www.globalresearch.ca Centre for Research on Globalisation Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation
"Al-Sharq al-Awsat at site of operation which killed Uday and Qusay - Eyewitness describes hours of terror local residents went through: I saw four bodies - Uday's body was charred while Qusay's body was intact",
An eyewitness who lives in the Al-Barid district of Mosul has spoken about the "terrifying" hours the local residents went through in the morning hours two days ago when a special unit from the US 101st Infantry Division raided the house of Nawwaf al-Zaydan, from the Al-Shammar tribe, to arrest Uday and Qusay, the Iraqi president's two sons who were hiding in it.
Jasim Muhammad, a neighbour of Al-Zaydan, said he left his house very early to perform the dawn prayers at a nearby mosque and did not notice any suspicious movements. He pointed out that the area was used to seeing US patrols daily but, at that particular time, he did not notice anything suspicious or (felt) that something was about to happen. But after returning home to have breakfast with his children who were getting ready to go to school, he was surprised to see special US forces being deploying all over the area. He added that a tight cordon which was mounted included only the houses close to the place of the tip-off.
"The people inside the house raised a "yellow" flag before they opened fire on the American forces. This was a ruse to deceive the American forces into thinking that the people inside the house were supporters of Mas'ud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party, which has several organizational centres inside Mosul. After a while, they put the flag down and started to shoot at the American forces. The Americans fired back without knowing exactly who was inside the house. But around 1130 (0830 gmt), Nawwaf al-Zaydan and his son came out of the house and told the Americans that Uday and Qusay were inside it. This prompted the American troops to contact their command and ask for reinforcements in helicopters and mortars. Mortar shells started to fly over the heads of local residents, causing great panic in the neighbourhood as women and children started to cry," he said.
Jasim Muhammad went on to say that a young man was killed near the site and that the ceremony to perform condolences rites was held for him yesterday in the area, where he died for no reason and without being noticed by the media covering the operation.
Asked if he was sure that the Iraqi president's sons were killed, he said that he personally saw the four bodies which were removed from the house. The body of Qusay, the younger son, was intact and easy to identify while Uday's body was charred but was identified thanks to the platinum pieces planted in his leg in the operations carried out on him after the failed assassination attempt on his life in Baghdad's Al-Mansur neighbourhood in 1996.
Jasim Muhammad appeared dissatisfied with the conduct of the owners of the targeted house and called them "whimsical". He said that Saddam killed one of Nawwaf al-Zaydan's cousins in the past and arrested several relatives but later released them under the amnesty he issued on the eve of the Iraq-UN crises over the inspection teams.
During the Al-Sharq al-Awsat team's stay at the site of the operation, loudspeakers on a military vehicle issued repeated warnings to the people gathering there to leave or be arrested. This was in preparation for removing the ruins in the neighbourhood and restoring basic services damaged by the concentrated shelling of the house which also damaged adjacent houses.
A leading member of Talabani's party said information he had received confirmed that former President Saddam Husayn was with his two sons on the night of the incident but left very early in the morning. Though he did not have a specific reason for this action, the party official said his departure could have been part of the security precautions which required them not to be together in one place.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat asked him about the reasons which made the Iraqi president and his two sons choose Mosul as a hiding place at this particular time and in an area which is exposed from the security angle and not strong enough for self-defence. Sa'id Ahmad Birah, candidate member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's (PUK) Political Bureau who is in charge of the party's organizations in Mosul, replied that Nawwaf al-Zaydan was close to the ruling family and a trade partner of the Iraqi president's half brother Sab'awi Ibrahim al-Hasan. Both were very close and, though members of Al-Zaydan's family suffered at the hands of the former regime, his ties with them remained until the regime's downfall.
The PUK official provided more details about the incident and pointed out that circles in Mosul consider it likely that (ex-)Vice-President Taha Yasin Ramadan and Saddam's cousin Ali Hasan al-Majid were with the Iraqi president and his two sons on the night of the incident. He noted that they were now probably somewhere around the Mosul governorate and expressed his belief that the Iraqi president would be arrested or killed in a similar operation.
He added that the American forces had stepped up patrols to hunt them down and raided a house in the Al-Arabiyah district of Mosul where the Iraqi president was thought to have been hiding.
US patrols are sent frequently to the Khandush area on the Tal'afr road where a cousin of Taha Yasin Ramadan lives.
© Copyright Al-Sharq al-Awsat and BBC Monitoring 2003 For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .