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Some Iraqi Shi'ites See More Pressing Issues Than Fate of Saddam's Sons - 2003-07-25

In the Shia Muslim slums of Sadr City outside of Baghdad, there is no mourning for Saddam's sons, killed by U.S. forces earlier this week. Residents there say the lack of essential services and security are more pressing concerns than whether the deaths of Oday and Qusay have been sufficiently proved.

Unpaved roads and crumbling, yellowed, mud-brick homes pack the slum area of Sadr City, the crowded home to two million Shia Muslims. Sadr City residents say they are happy that Saddam's sons are gone but, as student Jassim Ibrahim said, there are more pressing problems facing them than the fate of the two brothers.

Uday and Qusay are killed, he said, but at this time there is no electricity. People are shooting and we will be hurt or murdered, he says, and to whom should we complain.

Under the old regime, Sadr City was officially known as Saddam City. This was considered a deliberate affront to its Shia residents by Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority elite, which kept a tight and often-brutal grip on the nation's Shia minority.

Abdel-Adeem Jabaar sells plastic goods in the market. With temperatures topping 45 degrees Centigrade, he said Sadr City residents are suffering because there isn't electricity to run fans and air conditioners. They also lack water for drinking.

"Our lives are like a tragedy because of the electricity," he explained. "The electricity may run for about 10 minutes and then it is cut for three days," he said. "We are fed up and tired."

While the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq acknowledges it will take time to restore full power to Baghdad and surrounding areas, like Sadr City, it says electric output has already increased since the end of the war.

Coalition commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez said much of Iraq's utility equipment is old and decrepit, making it hard to increase generating capacity. "We are working to overcome 30 years of neglect, and are faced with a fragile infrastructure that was often used as a weapon against the people," he explained. "Electricity is on the verge of hitting the 4,000 megawatt target, which will put the country on about the pre-war levels."

The Coalition Provisional Authority says it intends to bring additional generators and turbines into Iraq over the coming months. For the residents of Sadr City, relief cannot come too soon.