- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2003

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Tribal leaders buried Saddam Hussein’s two sons and a grandson as martyrs yesterday in rocky soil near the deposed leader’s hometown, where insurgents afterward attacked U.S. troops with three remote-controlled bombs.

In Baghdad, the U.S. administrator for Iraq appealed to Iraqis to help catch Saddam. He blamed incessant attacks against U.S. forces on foreign terrorists and three groups aligned with the ousted Saddam regime.

At least two American soldiers were injured in the remote-controlled explosions in Tikrit after elders of Saddam’s tribe buried the ousted dictator’s sons, Uday and Qusai, along with Qusai’s 14-year-old son, Mustafa, in an outlying village.

Tribal leaders chanted prayers over three side-by-side graves in the family plot in al-Uja, where the Iraqi leader was born. The family wrapped the three bodies in the nation’s flag, designating them as martyrs for the Iraqi cause.

The brothers were killed in a gunbattle with American forces in the northern city of Mosul on July 22 after they were on the run for more than three months. The tipster who gave their location, thought to have been the owner of the villa where they were gunned down, received a $30 million reward from the United States and was spirited out of Iraq under U.S. protection.

Lt. Col. Steve Russell, of the Tikrit-based 4th Infantry Division, said villagers wanted the funeral to be peaceful.

“The people of al-Uja just wanted it over with,” Col. Russell said. “They didn’t want to make a big deal about it.” He said tribal leaders contacted the army Friday to tell them the bodies would be arriving.

“One of the sheiks was very nervous about it all and came to our forces pleading that we be aware, so nothing would happen to the people of al-Uja,” Col. Russell said.

The army flew the bodies to an airfield just north of Tikrit and sent them in Iraqi Red Crescent Society ambulances to the cemetery, Col. Russell said. About 20 cars passed through an existing U.S. military checkpoint to reach the burial. Col. Russell said soldiers observed proceedings from a distance but did not approach.

The Red Crescent acted as intermediary between Saddam’s family and the U.S. military, which had kept the bodies in refrigerated storage at the Baghdad international airport.

Military morticians had reconstructed the brothers’ faces to look lifelike and allowed Western journalists to videotape and photograph them, after Iraqi civilians voiced skepticism that Uday and Qusai were really dead. Images of the autopsied bodies were flashed across the Arab world by satellite broadcasters, largely dispelling lingering doubts.

Still, many Iraqis complained about the treatment of the bodies — the autopsies and reconstruction of the brothers’ faces — as being deeply contrary to Muslim practice that demands corpses be buried untouched and before sundown on the day of death.

At a news conference at one of Saddam’s palaces in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator, said the guerrilla campaign against coalition forces will abate once the ex-president is dead or in captivity.

“It seems to me that bringing [Saddam] to justice either by death or by capturing him will really draw down a curtain on this terrible period,” he said, and he appealed to Iraqis to come forward with information on his whereabouts.

“Someone told us where to find his sons, Uday and Qusai, and less than two weeks later, we have paid him $30 million and relocated him and his family safely outside Iraq,” Mr. Bremer said.

“We’re going to get Saddam, too. The only question is who is going to get the $25 million and move to another country.”

Mr. Bremer said foreigners were at least partly responsible for the recent wave of attacks on U.S. forces. Other violence, he said, was the work of remnants of Saddam’s Ba’ath party, his Fedayeen Saddam militia and the deposed and once-feared security forces.

“I have not noticed any hatred among the Iraqi people for the American soldiers,” he said.

Mr. Bremer said “there is clear evidence” that Ansar al-Islam, a shadowy group linked to al Qaeda and operating on the border of eastern Kurdistan, was “reconstituting its capabilities inside of Iraq since the war.”

He also cited the discovery of Saudi, Yemeni and Syrian documents during a raid on a terrorist training camp north of Baghdad in June, which left 70 people dead.

“As a person who has been involved in fighting terrorism for almost 20 years now, I can at least say the camp had the looks of an al Qaeda operation,” Mr. Bremer said.

Also yesterday, the military said a U.S. soldier was killed and three were wounded Friday in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on their convoy east of Baghdad.

That death brought to at least 52 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in combat since May 1, when President Bush declared major fighting over. So far, 167 Americans have died in combat in the war.

The U.S. military also announced yesterday that soldiers firing in self-defense had killed a woman Friday who was standing near where attackers dropped an explosive from an overpass onto a U.S. convoy below.

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