- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2003

BAGHDAD — Coalition forces in Iraq intensified their search for Saddam Hussein yesterday, arresting 13 persons, including some of his guards, in the ousted dictator’s hometown of Tikrit, the U.S. Army said.

The announcement came as the U.S. military displayed the bodies of Saddam’s sons, the faces reconstructed to appear as lifelike as possible three days after they were killed in a raid in the northern city of Mosul.

“We continue to tighten the noose,” said Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via video hookup from Tikrit.

Gen. Odierno said the deaths of Uday and Qusai Hussein prompted more tips from Iraqis, such as the ones that led to the capture of Saddam’s bodyguards.

“We’ve shown them no one of the old regime is going to survive,” the general said.

The raid near Tikrit came Thursday night after U.S. troops again received a tip from an Iraqi, Gen. Odierno said.

Five to 10 of the 13 persons captured were believed to be members of Saddam’s personal security detail, he said, adding that it was too early to tell whether the guards had been with the deposed Iraqi leader recently or could help lead Americans to him.

American forces also have questioned one of Saddam’s two wives, he said.

The images of Uday and Qusai Hussein released Thursday and aired on television around the world had raised criticism from some Iraqis by showing only the brothers’ faces and upper chests — the faces obscured by heavy beards, blood and gashes — and giving no indication of height.

By contrast, military officials yesterday showed journalists, including an Associated Press reporter, the autopsied bodies covered only by sheets. They also presented identifying evidence, including dental records and a rod from Uday’s leg.

Uday’s beard had been trimmed to the length he had worn it in life. Qusai’s beard was shaved off, leaving only his trademark mustache. The faces appeared waxy and heavily made up.

Morticians removed a large gash that had cut across the middle of Uday’s face. Uday’s abdomen had been riddled with bullets, and the torsos of both brothers bore large Y-shaped incisions.

Autopsy incisions were visible on Uday’s left leg, where doctors removed the 8-inch-long bar inserted after a 1996 assassination attempt. A piece of leg bone taken out with the bar was wrapped in plastic and lying next to his body on the gurney.

Uday, 39, and Qusai, 37, were killed Tuesday in a gunbattle with U.S. troops, who raided a villa in Mosul after being directed there by an Iraqi tipster. Two other Iraqis killed in the house were believed to be a bodyguard and Qusai’s teen-age son, Mustafa.

The U.S. military had offered a $15 million reward for information leading to the capture or death of the brothers — two of the most feared men in Iraq and Nos. 2 and 3 on the American list of most-wanted Iraqis.

Uday was believed to have died from a head injury caused by a blunt object, likely falling debris. Qusai had two bullet wounds to his head, in and just behind his right ear, doctors and medical officials said. They said they did not think Qusai’s wounds were self-inflicted.

A final report on the brothers’ deaths is expected within six weeks.

U.S. officials said the bodies would be stored in a refrigerated tent at the Baghdad international airport until a family member came forward to claim them.

The U.S. civil administration in Iraq was talking to the country’s Governing Council about how to preserve the bodies according to Islamic custom, which calls for burial as soon as possible. Usually, Muslims are buried before nightfall the day they die.

“Showing dead and deformed bodies on TV is not acceptable,” protested Amer Ahmed al-Azawi, 55, a Baghdad merchant. “But the Americans are criminals and unbelievers. We got rid of one tyrant, and we ended up with a bigger one.”

Hamza Mansour, secretary-general of the Islamic Action Front in neighboring Jordan, said the display violated Islamic custom.

“The bodies of Uday and Qusai should have been washed, shrouded and buried immediately, but the Americans have no respect for our traditions and doctrine, and they acted in a very unethical manner,” he said.

The extensive plastic surgery could fuel the suspicions of some Iraqis that the Americans tampered with the bodies to make them resemble the brothers.

U.S. officials said they treated the bodies with the same respect given any corpse, and that making the brothers look lifelike was standard military procedure.

But the reconstruction was significant because of the doubt about the still photographs released earlier. Surgeons showed reporters dental X-rays and said serial and model numbers on the rod from Uday’s leg matched data they had.

Most newspapers in Baghdad did not publish yesterday, a Muslim day of prayer and rest. The Al Ray Al-Am ran an article about the pictures, but did not publish them, opting instead to show an older color photo of Uday wearing an Arab headdress, his faced crossed out with a red “X.”

The photos, at least in the early going, seemed to have had little effect on Iraqi opinion.

“This is a U.S. ploy to try to break the spirit of the resistance,” said Jassim al-Robai, a computer engineer, who said the photos did not convince him the brothers were killed.

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