leaders who are wavering to let them know how Saddam has continued to fool Hans Blix and his weapons inspectors.”

Among Mahmoud’s sensational revelations are the locations of five bunkers buried beneath man-made sand dunes, in which are kept warheads identical to the empty shell cases found recently by U.N. inspectors – shells Mahmoud said were waiting to be refilled and sent to the under-the-sand bunkers.

The Herald Sun includes excerpts from Mahmoud’s Israeli debriefing, including the following quotes:

“Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction are also concealed in a tunnel complex deep beneath the sewers of Baghdad and in an underground complex in Ouja, to the north of Tikrit. The complex was built five years ago with help from Chinese engineers. The entrance to the site is through a house in Tikrit. It is the home of one of Saddam’s cousins and is more than half a mile from where the weapons are stored.”

“I was inside the innermost circle where Saddam eats and sleeps. I was among the handful of bodyguards closest to him. Very few people are allowed close to Saddam. Many of the TV images you see of him were taken years ago. Most people now only speak to him over the phone. He usually calls them. If they have to call him back with information he wants, it is passed through his sons (Uday and Qusay) or (Deputy Prime Minister) Tariq Aziz. All those close to him have codes, which they use to access the outer circle. But even they can only come so close to Saddam before there is a cut-off point – the Inner Circle. Even Tariq Aziz is checked to see if he is carrying weapons. Saddam knows fortunes are being offered to have him assassinated.”

The paranoid Saddam, says Mahmoud, is a walking arsenal.

“He has concealed guns all over his body,” Mahmoud said. “He also has panic buttons to press if he even suspects somebody is about to attack him.”

The Herald Sun account notes that Israeli intelligence sources imply Mahmoud’s cooperation was contingent on Israel’s smuggling Mahmoud’s family out of Iraq.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.