The last moments of Saddam's grandson
14-year-old may have fought on after anti-tank rockets killed the adults
Julian Borger in Washington and Jonathan Steele in Mosul
Thursday July 24, 2003: (The Guardian. UK)
Saddam Hussein's 14-year-old grandson, Mustafa, may have been the last to die in Tuesday's four-hour siege on a house in Mosul, and kept shooting even after Qusay and Uday Hussein, his father and uncle, had been killed, US military officials said yesterday.
According to a detailed account of the assault on the house given by Lt General Ricardo Sanchez in Baghdad, a volley of 10 anti-tank missiles near the end of the siege "wound up killing three of the adults" in the house. But when US troops made their third and final assault on the building, a sole survivor kept firing until he was shot dead.
US officials believe that the last defender was a teenage boy, identified as Mustafa Hussein, who was known to be travelling with his father.
When US troops approached the villa at 10am, triggering the gun fight, there were four people barricaded into a fortified first floor apartment - Mustafa, Qusay, Uday and an unidentified adult, probably a bodyguard.
According to a military official, the three men took up positions in a bathroom at the front of the building, where they had a line of fire on the streets and on steps leading up to the first floor. The fourth person, thought to be Qusay's son, was kept in a bedroom at the back of the apartment.
"The three in the front were killed by TOW [anti-tank] missiles," the official said. "The fourth at the back was the last, and yes it looks like it could have been the boy."
Two very different versions of Tuesday's events emerged yesterday. One, put forward by Gen Sanchez, portrayed an orderly, steadily-escalating siege, in which every effort was taken to avoid harming bystanders. The alternative version, presented by neighbours in Mosul, was of a chaotic free-for-all in which no effort was made to usher local residents to safety.
There was, however, general agreement that Saddam's sons and grandson had been betrayed by an informant, who some neighbours alleged was the owner of the house, Nawaf al Zaidan, a wealthy businessman and a member of Saddam Hussein's clan.
Gen Sanchez refused to identify the informant, who now stands to receive a $30m (£18.6m) reward. The general described Tuesday's assault as a "cordon and knock" operation. The house was surrounded before soldiers with a megaphone ordered those inside to surrender."
US troops went up to the front door and knocked. Nawaf al Zaidan opened the door and was detained. Shalan, his son came up in a BMW and he was also detained", said Raed Mohamed, a 20-year old whose family lives opposite the house. "The Americans went back to the house and were about to break in, when people in the house shot and they were wounded and fell."
Gen Sanchez said that the gunfire had come from an area on the first floor, encased in thick walls and bullet-proof glass. He said four American soldiers had been wounded in that first assault. They were evacuated by helicopter. Over the next two hours, the US troops continued to "prep the objective", in Gen Sanchez's words, with an onslaught on the hardened first-floor room using grenades, rockets and heavy machine guns. After that failed to dislodge the defenders, Kiowa helicopters were called in to target the room with rockets.
At midday, a second attempt was made to storm the building. American soldiers managed to reach the ground floor but once more came under fire as they tried to move up. They withdrew and again resorted to yet heavier weapons. At about 1pm, the US assault team fired 10 TOW anti-tank missiles at the strong-room.
General Sanchez insisted everything had been done to avoid harming local civilians. But several residents wondered why the American troops did not opt for a slow siege and allow people to escape in safety before the onslaught began.
As it happened in mid-morning, most homes only had women and children in them. "We ran from room to room trying to find the best place to shelter. We were crying and calling out Allah Akbar (God is Great)," said Leila Mohamed, Raed's mother, a secondary school teacher who was with her daughters, aged 12 and 13.
Nabil Ahmed, a local resident, had his left arm in a sling. He said he had been shot by an American soldier when he was on his way home from night duty at the town's electric power station. "An American soldier let me through, but then another one nearer to the house got out a pistol and shot at the car. My friend who was with me drove me to hospital," Mr Ahmed said.
Two bullet holes are visible in the car, one of them through the windscreen. As he spoke, four US soldiers and an Iraqi civilian came into the house to check damage and offer either to make repairs or give compensation. Upstairs glass and rubble littered the bed and a huge chunk of masonry had been eaten out of the roof parapet.
A hole the size of a football had been punched through the house wall. But Mr Ahmed did not want to let the soldiers in to survey the damage. "The people who shot me, I don't want them in my house," he muttered. "They should have informed people once they'd surrounded the villa so everyone could get out."
Although the porticoed mansion is an imposing building on a street corner, the houses behind it in the al Masaraf district of Mosul are modest with small front yards. Umm Yahya, a mother of four, who lives two doors from the gutted mansion, recalled how eight US soldiers came into her house, did a quick search with their guns pointing at her before going on to her roof. All her front window glass was later blasted out and the black front gates are peppered with bullet holes.
She displayed the twisted metal from a rocket which she found in her front garden. "I'm definitely glad that those two men are dead and I would like their father to go too", she said. "But it was terrifying. The shooting was non-stop."
Gen Sanchez said that multiple techniques were used to verify that Saddam's two sons were among the dead. Pictures were shown to four members of the ousted regime, including Saddam's former personal secretary, General Abid Hamid Mahmud. X-rays of one of the corpses were also found to be consistent with Uday's injuries uffered in a 1996 assassination attempt.
Thirdly, the teeth of the dead men were compared with dental records. In Uday's case there was a 90% match, Gen Sanchez said, because of injuries to his face. In Qusay's case, the match was 100%. The US military authorities were confident enough to identify Uday and Qusay on Tuesday before DNA tests, but the Pentagon was yesterday debating whether to release pictures that might help convince Iraqis that the two brothers were dead. Some officials believed the pictures were too horrific to publish.
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