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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 September 2006, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Kurd witness mocks 'caged' Saddam
Witness Ghafour Hassan Abdullah in court on 12 September 2006
Ghafour Hassan Abdullah: "I heard women and children scream"
A Kurd who fled attacks by Saddam Hussein's troops in 1988 has described learning 15 years later of the fate of members of his family.

Ghafour Hassan Abdullah told the trial of the former Iraqi leader how the identity cards of his mother and two sisters were found in a mass grave.

He called out: "Congratulations Saddam Hussein - you are now in a cage!"

Saddam Hussein and six others are on trial for war crimes against the Kurds during the so-called Anfal campaign.

The defendants are accused of killing up to 180,000 civilians in the late 1980s.

Saddam Hussein and his cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, face additional charges of genocide.

'Trees turned grey'

Mr Abdullah told the court that troops had shelled his village near the northern Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya in February 1988.

"At night, I heard the screaming of women and children," he told the court.

Saddam Hussein in court on 12 September 2006
Saddam Hussein is awaiting the verdict in another trial

He said he fled to neighbouring Iran with other relatives, but his mother and two sisters had gone missing. Their identity cards were found in a mass grave more than 120 miles (200km) from their village many years later.

"I don't know why these tragedies come to us. Is it only because we're Kurds?" he asked.

Three other witnesses also spoke of the loss of family members during the Anfal campaign.

Like Ghafour Hassan Abdullah, two witnesses said they learned of the fate of some of their relatives in 2004 when a court showed them the identity cards found in the mass grave.

One man, Akram Ali Hussein, described how a chemical attack on his village had forced people to run for the mountains.

"We heard big bangs and later bad smells," he said. We saw a white layer cover the ground... The trees turned grey and white, so we knew that a chemical material was used."

'Agents of Iran'

Saddam Hussein listened to the witnesses, but lost his temper when the Kurdish peshmerga guerrillas were described by one lawyer as freedom fighters.

"Rebellion is rebellion. Let's come up with one country which had a rebellion that wasn't confronted by the army," he said.

The former Iraqi president also demanded "neutral countries like Switzerland" examine the evidence found in mass graves.

And he lashed out at the court, saying: "You are agents of Iran and Zionism. We will crush your heads."

Saddam Hussein and his fellow accused say the Anfal campaign was a legitimate counter-insurgency operation aimed at clearing northern Iraq of Iranian troops and separatist guerrillas.

All seven face the death penalty if convicted.

This is the fifth hearing in what is the second trial for Saddam Hussein. The case was adjourned until Wednesday.

Saddam Hussein and seven different defendants have already been tried for the killing of 148 Shias in Dujail in 1982. A verdict is due on 16 October.

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