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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 December, 2003, 23:22 GMT
Iraqis celebrate Saddam capture
A group of men holding a congratulatory placard in central Baghdad
Many Iraqis took to the streets in spontaneous celebration

Spontaneous celebrations have been held in the streets of several Iraqi cities, following the news of Saddam Hussein's arrest.

Volleys of rifle fire echoed around the capital Baghdad, as some drove around town honking their car horns and giving the V for victory sign.

Groups of revellers ran into the streets, women ululated and crowds beat pictures of Saddam with shoes.

There were similar scenes of celebration in Kirkuk, Basra, Nasiriya and Najaf as the news spread - but Saddam's stronghold towns of Fallujah and Tikrit were sombre and quiet.

One group gathered in the Fardus square in central Baghdad, where the Saddam statue was toppled at the end of the war, with a placard reading: "Congratulations, congratulations to all honest Iraqis".

My son now has a future
Ayet Bassem, Baghdad

Members of the Iraqi Communist Party, which was banned and persecuted under Saddam's rule, raised red flags outside their party headquarters.

Halem a-Jassen, 40, was among those celebrating in the street.

"He killed my son Mohammed and he tortured his people," she said.

Ayet Bassem, 24, said of her six-year-old: "Things will be better for my son.

"Everyone says everything will be better when Saddam is caught. My son now has a future."

"I'm very happy for the Iraqi people. Life is going to be safer now," said 35-year-old Yehya Hassan, a resident of the city.

"Now we can start a new beginning."


But not everybody in Baghdad was happy. At the Palestine hotel, where foreign journalists and American contract workers are staying, local security guard Abil Daoud was dejected.

"We lost our only hope and now we are stuck with the Americans," he said.

Crowd in Nasiriya
Police and clerics struggled to control one crowd in Nasiriya
The BBC's Dumeetha Luthra, in Basra, reported scenes of jubilation from Iraq's second city, one of the most oppressed under Saddam's regime.

Crowds danced outside the police station and gathered round a man who sat on a pedestal pretending to fire a fake gun into the air, in a parody of Saddam.

"There's people whistling, there's people honking their horns, there's celebratory fire," she said.

"Earlier there was a brass band just driving around, the streets, and people dancing behind it.

People here are really, really happy... this is a real moment of glory, a real lifting of a shadow
BBC's Dumeetha Luthra in Basra

"People here are really, really happy... this is a real moment of glory, a real lifting of a shadow."

But she added that even while they were celebrating, people were demanding more security, more jobs and stepped-up reconstruction.

"This, I think, is very much a momentary feeling of glory," she said.


In Nasiriya, Shia cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Nassiri struggled to control one of the crowds that had gathered in jubilation.

Other people sprayed fizzy drinks around and climbed onto vehicles to dance.

Iraqi Communists celebrating
Communists took to the streets of Baghdad, waving their flag
In the northern city of Kirkuk, hundreds of Kurds rushed from their homes to celebrate the ousted president's capture, congratulating each other and fired guns into the air.

"We are celebrating like it's a wedding," said resident Mustapha Sheriff. "We are finally rid of that criminal."

"This is the joy of a lifetime," said Ali Al-Bashiri.

"I am speaking on behalf of all the people that suffered under his rule."

There were also reports of people taking to the streets in the Shia holy city of Najaf, where a local television channel urged people to party.

'Iraq defeated'

Baquba, about 60km north of Baghdad, and Sadr City, the predominantly Shia suburb of Baghdad, also witnessed joy in the streets.

In Baquba, the muezzin who normally calls people to prayer, issued a call to celebrate. Gunfire echoed over the town.

But in Saddam's stronghold of Fallujah and Hawja, there were reports of incredulity and quiet streets.

And residents of his hometown of Tikrit said they believed the arrest was the result of betrayal and a major blow.

Everyone who is cheering now also clapped for Saddam
Wael, Tikrit
"Today is the day that Iraq was defeated, not in April," Hamid, a barber, told Reuters in Tikrit.

"There are no longer any Muslims in Iraq because there is no betrayal in Islam...there is no Islam here," he said.

"Everyone who is cheering now also clapped for Saddam," Wael, who owns a print shop, said.

"There is no honour in this country, they just sold him."

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Guns so often used in Iraq to kill, fired instead in celebration"


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