10 August 2003
The four-storey house in Mosul where Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, made their last stand has been demolished to prevent it being made into a shrine by Iraqis nostalgic for their father's rule. But before the bulldozers moved in, the site was picked over by American souvenir hunters.
Four armed CIA men in plain clothes were prowling through the rubble in Mosul's Chalalat Street last week. One, a bald man with an automatic rifle slung over his shoulders who said he was from Colorado, admitted he was collecting souvenirs for himself and his colleagues. He and other armed Americans were removing pieces of blue and pink marble from interior walls and stacking them in the back of their vehicle.
The Americans spent two hours in the rubble, watched silently by Iraqi workers and resentful local residents. Some said the demolition was unnecessary and compared the CIA men to looters. "They act with no honour," said one of the Iraqis bulldozing the house.
Onlookers also condemned the owner of the house, Nawaf al-Zaidan, for "selling" Uday and Qusay, who died along with Qusay's son Mustafa, 14, and a bodyguard. "What he did is against Arab traditions," said Fida Ibrahim el-Uqadi, one of the workers demolishing the villa. "This is going to give us a very bad reputation among Arab countries and the rest of the world. Eventually, the $30m Nawaf got from selling his brothers will kill him."
Two shopkeepers on the other side of the street who witnessed the end of Saddam's sons expressed similar views, even though they thought Uday and Qusay were indeed "bad guys". The two brothers, they said, made a fatal mistake by staying in the same house for 23 days.
"At the beginning, we didn't know they were hiding there, but we knew something was wrong when Nawaf decided to transfer all his valuable furniture out of the building, claiming to neighbours that he was moving to a new apartment," a grocery shop owner said. He was still afraid to give his name. "Just call me Salwan," he said.
He added that Mr al-Zaidan watched Saddam's sons meet their end. "They say Nawaf took his millions to Kuwait or the Emirates. But he still owed me 40,000 dinars [£27]."