Iraqi joy overflows onto streets, fills air with crackle of bullets
Agence France-Presse. | 12/14/03
Posted on 12/14/2003 8:27:39 AM PST by kattracks
Iraqis celebrated the capture of fallen dictator Saddam Hussein in traditional style, blasting away with their favourite weapons pointed to the skies and folk dancing in the streets.
As news spread across the country that ex-president Saddam Hussein had been captured alive near his hometown Tikrit, prolonged bursts of gun fire, automatic weapons, pistols and heavier calibres filled the air in Baghdad.
"It's a great joy for the Iraqi people because a great dictator has been arrested," interim Governing Council member Mahmud Othman told AFP.
In central Fardous Square, people threw old bank notes bearing Saddam's face into the air.
"It's not possible, it must be a double," said taxi-driver Taher, refusing to believe the eight-month hunt by crack US and Kurdish militia forces had come up trumps.
"Now it is time to look to your future. To your future of hope," US civil administrator Paul Bremer told Iraqis.
"Your future has never been more full of hope. The tyrant is a prisoner," he said.
But at the same press conference several Iraqis shouted "Death to Saddam, Death to Saddam" when photographs were shown of the forlorn leader.
After cheering the news wildly, the men stood up and thrust their arms at the video images of the long-haired and bearded leader and later at a shaved picture of him.
"Long live Iraq," they shouted repeatedly.
In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, which suffered harsh oppression under Saddam's Sunni-led government, people took to the streets to dance, an AFP correspondent said.
A local television channel urged people to party. Music was being played across the central Iraqi city.
Huge crowds gathered around cafes with television sets tuned to Arabic satellite channels following every detail of the arrest.
Street dancing was also underway in the streets of Kirkuk, led by northern oil centre's governor Abdul Rahamnd Mustafa Zangana and his deputy Ismail Ahmad al-Hadidi, who is also police chief.
US soldiers joined the fun while locals started to slaughter sheep to fuel the celebrations.
Old Iraqi flags with Arabic writing added by Saddam were being burnt, witnesses said.
In Suleimaniya, the northern Kurdish stronghold of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani whose fighters helped capture Saddam, the population rushed out to prepare for the great day, an AFP correspondent said.
By late afternoon traditional Kurdish dancing filled the city centre, 330 kilometres (200 miles) north of the capital.
In Baqubah, the muezzin who normally calls Muslims to prayer, issued a call to celebrate, or a Takdirat al-Eid.
Gunfire echoed over the town 60 kilometres (nearly 40 miles) northeast of the capital where anti-coalition violence has frequently erupted.
In Fallujah, a rebellious town where support for Saddam runs deep, residents said they could not believe the reports.
Hawija, near Kirkuk, and another centre of pro-Saddam loyalists, was reported quiet.
And Tikrit, Saddam's hometown near were he was captured late Saturday as he slept in a hole, was also quiet.
"If they had announced that he had been caught dead, I might have believed it," said an incredulous Jahida Mohammad, 45, mother of eight children.
Tikrit governor Hussein Jassem Gebara said it was unfortunate that foreign forces had caught Saddam. "I would have liked Iraqi police to get him," said the governor. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1040149/posts