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Leaked Photos Draw Mixed Reaction from Iraqis

  • Patricia Nunan

A newspaper vendor pins up copies of the Saturday edition of Iraq's Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, showing a picture of Saddam Hussein
Photos published by a British newspaper showing the jailed former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein wearing just his underwear continue to draw mixed reactions from Iraqis. The controversy comes as another government official was assassinated in the streets of the capital.

For the second day Iraqi newspapers are carrying photos of former President Saddam Hussein in U.S. custody - this time, wearing a traditional robe. Photos published Friday by the British tabloid The Sun showed the former leader wearing nothing more than underwear.

The pictures have prompted a mixed reaction from people in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Thirty-five year-old Sattar Jabbar says it is a shameful that these photos were published because Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq once, and its a humiliation for the government and the people. He adds that he thinks the U.S. government allowed the photos to be published to warn other Arab leaders they could suffer similar humiliation if they disagree with the United States.

Maithan Shehab Ahmad says he hates Saddam after the 12 years he spent in the military fighting in the Iran-Iraq war. But he says he was disgusted to see the photos.

"Saddam Hussein stole my life from me," he said. "I spent 12 years of my life in the military and he took everything. But that does not mean we accept the humiliation of our president."

U.S. officials have condemned the publication of the photos and promised to investigate how they were leaked to the British newspaper. The pictures, which show the former leader with a mustache, were apparently taken within a few months of his capture in December 2003. More recent photos of Saddam reveal that he has grown a beard.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has also condemned the publication of the photos, which they say violate a prisoner's right to privacy.

But not everyone in Baghdad was angry.

Shopkeeper Ayad Mahmoud says the photos would only humiliate the Iraqi people if they liked or respected Saddam. "But if you ask anyone, they will tell you he did not represent the Iraqi people, he was just a tyrant," he adds.

Meanwhile, gunmen killed a senior trade ministry official as he drove to work early Sunday. It is the latest in a series of attacks targeting senior government officials.

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