Iraq: July 22, 2003


: Acting on a tip, American paratroopers surrounded a luxurious house in a Sunni suburb of Mosul and were fired on when they tried to enter. A four hour stand off and gun battle followed. Eventually, the four resisting Iraqis were killed and among the dead were found Saddam Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qsay. While not sure that it really was Saddam's two sons in the building, the American troops finally assaulted the place, rather than settling in for a long siege, because they feared that there might be a secret escape tunnel that would enable whoever was in the building to escape. It was a tough call to make, as the two brothers could have provided a bonanza of information if taken alive. But the risk of losing them was real, and the decision was made to end the operation by having the troops fight their way into the fortified second story area where the four Iraqis were. The U.S. forces involved a company of infantry from the 101st Airborne Division, some Special Forces troops and a detachment of Delta Force. There were hummers mounting TOW missiles, .50 caliber machine-guns or 40mm automatic grenade launchers. Overhead there were two AH-64 helicopter gunships, two OH-58 SOCOM helicopters (with 2.75 inch rockets) and at least one A-10 warplane. 

U.S. Troops first arrived at the house at 10 AM and an Arab speaking interpreter used a bull horn to order everyone out of the house. Two people left, but when U.S. troops entered to search at 10:10 AM, there was AK-47 fire from the second floor. Three U.S. troops were wounded trying to get up the stairs to the second floor, and another American soldier outside was wounded. At that point, the cordon around the house was tightened, attempts were made to start a dialog with the people in the house and more heavy weapons were brought up. 

At 11:45 fire from the ground (.50 caliber machine-guns and 40mm grenade launcher) and the air (helicopter weapons) began. At noon, the prep fire ceased and U.S. troops entered the house again. This time the troops inside checked out the entire building and confirmed that the hostile party inside were barricaded in a section of the second floor. These people would not respond to appeals (in Arabic) to surrender. The American troops withdrew from the house by 1 PM and the heavy fire resumed, this time using ten TOW missiles as well (to blow holes in the thick walls on the second floor.) U.S. troops entered again at 1:21 PM and received no fire from the second floor. There they found one of the four people up there still alive and firing his weapon. This Iraqi was shot dead and by 2 PM the rest of the building had been searched and no one else was found. 

Six American troops were wounded, none seriously. Special Forces and Delta Force commandos were said to be involved, and six TOW missiles were fired to make breaches in walls or knock down doors.

The real story here is who collects the $15 million reward for each of the Hussein boys, and how they are going to get away with that. Neighbors said they believed the owner of the house, tribal chief Nawaf Mohammed al-Zaidan, was the tipster. Al-Zaidan is supposed to be a distant cousin of Saddam, and he and his son were escorted from the house before the shooting between the two Hussein brothers and the soldiers began. The two were not handcuffed and were not treated as prisoners, at least to other Iraqis viewing the scene.

There are lots of Saddam admirers left in Iraq, who might feel obliged to kill whoever "betrayed" Uday and Qsay. Plus there's the old "blood feud" tradition in Iraq, where one killing can spawn generations of tit-for-tat revenge murders. Then again, even Saddam's tribe (the Al Nasseri, by marriage to his first wife) might not be too unhappy to see Uday (who shot his own uncle) gone. Qsay was no family favorite either, being responsible for imprisoning or executing many members of  Saddam's clan (by blood or marriage.)

Uday was a truly evil and vile character, with a reputation of casual murder and rape. He also enjoyed personally supervising the torture of real or imagined enemies. Uday was the head of the criminal groups and paramilitaries that helped keep his father in power. A 1996 assassination attempt (one of many), had left Uday unable to walk normally. That, and unease at Udays sometimes irrational behavior, caused Saddam to appoint his next oldest son, Qsay, as his heir apparent. Qsay was also cruel, but not as irrational as his older brother. He also ran most of the security services in the country.

The United States has set up the Trade Bank of Iraq in Baghdad in order to provide financial services needed to carry on importing and exporting goods. The bank is staffed by Iraqi and American officials. 

American raids in the last few days, based on information provided by Iraqis, have resulted in the seizure of 4.5 tons of plastic explosives, 13,000 RPG rocket grenades and 4,000 mortar shells, plus AK-47s and RPG launchers. 

Cell phone service has arrived in many parts of Iraq. Cell phones were banned by Saddam's government. 


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