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Wednesday, July 25, 2003

Locals say [Hussein] brothers fought and died as heroes

By Charles Clover in Mosul

ACROSS the street from the still-smoking house in Mosul where Qusay and Uday Hussein are said to have died on Tuesday, local residents who saw it happen disagree on virtually all details but one: whoever was in the house died heroically.


Eric Mueller comments:

THE point made in the article by Shaykh Shahir al-Khazraji, a neighbour, cannot be stressed enough. To turn in a house guest to the US occupation, much less to arrange for his murder is an unthinkable social crime in the Arab context.

During the Lebanese Civil War there was an incident I remember when the head of one of the Muslim leftist factions and the head of a Maronite Christian Right-wing faction felt a need to meet.

The question was, where?

The country's parliament building would almost surely be shelled by one side or the other; people would be machine gunned on the way in.

The presidential palace was in the same situation, and naturally any hotel that was still standing would meet a similar fate.

Eventually they agreed to meet at the home of the Christian Maronite leader, because the one circumstance in which his opponent could be assured of security was as a house guest -- even in the house of his deadly enemy in the midst of a war that was devastating the country.

By the way, at least one Arabic paper reported a US military spokesman as saying that the $30 million reward was paid out to the unnamed informer, who is still under US protection -- naturally enough, since he would be regarded as the worst of scum by the members of the society to which he formerly belonged.

Arabist Eric Mueller is this website's expert on Middle Eastern affairs. He is a featured speaker at this year's Real History weekend at Cincinnati, August 29-September 3, 2003.

"We should be proud as Iraqis that they died this way. Four men held off the American army for five hours They died like men," said Mohammed Jubburi, who works at a supermarket across the street.

Neighbours on Wednesday milled around, inspecting the rocket-blasted house of their neighbour, Sheikh Nawaf al-Zaidan, whom locals accuse of having given the US forces information that the sons of Saddam Hussein were hiding there, along with Qusay's son Mustafa and a bodyguard. US forces have not confirmed who the informant was, but have taken Mr Zaidan into protective custody.

It was not known why the sons were in Mosul, but Mr Zaidan is a distant relative of Saddam Hussein. They appear to have been changing safe houses and had been there for a maximum of three weeks.

Locals were furious with Mr Zaidan, not only, they say, for bringing the catastrophe to their neighbourhood but for betraying Mr Hussein's sons to the US forces. Betraying a guest goes against the tribal code of Iraqi society, which stresses hospitality above all else. "I can only say that nothing compares with this as treachery," said Sheikh Shahir al Khazaraji, who lives across the street from Mr Zaidan, and who saw Mr Zaidan on Tuesday evening, after the battle, boasting that the Hussein brothers had been in the house.

While the killing of the brothers is undoubtedly a victory for US forces in the postwar campaign, they appear to have created legends. They were despised in life as part of a hated regime, but in death they have taken on the status of martyrs, at least in the minds of local residents.

"They fought excellently," said Mr Jubburi, who claims they killed two US soldiers and wounded two others. The US military says none of its soldiers was killed in the operation. "This is nonsense. They are lying," said Mr Jubburi. US soldiers guarding the house on Wednesday said they were under strict orders not to comment to the press on Tuesday's events.

Few in the neighbourhood had any inkling of who might have been sharing Mr Zaidan's house and all said they were stunned by the suddenness and brutality of the fighting on Tuesday.

Mr Khazaraji said: "Now we are all thinking back and saying, 'well, there was this thing that was out of the ordinary, and we should have been more curious'."

For example, his daughter saw a strange black Mercedes pull up to the Zaidan house late at night 20 days ago, and two men go in. Two days later, a van took all the furniture from the house.

At 6am on Tuesday, Mr Khazaraji said he saw all the women of the Zaidan family leave the house in a hurry.

The battle started about 9am when dozens of US soldiers surrounded the house, calling for those inside to surrender. Mr Zaidan and his son Sha'lan walked out, were handcuffed and escorted away. Once this had happened, those inside the house opened fire on the US soldiers, who traded rifle and machine-gun fire for more than three hours.

It appears that US commandos tried at least once to enter the house, but each time were driven back by gunfire. About noon, reinforcements - including helicopters - arrived and fired 20 to 25 missiles at the house, reducing it to a smoking tomb.

At 2pm, US troops were finally able to enter the house. They brought out four bodies wrapped in blankets, and laid them on the pavement.

According to Mr Jubburi and a number of other witnesses, a group of about 100 Iraqis further down the street began to chant: "Allahu Akbar!" [God is Great] when the bodies were brought out. They say they were fired on though US soldiers vehemently deny this.

Throughout the battle, residents had no idea what was happening or why. At 6pm, four hours after the shooting stopped, Mr Khazaraji said he saw Mr Zaidan in the street. "He was not in handcuffs. In fact, he had a glass of tea," he said. "He told me: 'Uday and Qusay were in the house, and brought a lot of problems with them'."


What is the real story on the deaths of US occupation troops in Iraq?
David Irving, A Radical's Diary On the killing of Saddam Hussein's sons
"Yes, I agree, those two guys could have stood a bit closer to the razor in the mornings, and one of them does look a bit goofy to my western eyes, but . . . where's the Bolognese?"

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