An Oklahoma soldier stationed in Iraq hot-wired Odai Hussein's Lamborghini sport utility vehicle, military records say, and the soldier goes on to claim his action lured the son of the former Iraqi dictator into a U.S. trap.
But the account from Spc. Jeremy Huhman of Enid, Okla., as passed along by his mother and Oklahoma U.S. Senate candidate Kirk Humphreys, differs on key points from the official version of the raid last July that killed Odai, 39, and brother Qusai, 37.
In Huhman's account, his hot-wiring of the expensive Italian vehicle caused a worried Odai to emerge from the villa where he and Qusai were holed up. The Army has said only that troops surrounded the building and stormed it after firing missiles and rockets. No other witnesses saw Odai come outside.
A U.S. Army document that led to a commendation for Huhman says he was asked to fulfill various missions in Iraq "... from hot-wiring Uday Hussein's Lamborghini SUV to generator repair to bringing captured facilities back online."
"Uday" is an alternative spelling of Odai.
The award recommendation, obtained by The Associated Press, does not describe the circumstances under which Huhman hot-wired the SUV.
The document is signed by 1st Lt. Philip Benner, Huhman's executive officer with Bravo Company, 558th Engineering Unit.
Benner, reached at company headquarters in Fort Hood, Texas, declined to comment. "It's a matter we haven't unclassified," he said.
Huhman was on leave Friday, a soldier who answered the phone at Bravo Company said. Other attempts to reach Huhman were not successful.
The Pentagon press office referred The AP to Fort Hood, where a public affairs officer referred calls to Benner and Huhman.
The Lamborghini or any attempts to hot-wire it are not included in either official Pentagon descriptions of the raid or in accounts from Iraqi witnesses. An official Army briefing the day after the raid said soldiers tried twice without success to enter the villa and were able to get inside only after firing rockets and missiles into the building.
Witnesses interviewed by The AP said U.S. soldiers hopped out of four Humvees and surrounded the villa, using megaphones to demand the occupiers come out. The home's owners came out, but Odai, Qusai and their bodyguards fired, wounding four Americans, the witnesses said.
Humphreys said he met Huhman in March on a flight from Dallas to Oklahoma City, and the two talked for a few minutes.
Huhman's mother, Judy, was unavailable for comment, but she confirmed her son's account in a story Tuesday in the Enid News & Eagle.
"He was a teenager once," she said. "He knows about cars."
Humphreys, a Republican, has been telling the story during campaign stops to show, he says, that while politicians debate the war, soldiers are risking their lives to win. Democrats have accused Humphreys of making the story up to justify his support for the war and to criticize Democrats.
"I did not make it up. I did not embellish it," Humphreys said.