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Last Updated:  Thursday, 3 April, 2003, 18:54 GMT 19:54 UK
Iraqis loot Ali's palace
'Chemical Ali' in Damascus during diplomatic mission
Al-Majid on Syrian TV January 2003
A palace that housed the man dubbed "Chemical Ali" for his role in gas attacks on northern Iraq during the offensive against the Kurds in 1988 has been looted by the people he used to govern.

The Iraqi president's paternal cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, has vanished deep into the heart of the paramilitary death squads he still controls in southern Iraq.

But the people who had the most reason to fear the former leader of the Mukhabarat - Saddam Hussein's secret police - have reduced his home to ruins.

And at the bottom of the 25-foot (7.62-metre) swimming pool - in the heart of the desert where the children of Iraqi farmers beg for water at roadsides - lies a notebook.

Each page bears the stamp: "Ali Hassan al-Majid, leader of the southern area" and a quote from the Koran: "Your victory is from Allah and no-one can ever defeat you".

Within their jurisdiction, the armed forces must kill any human being or animal present
Ali Hassan al-Majid

In the entrance hall, a smashed photograph shows Saddam Hussein with one of his generals.

It could be al-Majid - but the faces have been torn out.

The elaborate wooden fretwork at the door, huge smoked glass windows and chandeliers lie smashed on the stone-tiled floor

Two plush bathroom suites have also been smashed and the contents of every room ripped out - probably to be sold as scrap by Iraqis desperate for food.

British officers were told about the mansion while carrying out "hearts and minds" work near Basra, southern Iraq.

Captain Ken Jolley, 40, of King's Lynn, Norfolk, who has led the patrols, said: "They showed us an army barracks where tank shells were hidden and then said, 'Did you know Chemical Ali lives down the road?'"

The place has been ransacked, just about gutted, everything's been ripped out
Captain Ken Jolley

The soldiers were led to a Moorish-style mansion hidden from the road by a barrier and guardhouse, a long, winding drive and high banks of sand, designed to protect inhabitants from gunfire.

Corporal Nyall Jenkins, 33, of Selby, North Yorkshire, said: "The place has been ransacked, just about gutted, everything's been ripped out.

"Obviously the locals have gone to town on it, just ripped out everything they could get.

"It's a palace and they're living in total squalor."

Corporal Jenkins, whose wife is due to give birth to their first child in seven weeks, added: "It's been an eye-opener.

"I can't believe the way people are living here, it's incredible.

"Children begging at the sides of streets, begging for food and water in bare feet.

"I think I feel it more with children now, because of my present situation."

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