Kurds describe massacre by Iraqi soldiers

Testimony in genocide trial of Hussein

November 01, 2006|By Louise Roug | Louise Roug,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The night before, guards separated men from women, children from adults, before reading a list of names "like the day of judgment." As morning broke, soldiers loaded those who had been called onto windowless buses, taking them into the desert.

The Kurdish detainees were tied, blindfolded and their identification papers were taken away. Then the guards opened fire.

"All around us was dirt and smoke," a witness recalled yesterday, testifying in the genocide trial of Iraqi former President Saddam Hussein. "At first I thought I was hit, but I just didn't feel it."

The Kurd, whose name was not released by the court to protect his identity, took the witness stand in the Baghdad courtroom to recount how he feigned death to escape.

Thrown into a mass grave along with his cousin, he stayed still among the dead and the dying even as an officer came down into the trench, shooting those who were still moving. After night fell, the witness said, he was able to climb out of the pit and flee the killing fields.

Yesterday's account by five witnesses echoed previous testimony in the trial.

Hussein and six co-defendants face charges in the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds by firing squad and chemical warfare during a campaign in the late 1980s known as Anfal, or "spoils of war." Although the stated goal of the campaign was to suppress an uprising by Kurdish rebels, most of the victims were civilians.

Bafreen Mohammed, 39, testified yesterday about how an aerial attack on her village killed her 7-year-old son and blinded her.

While the testimony has been dramatic, there have been less theatrics in the courtroom during the Anfal case than in a previous trial of Hussein for the deaths of 148 Shiite Muslims in the village of Dujail during the 1980s. However, in September, the entire defense team walked out of the current trial, protesting the removal of a previous judge.

Hussein's lawyer returned to the courtroom Monday but left again after an argument with the new judge, Mohammed Orabi Khalefa.

Louise Roug writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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