Hussein enters hospital

Ex-Iraqi leader on hunger strike

widespread violence kills dozens

July 24, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Saddam Hussein was hospitalized yesterday morning, and was being fed with a tube and given tests to ensure that he could stand trial this week despite a hunger strike that began July 7, Iraqi and U.S. officials said.

Also, widespread sectarian violence returned yesterday after two days of relative calm, with at least 57 people killed in bombings in Baghdad and Kirkuk, shootings around the country, and 11 bodies found in the Tigris River, bound and with gunshot wounds to the head or chest.

Jaafar al-Musawi, the lead prosecutor in Hussein's trial, said yesterday evening that Hussein was conscious and talkative, and would be expected in court tomorrow for the final stages of his case. The deposed Iraqi leader and seven co-defendants are accused of executing 148 men and boys from the Shiite town of Dujail.

The Jordanian lawyers for Hussein and three other defendants on a hunger strike said they would not attend this week's court proceedings, extending a boycott that started July 10.

Hussein and the other defendants stopped eating more than two weeks ago to protest the Iraqi court's procedures and to demand greater security for their defense lawyers, three of whom have been killed since the trial started in October.

Hussein ended an earlier hunger strike after a few days.

One of Hussein's defense lawyers, Ziyad al-Najdawi, said in a telephone interview that his colleagues saw Hussein on Saturday at 4 p.m. and that he seemed healthy and in good spirits. If his condition worsened, Najdawi said, it would be because the U.S. military - which has guarded him since he was captured in 2003 - provided inadequate care.

Lt. Col. Keir-Kevin Curry, a spokesman for the U.S.-run detention operation, said Hussein "continues to maintain his hunger strike and is voluntarily receiving nutrition through a feeding tube."

"His condition is constantly monitored by medical personnel and is not life-threatening," Curry said.

On Saturday, Iraqi officials met for the first time to discuss plans for reconciling the country's warring factions, producing little more than buoyant assertions and plans for more meetings.

Yesterday, dozens of Iraqis were killed or found dead, in nearly every region of the country, with Sunni, Shiite and diverse areas affected.

In Baghdad, the capital, a suicide bomber blew up a minibus at a busy market in the Shiite-dominated Sadr City area, killing at least 35 people, including several teenagers, and injuring 75, the authorities said.

Just hours earlier, the U.S. military conducted a raid before dawn in Sadr City that captured eight people suspected of planning violence, according to a statement. Military officials said there was no evidence of a connection between the raid and the bombing.

Gunmen killed one man in Dawra, a mixed area of the city.

A volley of mortars in western Baghdad killed one and wounded 12, including five children and two women.

Three policemen were killed in the Qadasiya neighborhood in western Baghdad after gunmen fired on their car, according to an Interior Ministry official.

In Adhamiya, a Sunni neighborhood, four unidentified bodies were found in the Tigris, bound and with gunshot wounds to the head. Twenty more bodies were found throughout the city, according to officials.

Along another bend in the Tigris, about 25 miles south near Suwayra, a majority Shiite town, Iraqi police officers retrieved the bodies of seven others who had been handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head and chest, according to news service reports.

One person was killed when a mortar hit a house in Mussayib, another town south of Baghdad.

Near Ramadi, west of the capital, where U.S. Marines have fought with insurgents for weeks, gunmen attacked three trucks carrying fuel, killing the drivers.

In Anbar Province, a U.S. soldier was killed "due to enemy action," according to a statement from military officials.

In the north, gunmen killed at least two people near the city of Baqouba.

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