Saddam urges Iraqi resistance during trial
BAGHDAD – Iraqi police accused U.S. troops of killing five children in a raid on an al Qaeda suspect on Wednesday as ousted leader Saddam Hussein used his televised trial to call on people to «resist the invaders.»
The judge promptly cut off the cameras and barred the press.
On the eve of the first session of the parliament elected in December, political leaders again met without obvious result in their efforts to form the national unity government that U.S. officials say can avert civil war and let U.S. troops go home.
After a new wave of sectarian killings in Baghdad this week, the Shi’ite religious leadership issued an alarm signal, when a senior source told Reuters that top clerics’ appeals for calm were going unheeded and militias were at risk of losing control.
Police and witnesses said 11 members of one family were killed in a U.S. raid overnight in Ishaqi, a town in Saddam’s home province north of Baghdad. The U.S. military said two women and a child died as troops arrested an al Qaeda militant.
A senior Iraqi police officer said autopsies on the bodies, which included five children, showed each had been shot in the head. Community leaders said they were outraged.
Television footage showed the bodies of five children, two men and four women in the Tikrit morgue. One infant had a gaping head wound. All the children seemed younger than school age.
«Troops were engaged by enemy fire as they approached the building,» U.S. spokesman Major Tim Keefe said. «Coalition Forces returned fire utilizing both air and ground assets.
«There was one enemy killed. Two women and one child were also killed in the firefight. The building … (was) destroyed.»
Keefe said the al Qaeda suspect had been captured.
Major Ali Ahmed of the Ishaqi police said U.S. forces had landed on the roof and shot the 11 occupants. Colonel Farouq Hussein said autopsies found all had been shot in the head.
Their hands were bound and they were dumped in one room before the house was destroyed, Hussein said.
«It’s a clear and perfect crime without any doubt,» he said.
Police in Salahaddin province, Saddam’s home base and heartland of the Sunni insurgency, have often criticized U.S. military tactics, including cases of houses being destroyed.
Saddam formally took the stand at his trial and urged Iraqis to fight «invaders,» prompting the judge to bar reporters from a court that the former president denounced as a «comedy.»
«I call on the people to start resisting the invaders instead of killing each other,» Saddam said.
Ousted by the U.S. invasion launched three years ago on Monday, Saddam showed he had been following recent events by telling Iraqis to avoid civil war: otherwise, he said, «you will live in darkness and rivers of blood.»
Saddam and seven co-accused could face hanging if convicted on charges of crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Shi’ites after an assassination attempt in 1982.
«Don’t make a political speech. Now you are a defendant. This is your fate and your role is over,» the judge told him.