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Video of Saddam's sons convinces more Iraqi's of deaths

BAGHDAD, Iraq—With trimmed beards and stitched wounds, Saddam Hussein's dead sons appeared Friday in detailed video footage that many Iraqis say settled their doubts about the brothers' deaths in a raid by U.S. forces earlier this week.

A group of journalists was allowed to videotape the corpses of Odai and Qusai Hussein at a makeshift morgue at Baghdad International Airport. American troops killed the two Tuesday in a house in the northern city of Mosul.

The images aired late in the afternoon in the Iraqi capital, along with news of another raid south of Saddam's hometown of Tikrit in which several of the deposed dictator's personal bodyguards reportedly were arrested.

The U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division conducted several operations in the area Friday and detained 13 loyalists to Saddam's regime, said Staff Sgt. J.J. Johnson, a spokesman for American forces in Baghdad. Johnson said military officials were still determining the roles the arrested men played in the former regime and whether they had information that could lead to Saddam.

"If he doesn't feel the pressure coming after the deaths of his sons, I don't know what would make him a little upset," Johnson said.

"We continue to tighten the noose," said Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, speaking from Tikrit.

In the video, the bodies of Odai and Qusai Hussein looked waxen and heavily made-up. Each appeared to have been shot about 20 times; officials said there was no evidence any wounds were self-inflicted. Unlike in the photos released earlier, the brothers' facial hair was trimmed and their bodies had undergone reconstruction to make them appear lifelike.

Uday Nureddin, 28, watched the video on satellite television in his travel agency. He described the new images as "horrific," but added that he was glad to see the bodies without the bleeding injuries and bushy beards that obscured his view in the first photos released.

"Yesterday, I wondered whether it was real or not," Nureddin said. "Today, I am sure it's them."

Several Iraqis debated whether Saddam's sons should be treated to a traditional Islamic interment, a simple ceremony in which the bodies are shrouded in white cloths and quickly buried in plain coffins. U.S. officials have said the bodies will remain in military custody until a relative claims them.

"It should be forbidden for these two bodies to be buried on our land," said Ahmed al Asady, 21. "The Americans should show them publicly, then burn them."

American troops were attacked again Friday, but no one was injured. Members of the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment were ambushed with rocket-propelled grenades in Ubaydi, north of Baghdad.

Troops also conducted raids in Fallujah, another northern city that has been the site of several assaults on American forces. No shots were fired and no houses were destroyed in the operation, a military spokeswoman said, denying reports to the contrary on Arabic-language television.

Such raids were condemned in a speech before thousands of Shiite Muslim worshippers who were attending Friday congregational prayers in Kufah, about 87 miles south of Baghdad. Likening the actions of U.S. forces to the brutalities of Saddam, a fiery Shiite cleric again promised to form a separate religious army to protect Iraqi interests and end what he called the occupation of the country.

Muqtada Sadr, the controversial son of a beloved ayatollah slain by Saddam in 1998, gave few details on the army to worshippers, who welcomed the news with chants of praise. Sadr asserts himself as the rightful successor to Shiite rule, though many complain that he's simply taking advantage of his father's legacy.

"We need our own army because the Iraqi army established by America only serves American interests," Sadr told the crowd at a mosque. "American forces have searched houses and religious schools. Instead of protecting scholars, they arrested them. This is a message to the world: Just as it is forbidden to search churches, it is also forbidden to search mosques."

On the street outside Sadr's Baghdad office near a Shiite shrine, Iraqis had mixed reactions to the idea of forming a religious army. Several men said they respected Sadr because of his father, but wouldn't necessarily follow him into battle. Sadr has said he wouldn't attack U.S. forces unless provoked.

"Islam is already strong. We don't need any army to prove our strength," said Salim Jasem al Hamdani, 60. "If something happens and there is a call for jihad (holy war), we'll all rise and be one army. We don't need one person to lead us."

Samar Abdirahman, 40, shopped for shoes in a store with a photo of Sadr's late father in the window. She said she preferred a secular army, but didn't trust the Iraqi military that U.S. forces had assembled.

"That army will not defend Iraqis, only Americans," she said. "If Muqtada Sadr's aim from his army is to kick out the occupiers, then we support it."


(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondent Drew Brown contributed to this report.)


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ