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In 2003, Saddam Hussein was the world's most wanted man, but in the face of the full force of the U.S. army his fiercely loyal former driver offered to help the toppled dictator.
It is claimed that Alaa Namiq's links with the brutal leader started in 1959 with Saddam being born in a village just to the north of Mr Namiq's home of Dawr in central northern Iraq.
U.S. soldiers correctly concluded that Saddam would return to the base of his power in the tribe lands where he had grown up, but identifying his exact whereabouts still took time.
In tones that oscillate between boastful and reserved, Mr Namiq has spoken for the first time about the assistance he gave to Saddam in the wake of the allied invasion.
'He came here and asked us for help and I said yes. He said, 'You might be captured and tortured,'
'But in our Arab tribal tradition, and by Islamic law, when someone needs help, we help him,' Mr Namiq was reported as saying in The Washington Post.
Mr Namiq then dug a hole - a tiny underground bunker - in a dirt patch on his farm where Saddam hid out before he was captured in December 2003.
With the help of his brother, Qais, and other members of his family, Saddam also moved among various safe houses in the area.
While he must have known that his ultimate demise was inevitable, according to Namiq the 'Ace of Spades' did what he could to evade his pursuers.
Declining the use of a mobile phone because he knew soldiers would be listening for his voice, Mr Namiq says Saddam instead passed his time writing prose and poetry, but that these scribblings were seized by forces when he was captured.
Mr Namiq says he helped to arrange secret trips to the farm for Saddam's only visitors - his sons Uday and Qusay.
The former farmer, who now runs a restaurant with four of his brothers, also went to great lengths to conceal the location where Saddam recorded fiery speeches encouraging his supporters to fight on against the Allied forces.
Mr Namiq says he once drove 10 miles to the city of Samarra to record natural sounds by a river in a bid to put Saddam's hunters off the scent.
After Saddam was captured, Mr Namiq was held at the notorious Abu Ghraib jail where he says he was questioned daily about the possible whereabouts of weapons of mass destruction.
He says he was tortured at times, being hooded and beaten and bitten by guard dogs and was kept in the dark 24 hours a day. Rock music was blasted into his cell and buckets of water were thrown in there to keep it constantly wet.
'I endured the dogs and the torture, but I couldn't stand that music,' says Mr Namiq.
The Namiq family are now held in high esteem among the locals, many of whom still have a soft spot for Saddam.
Col. Mohammad Hassan said he considered what the Namiq family did for Saddam 'heroic'.
Saddam was buried a short distance away in the village of Auja where he was born. In response to his continuing popularity in these parts Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki has ordered his grave site to be closed to the public to prevent it becoming a shrine.
Today 'the hole' from which Saddam was finally pulled has been sealed over with concrete and is almost unnoticeable amidst cages containing parakeets and doves.