Saddam's sons given martyr's burial by elders


IRAQ: Saddam Hussein's sons and grandson were buried on Saturday at the village of al-Awja near the city of Tikrit. A Muslim cleric read prayers over the three graves as President Saddam's eldest sons, Uday and Qusay, and the latter's 14-year old son Mustafa, were interred side by side in a family plot. From Michael Jansen in Baghdad

Elders from the tribe to which they belonged wrapped the bodies in the Iraqi flag, showing that they died as patriots and martyrs.

They were killed during a four-hour gunbattle with American forces in the northern city of Mosul on July 22nd, after being betrayed by the owner of the villa where they had sought refuge. The informer received a $30 million bounty, $15 million for each son, from the US and was taken out of Iraq under US protection.

The army flew the bodies to an airfield just north of Tikrit where they were taken by Iraqi Red Crescent Society ambulances to the cemetery. Some 20 cars carried mourners to the site of the burials while US soldiers looked on from some distance.

There was a certain amount of anger amongst Iraqis that the three were not interred quickly. According to Middle Eastern practice, diseased bodies are normally buried before sunset the day of death or the next day.

Photographs of the bullet-riddled bodies of Uday and Qusay were released to the media by the US military as evidence of their demise. Television teams were permitted to video the corpses after their battered faces had been reconstructed by a mortician. Although Iraqis demanded proof, they were uneasy about both procedures.

Meanwhile, one US soldier was killed west of Baghdad on Saturday raising to 54 the number killed by hostile fire since May 1st, the day the war was declared at an end. At least two American soldiers were injured in an explosion in Tikrit.

The chief of the US occupation administration, Mr Paul Bremer, blamed the daily attacks on foreign terrorists and three groups loyal to the ousted Baathist regime.

He suggested that the resistance did not represent the Iraqi populace. "I have not noticed any hatred amongst the Iraqi people for the American soldiers," Mr Bremer stated at a news conference.

He said the fallen regime was responsible for the parlous economic situation which has left Iraq with one of the "world's most devastated economies". Many Iraqis do not agree with this assessment. The local media and the general populace express growing impatience with the US over the lack of electricity, petrol, security and employment. There is also considerable resentment over incidents in which Iraqis have been killed. In the capital's middle class district of Mansur recently five Iraqi civilians were killed during a US raid on a house of a supporter of former President Saddam.

On Friday US soldiers, firing in self-defence, killed a woman who was standing near a place on an overpass from where explosives had been dropped onto a US convoy driving below.