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Iraq

Fierce gunfight kills Hussein's two sons

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 23, 2003

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MOSUL, Iraq - Acting on a tip from an Iraqi that Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, were holed up in a palatial residence in the northern city of Mosul, U.S. troops surrounded the house on Tuesday and killed the two men in a ferocious shootout that gradually shredded the walls providing them cover.

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne division as well as special operations forces called on the men to surrender and were answered with a peppering of small-arms fire, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, chief of land forces in Iraq, said at news conference Tuesday.

A senior defense official said Apache helicopters, A-10 Warthogs and fighter aircraft were called in to lend support overhead.

The bodies of the two men, along with two others, were flown to Baghdad International Airport, the headquarters of the U.S. military in Iraq. The bodies were identifiable, Sanchez said, adding that "multiple sources" had been used to confirm the identities.

Sanchez said the other two bodies had yet to be identified, although Arab satellite television reported that one was Mustapha, a teenage son of Qusay, and the other was a bodyguard who had traveled with Uday since he was incapacitated by an assassination attempt in 1996.

American officials hailed the deaths as a signal to Iraqis that the old regime is truly finished. The firefight eliminated two of the most wanted members of the former Iraqi government after Hussein himself, who U.S. officials say they believe remains in Iraq. Qusay was second on the playing-card list of the most wanted, as the ace of clubs, and Uday was third, as the ace of hearts.

Analysts say the deaths may diminish but not eliminate attacks that have killed about 40 American soldiers since President Bush declared the end of major combat on May 1. Four American soldiers were wounded in the gunfight on Tuesday.

There was a $15-million reward posted for each man, which Sanchez said would be awarded. He did not name the person who turned in the two men, but Kurdish officials said the source may have been the owner of the house where the sons were staying.

Neighbors identified the owner of the house as Nawaf Zaidan, a businessman who said he was related to Hussein and a member of the former president's Bu-Nasr tribe.

A senior defense official said early indications suggested that the two sons had been living in the house for some time. Shahir Khazraji, 31, who lives across the street, said Zaidan told one of his neighbors that Qusay, Uday, one of Hussein's bodyguards and Qusay's son Mustapha, 14, had been in the house for 23 days.

Khazraji said he saw Zaidan leave the house with his family about 6 a.m. but return about 9 a.m. with just his 19-year-old son. About that time, Khazraji said, a small group of U.S. soldiers came to the front door and demanded to search the house.

Zaidan refused. A short while later, Khazraji said, Zaidan and his son were taken by the soldiers to a nearby house and told to wait there. Khazraji said he was told by the owner of that house that Zaidan informed the soldiers they could not search the premises, telling them: "I can't let you into my house because I have an important official of the government in there."

An Arabic-speaking soldier subsequently used a megaphone to order the occupants to leave, neighbors said. Although the patrol then withdrew briefly, witnesses said about 100 soldiers returned about 10 a.m. in about 25 vehicles.

Brig. Gen. Frank Helmick, the assistant commander of 101st Airborne, said his soldiers were fired upon from inside the house. Khazraji and other residents said U.S. soldiers shot first.

The exchange of fire quickly escalated into an all-out firefight involving automatic weapons, rockets and rocket-propelled grenades. Witnesses said bullets whizzed across the street, and Tuesday night Khazraji's house was pocked with bullet holes and .50-caliber shell casings still littered the street.

As the firing from inside the house died down, the soldiers eventually fought their way into the building. When they reached the second floor, they found it fortified with bulletproof glass and barricades, leading commanders to summon two OH58-D Kiowa Warrior helicopters. The helicopters fired 2.75-inch rockets and at least one missile at the upper floors of the houses, sparking a fire that eviscerated much of the structure.

Helmick said his soldiers entered the house about 1 p.m. and recovered four bodies. "They came out dead," he said.

According to a senior administration official, the brothers' remains were identified by Abid Hamid Mahmud Tikriti, Hussein's presidential secretary and top security adviser, who was captured June 16 and remains under interrogation, the Washington Post reported.

Some Mosul civilians appeared to have been caught in the cross-fire. It was not known how many were injured, but several were taken to a hospital.

The White House applauded the action.

"Over the period of many years, these two individuals were responsible for countless atrocities committed against the Iraqi people, and they can no longer cast a shadow of hate on Iraq," it said in a statement.

As news spread of their deaths, Baghdad residents fired rifles and tracer bullets into the night sky in wary celebration, even though some Iraqis remained skeptical.

Some Iraqis said they feared Hussein would avenge the deaths of his sons with more attacks on U.S. troops and other targets. But one man said he would worry about that later.

"This is a celebration," said Hassan Hamed, 55. "Uday and Qusay were criminals, animals. (They) killed so many Iraqi people for nothing."

Another man, 44-year-old Anwea Franso, said he was disgusted by the lavish lifestyles Uday and Qusay led while other Iraqis went hungry. Franso said he was wounded while serving in Hussein's army during the war with Iran 15 years ago and was told there was no money for compensation.

"This was the Iraqi people's money," he said. "I wish they could have caught them alive without killing them so we could put them in a zoo."

That regret was shared by Abbas Mehdi, a Minnesota-based exile who heads the Union of Independent Iraqis. The group falls under the umbrella of Adnan Pachachi, who was just named as a representative to Iraq's Governing Council.

Mehdi said the exile community was elated by the news, but they still have their eyes on Hussein.

"This is good, but we're waiting for the big one," he said in a telephone interview from the United States. "I hope the people who helped find Uday and Qusay will eventually help find Saddam."

- Information from the New York Times, Washington Post, Knight Ridder News Service and the Associated Press was used in this report.

Two of the most feared men in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Qusay Hussein, Saddam Hussein's younger son, held wide-ranging powers over the nation's ruthless security apparatus that made him one of the most feared men in Iraq.

Qusay was No. 2 on the U.S.-led coalition forces' list of the 55 most wanted men from the former Iraqi regime.

Quiet, handsome and every bit as brutal as Hussein, the 37-year-old Qusay headed Iraq's intelligence and security services, his father's personal security force and the Republican Guard, an elite force of 80,000 soldiers responsible for defending Baghdad.

He stayed out of the public eye and led a substantially more subdued private life than his older brother Uday. Iraqis nicknamed Qusay "the Snake" for his bloodthirsty but low-profile manner.

Qusay was far more trusted by his father and appeared to be his heir before the regime crumbled.

An exiled dissident told the Associated Press that only Qusay and Hussein's private secretary, Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, who was captured in June, were kept informed of Hussein's whereabouts. Uday was thought to be too reckless to be trusted with such information.

Experts do not believe Qusay played a significant role in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. But he was a leading figure of terror in the conflict's aftermath, using mass executions and torture to crush the Shiite Muslim uprising.

Qusay also helped engineer the destruction of the southern marshes in the 1990s, an action aimed at Shiite "Marsh Arabs" living there.

Qusay oversaw Iraq's notorious detention centers and is believed to have initiated "prison cleansing" - a means of relieving severe overcrowding in jails with arbitrary killings.

Citing testimony from former Iraqi intelligence officers and other state employees, Human Rights Watch in New York said several thousand inmates were executed at Iraq's prisons over the past several years.

Prisoners were often killed with a bullet to the head, but one witness told the London human rights group INDICT that inmates were sometimes murdered by being dropped into shredding machines.

Qusay wed the daughter of a respected senior military commander. The couple, who later separated, had two daughters. U.S. officials said a teenager killed with Qusay may have been his son.

Uday Hussein, the murderous and erratic oldest son of Saddam Hussein, controlled propaganda in Iraq and allegedly oversaw the torture of athletes who failed to perform.

The 39-year-old was No. 3 on the list of 55 most-wanted men from the ousted Iraqi regime - only Hussein and younger brother Qusay ranked higher.

As head of the Fedayeen Saddam paramilitary force, Uday helped his father eliminate opponents and exert iron-fisted control over Iraq's 25-million people. The eldest of Hussein's five children, Uday was elected to Parliament in 1999 with a reported 99 percent of the vote, but he rarely attended sessions.

Iraqi exiles say Uday murdered at will and tortured with zeal, and routinely ordered his guards to snatch young women off the street so he could rape them. The London human rights group INDICT said Uday ordered prisoners to be dropped into acid as punishment.

Uday seemed proud of his reputation and called himself Abu Sarhan, an Arabic term for "wolf."

But his tendency toward erratic brutality even exasperated Hussein, who temporarily banished Uday to Switzerland after the younger Hussein killed one of his father's favorite bodyguards in 1988.

The bodyguard, a young man named Kamel Gegeo, arranged trysts for the Iraqi president - notably with one woman who later became Hussein's second wife. Worried that his father's relationship with the woman could threaten his position as heir, Uday beat Gegeo to death with a club, according to some reports. Other reports said Uday killed Gegeo with an electric carving knife.

Uday had once been a strong candidate to succeed his father, but he was badly injured in 1996 in an assassination attempt by gunmen who opened fire as he drove his red Porsche through Baghdad. The attack left Uday with a bullet in his spine that forced him to walk with a cane.

Much of Uday's notoriety abroad stemmed from his position as head of the National Iraqi Olympic Committee, which was accused of torturing and jailing athletes.

Things were hardly better on the family front, where relations between Uday and his uncles were especially bad. Uday reportedly divorced the daughter of one uncle, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, in 1995 after she complained of being beaten. Uday shot and wounded another uncle, Watban Ibrahim Hasan. Both uncles were captured after the war and are in the custody of U.S. coalition forces.

- Associated Press

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