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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Saddam's symbol tumbles down
Crowds in al-Fardus Square
Crowds converged on the statue pelting it with stones and shoes
There have been jubilant scenes in Baghdad's main square as crowds of Iraqis gathered to celebrate after US tanks rolled into the heart of the city.

Elated Baghdadis in al-Fardus Square, in front of the Palestine Hotel, greeted the American forces with cries of support and bunches of flowers.

In an unprecedented show of disdain for Saddam Hussein a group of men scaled the statue of the Iraqi of the leader which dominates the square, securing a noose around its neck in an attempt to pull it down.

The metal plaque at the base of the statue was torn off and the statue's marble plinth attacked with a sledge hammer before US troops joined in the effort, using an armoured vehicle to pull the figure down.

Expression of anger

The BBC's Rageh Omaar in the square said that as the image of the Iraqi leader tumbled to the ground the decades of pain and anger welled up and the crowd surged forward to jump on the statue to smash it to pieces.

"It is a true expression of their anger at over 25 years of rule, they are seeking to vent their anger at the government and joy that it has now fallen."

Statue falls
Slowly but surely it was dragged from its plinth

"This is an historic moment and it took place in front of ordinary Iraqi people, US marines and the gathered media of the world," he added.

As news of the extraordinary events in the square spread more and more Iraqis gathered to watch - women and children joining the crowds of men.

One father held his two young children, dressed in their pyjamas, aloft to allow them to witness the momentous scenes.

Others clambered onto US tanks to dance and cheer, chanting "Bush good" or "There is only one God and Saddam is the enemy of God".

Flag controversy

The old Iraqi flag has been nailed to the fallen statue's plinth in a move that was greeted by huge cheers by the crowd.

Earlier, in a scene reminiscent of the earlier battle at Umm Qasr, a US marine had briefly draped the Stars and Stripes over the face of the statue.

Crowds in al-Fardus Square
Then the crowd moved in smashing the symbol of Iraqi power to pieces

The BBC's Rageh Omaar said this move was not welcomed by the crowd. "Given the sensitivity of this war amongst the rest of the Arab world, many I think see this as going too far," he said.

The toppling of the statue took place slowly at first with the armoured vehicle pulling gingerly back.

Then as the crowd screamed their approval the engines vehicle roared and pulled the statue down.

Now the smashed remnants of the statue are being held up as trophies, with one Iraqi man even riding the head of Saddam Hussein as it is dragged around the square by chains.

And our correspondent says that similar scenes are being replicated across the entire capital, with statues and pictures of Saddam Hussein being attacked and torn down.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"The power that had held Iraqis in its grip for three decades has evaporated"


The BBC's Paul Wood reports from Baghdad
"Law and order has essentially broken down"



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