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Last Updated: Friday, 7 November, 2003, 10:20 GMT
Tikrit: Saddam Hussein's home town
Tikrit is the ancestral home town of Saddam Hussein's clan and had enormous psychological importance for the former regime.

The residents of the town, 165 kilometres north-west of the capital Baghdad, were intensely loyal to the former Iraqi leader. Its tight-knit ruling tribe and allied clansmen were part of the regime's innermost circle.

It was near here that Saddam Hussein was born 66 years ago. Since he fell from power, Tikrit has proved to be a hotbed of resistance to US-led occupying forces.

Many officers in the defeated Iraqi army and security services were Tikritis, as were a large number of Saddam Hussein's personal elite Special Republican Guards and the Fedayeen militia.

Symbolic

The former Iraqi president put a lot of money and resources into Tikrit, particularly after it was bombed by the allies during the 1991 Gulf War.

The town of more than 30,000 residents changed from a provincial backwater to a place of large mosques, wide modern roads, larger-than-life portraits and statues of the Iraqi ruler and one of his biggest and most sumptuous palaces.

One of Iraq's main oil refineries, Baiji, is located near Tikrit.

Saddam Hussein traditionally celebrated his birthday - 28 April - in Tikrit. The occasions were lavish affairs, with foreign dignitaries among the guests and tens of thousands of people parading through the streets in his honour.

The town is symbolic to many Iraqis. Saladin, the great Arab leader who recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders, was born in Tikrit in 1138. Saladin, who was of Kurdish extraction, became Sultan of Egypt and champion of Islam.





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