Saddam Hussein's Body Moved By Allies, Tomb Damaged In Fighting

Melissa Stusinski

Saddam Hussein's body was moved by allies from a family plot to a secret place, fearful that Shia Muslims would harm it. Their caution paid off this week when Shia militamen broke into the tomb, tore down photographs of the deposed leader, and set the area on fire.

A leader from Saddam's Albu Nasir tribe told the Guardian, "We had moved the body eight months ago to a safer place. We were afraid something would happen to him. Our fears proved true."

Saddam Hussein was hanged in 2006 after he was convicted of crimes against humanity for the murder of 148 Shia villagers in 1982. He was buried in his birthplace of Awja, about 95 miles north of Iraq's capital. Shia officials taunted the former leader as he stood on the gallows.

The tribal leader, who asked not to be named, added of the operation to move Saddam's body, "There were four of us that took up this mission. We could not move the bodies of Saddam's sons. We are afraid someone will desecrate those graves."

Hussein was buried in the dead of night beside his sons, who were killed by U.S. troops in 2003, six months before their father was captured. Uday and Qusay were both despised by Shi'ites as well. Yahoo! News notes that the tribal leader and other Sunnis were looking into reports that the sons' graves were desecrated.

Shi'ite militias are positioned near the grave of Saddam Hussein to fight the Islamic State, Sunni militants who forced their way through northern Iraq last month and declared a caliphate.

A police captain, speaking from the operations room in the nearby city of Sammara, stated of the incident, "A militia force entered Saddam's tombsite, destroyed everything in sight and set it on fire. Until now they are surrounding the tombsites." The tribal chief confirmed the police captain's account, noting that the milita "smashed everything in site, including photographs" of the deposed leader.

Saddam's grave was located in a family plot in Awja. It was dug into the floor of an octagonal, domed building he built in the 1980s for religious festivals. At the time of his burial, the government said that Saddam's body could lie in a secret grave for fear the site would become a shrine to him and a focal point for Baathist rebels.

More than 70 people were killed in car bomb attacks on Shi'ite neighborhoods after the former leader's execution. The Albu Nasir tribe leader would not say where Saddam Hussein's body was moved, though he said the operation took place eight months ago.

[Image: MSN News]