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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Kurd's Testimony Includes Taunt for Hussein: `You Are in a Cage'

Several witnesses tell of vanished and dead kin, allegedly among the many victims of a 1980s offensive aimed at northern Iraq militants.

September 13, 2006|Patrick J. McDonnell | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — A Kurdish villager mocked Saddam Hussein in court Tuesday as the man recalled the disappearance of his relatives during a 1980s military campaign in northern Iraq.

"Congratulations! You are in a cage," said the witness, Ghafour Hassan Abdullah, addressing Hussein and his six codefendants seated behind metal grates in the courtroom.

The former strongman's patience failed as a defense lawyer described Iraqi Kurdish rebels as freedom fighters.

"No, they are not! They are collaborators for the Zionists!" Hussein shouted during his trial on charges that his forces killed as many as 100,000 people during the campaign against Kurdish militants. "We will crush the heads of all Zionists and their collaborators!"

Several witnesses testified Tuesday at the trial, which is expected to last until at least December, about abuses by Hussein's military.

Akram Ali Hussein, 41, described what he said was a chemical attack in 1987 on the village of Sikanyan.

"We saw all the bushes had turned white," he said.

The following year, he said, the village was bombarded again and a dozen relatives, including his mother, sister and brother, were imprisoned. Later, he said, he learned that two cousins had died of hunger and that their bodies had been eaten by dogs at the prison.

"I want the whole world to know what he did," the witness said of the former Iraqi leader.

Hussein seemed exasperated on several occasions.

"When I am right I cannot be scared, and I don't think there is a power on Earth that can shake even one hair of my mustache," Hussein declared. "But I have noticed today that there were too many insults. And when you put a lion in a cage, any coward can put a stick in the cage and frighten him."

The Iraqi parliament, meanwhile, on Tuesday shelved a measure that would have forced American authorities to present a schedule for the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops from Iraq.

"We demand a timetable to rebuild our Iraqi forces and to rehabilitate our army," said Dhafir Ani, a representative of the minority Sunni Arab bloc. "This gathering today is the first step for a political stance against the occupation and to unite Iraq."

The Bush administration has refused to give a timetable for withdrawal, saying it would embolden the insurgency.

The resolution is said to have the support of more than 100 lawmakers, including followers of militant Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr.

But the Shiite leadership in the 275-member parliament opposes a strict timetable, and the proposal was sent to a committee for study.

It was another violent day in the capital, where a car bomb killed six people and wounded 15 in the upscale Mansour district, the site of frequent attacks and kidnappings. The bomb targeted a passing U.S. patrol, authorities said, but no U.S. troops were reported injured.

Elsewhere, the country's communal slaughter persisted amid grisly new finds of bodies.

A hospital source said authorities discovered six beheaded bodies in Baghdad's Ghazaliya neighborhood. Ghazaliya is one of a number of districts "cleared" during a recent U.S.-led sweep that reduced violence. But there has been a resurgence of violence in the district since most U.S. forces moved on to other neighborhoods.

The bodies of 10 young men, all gunshot victims, were found in various parts of Baghdad and delivered to the morgue, an official said. Most had signs of torture. Four other bodies were found south of Baghdad, authorities said.

In the troubled, mixed-sect province of Diyala, northeast of the capital, officials said two Sunni mosques were attacked and burned Tuesday. Those assaults followed an attack Monday on a Shiite mosque. Factions also fired about 40 mortar shells, officials reported. There was no word on casualties.

A hospital source in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi said three people were killed and five injured in clashes between gunmen and U.S. forces. There was no confirmation from American authorities.

The Associated Press reported that at least four people were killed and two dozen wounded in a bomb explosion near a market in the town of Miqdadiya, northeast of the capital, and that gunmen shot and killed four Kurds in the northern city of Mosul. Kurds and Arabs have been battling in Mosul and in Kirkuk, a key northern city.

*

patrick.mcdonnell@latimes.com

Special correspondents in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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