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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 December, 2003, 23:17 GMT
Basra parties after Saddam news
By Dumeetha Luthra
BBC correspondent in Basra

Basrans celebrate at news of Saddam capture
Shia Muslims were out in force on the streets of Basra
Music and gunfire echoed all around Basra on Sunday night as people decided to forget security and come out to celebrate.

A brass band travelling on the back of a truck weaved through the streets.

Behind it was a trail of dancing people, waving Kalashnikovs and firing wildly into the air.

The trace of bullets lit up the sky. Cars travelled bumper-to-bumper along the road, people honked their horns, waved and congratulated each other.

Joyous farewell

No one here was sorry to see Saddam go and they have been celebrating in style.

One man had brought his family out for ice cream. Normally, he said, he would stay at home because of safety, but tonight he said the risk was worth the sense of joy.

As the night progressed so too did the wildness of the moment.

It is a hugely symbolic moment here - 200,000 Shia fled to Iran when an uprising was brutally repressed
A convoy of cars, waving the Iraqi flag and shooting into the air circled the roads.

Each time the convoy got larger and the shooting more random.

The initial reports of his capture were greeted with disbelief and incredulity.

People crowded in huddles listened to their radios. Once the pictures were on TV, there was muted acceptance that slowly evolved into a mood of joy around the city.

Outside the Communist Party offices members ran up to drivers and threw chocolates into their cars.

The phone lines were jammed as friends and family called each other to spread the news.

It is a hugely symbolic moment here.

The Shia in the south suffered some of the worst atrocities of Saddam's regime.

Two hundred thousand fled to Iran after the Gulf War, when a Shia uprising was brutally repressed.

Now these people have been returning to Iraq.

And now, finally they say the shadow is lifted from their lives.

'The end'

At the police station, crowds were waving posters of Shia clerics, something they had never been able to do under the old regime.

It was finally as one man put it "the end of the story".

It had almost ended when the regime fell, but now it was all finally behind them.

However, amid the jubilation there is some regret.

Saddam's rule was repressive but he created a personality cult.

Today people saw the man who had been plastered on every wall and stood in every town square on his knees without dignity.

It is with shock they recognise the man who towered over them for so long.

And behind the momentary jubilation there is the knowledge that day-to-day life is still a struggle.


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