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RM Issue #030725

Victims of torture, world leaders applaud deaths of Saddam's eldest sons
By MICHAEL MCDONOUGH
Wed, July 23, 2003
(AP) - World leaders expressed hope Wednesday that the deaths of deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's eldest sons, Odai and Qusai, would ease violence in Iraq and help bring stability - while some of the brothers' victims wished the two had been taken alive.

Muslims in some nations warned that the deaths would stir more anger in Iraq.

Although it is unclear how much Odai and Qusai were involved in organizing the persistent attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, U.S. officials have said the knowledge that Saddam and his top leaders were alive could be fuelling resistance to the U.S.-led occupation.

Many said they hoped the elimination of Saddam's sons would help deflate the resistance. U.S. President George W. Bush declared the deaths a sign that Saddam's regime "is gone and will not be coming back."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose nation was the United States' main ally in the campaign to oust Saddam, hailed the deaths as "a great day for the new Iraq."

"These particular two people were the head of the regime, which was not just a security threat because of its weapons program but was responsible for the torture and killing of thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqis," Blair said while visiting Hong Kong.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, another supporter of the U.S. line on Saddam, said the deaths would bring a measure of stability to postwar Iraq.

"I don't want to overstate that, but psychologically it's a huge step forward," Howard said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham also said he hoped the deaths of Saddam's elder sons would bring more peace and security to the region.

"What we hope is that this is a sign to those in Iraq who wish to continue their struggle and who are killing innocent American soldiers for - in our view - something that is not justified at this time will help bring peace to the country, will bring an end to these actions against our American and British colleagues and help us to get on with constructing an Iraqi government which will give a civil society in Iraq a chance to get a good footing," Graham told The Canadian Press.

Canada can only continue to contribute to postwar efforts in Iraq through the Canadian International Development Agency if there is security in the country, Graham added.

"This event . . . we hope will help bring more security to the country and enable us to get on with reconstructing Iraq, which is what the international community wants to see done."

But some warned that the deaths would inspire revenge attacks and anger Iraqis.

"Wouldn't it have been better to capture them and put them on trial rather than summarily killing them?" asked Mohammad Yusuf, a teacher in the Indian city of Srinagar.

A spokesman for a hardline religious coalition in Pakistan said, "As Muslims, we are against celebrating the death of even one's worst enemy."

"Those who are celebrating these deaths should remember that they are creating hatred in the hearts of people in Iraq," said Ameer ul- Azeem of the six-party United Action Forum.

But Iran - which fought a bloody war with Saddam's regime from 1980 to 1988 - had no compunction over cheering the deaths, despite its opposition to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

"We are happy," Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said. "We will be happy to see the death of Saddam, his sons and all those whose hands are stained with the blood of innocent people, including Iranians."

Odai and Qusai Hussein - second only to their father in power under the ousted regime - were killed in an hours-long firefight with U.S. forces Tuesday at a villa in the northern Iraqi city Mosul, the U.S. military said. The sons' identities were confirmed by dental records, X-rays and former regime members, the military said Wednesday.

Opponents of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq also said they were glad to see Saddam's sons go.

"I want to point out that the German government has always sharply condemned Saddam Hussein's brutal regime. The two sons are part of this regime," German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Antje Leendertse said. She added that Germany hopes the deaths will "contribute to an improvement in security and stability in Iraq."

China said it was important for Iraq to return to "a state of calmness."

Odai and Qusai had been notorious for brutally torturing and executing Iraqi prisoners and opponents. Some of their victims said they wished the brothers had been captured to face trial.

In Dearborn, Mich., Qasim Al-Hashimi, 40, rejoiced Tuesday at the Arabic news broadcasts in the Karbalaa Islamic Center. He showed deep scars around his wrists, which he said were inflicted by torture when he was imprisoned for opposing Saddam's regime.

"I, my children, were ecstatic about the news," he said.

But he would have preferred the two be taken alive.

"Their crimes need to be exposed to the Iraqi people and to the Arab world," he said.

NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson said news of the deaths would "undoubtedly reinforce the message to the people of Iraq that things have changed permanently and for the better."

In Iraq, Baghdad residents fired guns Tuesday in apparent celebration of the news. But in the country's west, several armed Saddam loyalists vowed to "raise hell" against the coalition.

"If this news is true that Odai and Qusai are dead, we shall raise hell on Americans," one of a group of unidentified men told an Associated Press Television News crew in western Iraq. "Even the unborn child will take revenge for Odai and Qusai."

Ahmad Chalabi, a delegate from Iraq's Governing Council who was at the United Nations, said the killings of Saddam's sons "will contribute significantly to reducing attacks on coalition soldiers."

U.S. troops have come under attack daily - a soldier was killed Wednesday in a Mosul bomb attack - and former military officers and Baath party leaders loyal to Saddam were believed to be behind them.

A total of 155 American soldiers have been killed in action since the war began March 20, surpassing by eight the death toll in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.




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