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Saddam's Sons Buried; U.S. Troops Bombed

Saddam's Sons Buried; U.S. Troops Bombed

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Saddam Hussein's two elder sons and a grandson were buried as martyrs Saturday in rocky soil near the deposed leader's hometown, where insurgents afterward attacked U.S. troops with three remote controlled bombs.

Despite the violence in Tikrit -- a center of anti-American guerrilla resistance -- the U.S. administrator for Iraq declared he had not seen hatred of American troops among the country's people.

Instead, L. Paul Bremer, chief of the American occupation administration, blamed incessant attacks against U.S. forces on foreign terrorists and three groups aligned with the ousted Saddam regime.

He implied those fighters did not represent the larger Iraqi population. "I have not noticed any hatred among the Iraqi people for the American soldiers," Bremer said at a news conference.

Yet in dozens of interviews conducted by The Associated Press, Iraqi citizens voiced growing bitterness and a desire for revenge against U.S. soldiers for the way they have allegedly treated the population while attempting to pacify the country.

At least two American soldiers were injured in the remote-controlled explosions in Tikrit after elders of Saddam's tribe buried the ousted dictators sons Odai and Qusai, along with Qusai's 14-year-old son, in an outlying village.

Tribal leaders chanted prayers over three side-by-side graves in the family plot in al-Uja, where the Iraqi leader was born.

The family wrapped the three bodies in the nation's flag, designating them as martyrs for the Iraqi cause.

They were killed in a gunbattle with American forces in the northern city of Mosul on July 22, after being on the run for more than three months. Their betrayer, thought to have been the owner of the villa where they were gunned down, received a $30 million reward from the United States and was spirited out of Iraq under U.S. protection.

Lt. Col. Steve Russell, of the Tikrit-based 4th Infantry Division, said villagers wanted the funeral to be peaceful.

"The people of al-Uja just wanted it over with, they didn't want to make a big deal about it," Russell said. He said tribal leaders contacted the army on Friday to tell them the bodies would be arriving.

"One of the sheiks was very nervous about it all and came to our forces pleading that we be aware so nothing would happen to the people of al-Uja," Russell said.

The army flew the bodies to an airfield just north of Tikrit, and sent them in Iraqi Red Crescent Society ambulances to the cemetery, Russell said. About 20 cars passed through an existing U.S. military checkpoint to reach the burial. Russell said soldiers observed proceedings from a distance but did not approach.

The Red Crescent acted as intermediary between Saddam's family and the U.S. military, which had kept the bodies in refrigerated storage at Baghdad International Airport.

Military morticians had reconstructed the brothers' faces to look lifelike, and allowed Western journalists to videotape and photograph them, after Iraqi civilians voiced skepticism that Odai and Qusai were really dead. Images of the autopsied bodies were flashed across the Arab world by satellite broadcasters, largely dispelling lingering doubts.

Still, many Iraqis complained about the treatment of the bodies -- the autopsies and reconstruction of the brothers' faces -- as being deeply contrary to Muslim practice that demands corpses be buried untouched and before sundown on the day of death.

Bremer, meanwhile, joined the chorus of U.S. officials, mainly in Washington, who have sought to blame the relentless attacks on American forces partly on foreign terrorists. Other violence, he said, was the work of remnants of Saddam's Baath Party, his Fedayeen Saddam militia, and the deposed and once-feared security forces.

Beyond that, Bremer charged that Iraqi impatience with American inability to quickly return the country to a more normal existence was the fault of Saddam, who left behind "one of the world's most devastated economies."

Noting a continuing shortage of diesel fuel, which he said was the work of sabotage attacks on refineries, Bremer pleaded with attackers to think about fellow Iraqis waiting in the blistering heat for buses that ran late or never came.

Also Saturday, the military said a U.S. soldier was killed and three were wounded Friday in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on their convoy east of Baghdad.

That death brought to at least 52 the number of American soldiers killed in combat since May 1 when President Bush declared major fighting over. So far, 167 Americans have died in combat in this Iraq war, 20 more than in the 1991 Gulf War.

The Arab satellite television broadcaster Al-Jazeera reported that another U.S. soldier also died Saturday morning in an assault north of the capital, but the military had no details on that.

Insurgents have increasingly turned to attacking passing American convoys with remote-controlled bombs -- as they did Saturday in Tikrit.

"I think there's some connection to the fact that we dropped off the remains of Odai and Qusai today. That has probably something to do with it," Russell said.

Despite the attacks, there was no widespread violence against U.S. troops in Tikrit -- as feared -- though al-Uja residents criticized the U.S. military for not burying the bodies earlier.

"Burying them is just giving them their rights," student Ali Ahmad said.

The Tigris River city of Tikrit remains one of the least pacified areas in the country. It sits squarely in the so-called "Sunni Triangle" north and west of Baghdad, where remnants of Saddam loyalists have conducted a guerrilla war against American occupation forces.

The U.S. military also announced Saturday that U.S. soldiers firing in self-defense had killed a woman Friday who was standing near where attackers dropped an explosive from an overpass onto a U.S. convoy below.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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