Families discover Hussein's murder by numbers
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"Tell the world," he says. "My brother prayed, and they took him from the street." Ali's coffin was carried to a truck, and placed alongside another coffin. That one held the remains of a pair of brothers of a neighboring family, found in a single grave.Skip to next paragraph
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While Iraq's modern history is being written today with freshly revealed documents, the opening of Hussein's torture chambers, and the testimonies of officially sanctioned killers, it is the buried treasure here that tells Iraq's true story.
"This was to keep Saddam on his throne. He would do anything," says Jassim Mohamed, whose 70-year-old uncle, in grave number 886, was killed with his militant Islamic son at their home south of Baghdad in October 2000. "Anyone who opposed him, he would kill them."
Among the staunchest of those opponents was Tariq Abu al-Hewa, a 27-year-old militant who lay 20 feet away, in grave number 834. He was arrested in 1999, executed in 2000, and operated with an Islamist group--even using a nom de guerre--that tried to kill senior members of the ruling Baath Party.
"The security agents took him from the street while he was selling perfume," says brother Khalid Rahim Hussein, as he used his car keys as a knife to tear strips of white cloth to wrap Tariq's bones.
"Saddam was a criminal, a dictator, and fascist," says Khalid. "I thank the Americans a lot-we praise them for ending Saddam, with God's help."
"If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have found the corpse," adds cousin Riath Idramis.
The cemetery compound is part of a larger public one just a mile or so from the prison. And though Hussein ordered a mass release of prisoners last October, to reward Iraqis for giving their leader a perfect 100 percent reelection result, evidence emerged Friday of much more recent, wartime killing.
At the entrance to the prison is a portrait of Hussein that reads: "There is no life without the sun; there is no dignity without Saddam." That dignity was destroyed for 13 men accused of spying, when they were caught using handheld Thuraya satellite phones.
Still wearing prison-issue uniforms of white with blue stripes, their bodies were dug up from a mass grave just outside the prison by men with shovels, alerted to the spot by the smell. The bodies had their eyes strung with white or black cloth blindfolds, and their hands were tightly bound behind their backs. Some seem to have been executed, with bullet holes in their heads.
As accused spies, most were apparently held in the same cell block as Newsday journalists Matthew McAllester and Moises Saman, and freelance photographer Molly Bingham, an American, and Johan Rydeng Spanner, a Dane. Those non-Iraqis were also charged with spying, but released during the war after eight days.
Former prisoner Ihsan Hussein Mohamed on Friday estimated that the 13 men, the alleged spies, had been executed no later than April 8-the day before American forces arrived in the heart of Baghdad, and pulled down the statue of Hussein.
These men were, perhaps, the last official victims of the regime.
And Hussein's henchmen may have been waiting for the 13 bodies to arrive at the bleak, windswept cemetery about a mile away, possibly to put them into the 14 unmarked, empty graves that already had been dug there, beyond the last marker for grave number 993.
Abadi Jabbar found himself there at those empty holes Friday, as he searched for the remains of tribal cousins. Already he had found five. Still missing, according to the scrap of paper gripped in his right hand: numbers 867, 974, and 977.
When asked what this scene told him about Saddam Hussein, he replied: "You are the great witness. You have seen it with your own eyes."