Hundreds flock to see Saddam's gravesite
By Steven R. Hurst, Associated Press Writer Sun Dec. 31, 5:17 PM ET
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Hundreds of Iraqis flocked to the village where Saddam Hussein was born on Sunday to see the deposed leader buried in a religious compound 24 hours after his execution.
Saddam's body was interred in a special compound he built in
Ouja and designed for use in mourning ceremonies by the people of the town where
he was born 69 years and eight months before.
Those who saw the ceremony said the building was decorated in a Moroccan motif with teak wood walls. The domed burial chamber was about 20 feet tall and hung with a green chandelier. Incense perfumed the burial location where the raised grave covering was about 6 inches above floor level.
Ouja is a few miles south of Tikrit, the Tigris River city that is capital of Salahuddin province, 80 miles north of Baghdad. It was a major power base for the former leader who brutally ruled Iraq for nearly a quarter century.
Officials in Tikrit said the body was transferred by American helicopter to the U.S. military base at Tikrit from Baghdad, where Saddam dropped through the gallows floor and died shortly before dawn on Saturday.
At Saddam's funeral, dozens of relatives and other mourners, some of them crying and moaning, attended the interment shortly before dawn. A few knelt before his flag-draped grave. A large framed photograph of Saddam was propped up on a chair nearby.
"I condemn the way he was executed and I consider it a crime," said 45-year-old Salam Hassan al-Nasseri, one of Saddam's clansmen who attended the interment. Some 2,000 Iraqis traveled to the village as well.
Mohammed Natiq, a 24-year-old college student, said "the path of Arab nationalism must inevitably be paved with blood."
"God has decided that Saddam Hussein should have such an end, but his march and the course which he followed will not end," Natiq said.
Police on Saturday blocked the entrances to Tikrit and said nobody was allowed to leave or enter the city for four days. Despite the security precaution, gunmen took to the streets, carrying pictures of Saddam, shooting into the air and calling for vengeance.
Saddam was captured in an underground hide-out near Ouja on Dec. 13, 2003, eight months after he fled Baghdad ahead of advancing American troops. He was convicted and sentenced to death last month for crimes against humanity for his role in the killings of 148 Shiite Muslims from Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the town.
His burial place is about two miles from the graves of his sons, Odai and Qusai, in the main town cemetery. The sons and a grandson were killed in a gunbattle with the American forces in Mosul in July 2003.
"We received the body of Saddam Hussein without any complications. There was cooperation by the prime minister and his office's director," clan chief Sheik al-Nidaa told state-run Al-Iraqiya television. "We opened the coffin of Saddam. He was cleaned and wrapped according to Islamic teachings. We didn't see any unnatural signs on his body."