- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 14, 2003

Former Iraqi residents living in the Washington area celebrated the capture yesterday of deposed leader Saddam Hussein.

“I am happy,” said Lina Omar, a public-diplomacy and congressional-affairs specialist for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the District. “It is extremely great news for all the Iraqi people; it is like a dream come true.”

Mrs. Omar, who moved to Virginia from northern Iraq seven years ago, spoke during a celebration with about 100 other Iraqis at Aladdin Cafe in Falls Church.

“After we heard the news, we all called each other and said we had to get together tonight and celebrate,” she said.

Katrin Michael, 53, of Virginia, said she barely escaped northern Iraq in 1998 after Saddam tried to have her killed.

“This is the greatest Christmas gift for me today,” she said. “I was glad to see him homeless and dirty like a crazy person.”

Taha Alan, 21, said he started crying when he heard of Saddam’s capture.

“We want to celebrate and thank American soldiers and the president for the freedom of Iraq and catching Saddam,” said Mr. Alan, who celebrated with friends in Virginia last night.

Though most former Iraqis were relieved that Saddam had been captured, others still questioned the Bush administration’s insistence that invading Iraq was necessary because Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

Akmal M. Muhammad, co-founder and chairman of the Silver Springs based-Islamic Freedom Foundation, which has been raising money for Muslims in the region for nearly a decade, called Saddam’s capture “good for everyone.”

“I hope Saddam Hussein will never seen the light of day in this world again,” he said. “It is a terrible thing that the U.S. had to go over there in the first place. [But] it doesn’t get rid of the issue of where are the weapons of mass destruction.”

Farzad Darui, manager of the Washington Islamic Center, which has been visited twice by President Bush since the September 11 terrorist attacks, said he was happy but still had his doubts.

“[Mr. Bush] raised the question about the weapons of mass destruction, and we still have not located them,” he said.

He also said the Islamic center did not support the invasion.

“Our concern was we should be more concerned about the Taliban and Afghanistan,” he said. “If Saddam’s capture can lead to a fair government in Iraq, I think that’s very good.”

Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church said, “It goes without saying that we are happy to see the capture of Saddam Hussein. But we do not believe this in any way justified the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq nor will it produce weapons of mass destruction.”

Mr. Abdul-Malik also said Saddam should have a trial “convened by the international community.”

“It is our hope that it will lead to a greater engagement of the international community and signal a new policy of withdrawal from Iraq and the quick transfer of authority to the legitimate representatives of the Iraqi people,” he said.

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