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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 August 2006, 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK
Saddam trial hears of gas attacks
Saddam Hussein in court
Saddam Hussein and six others face the death penalty if found guilty
The first two prosecution witnesses have appeared at the latest trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and six others on war crimes charges.

The witnesses described chemical weapons attacks which they say were carried out on their villages.

Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants are being tried over the Anfal campaign in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq in the late 1980s.

The prosecution alleges that up to 180,000 civilians were killed.

People were vomiting... We were blinded, we were screaming - there was no one to save us, only God
Ali Mustapha Hama, prosecution witness

The first witness, Ali Mustapha Hama, said eight to 12 jets bombed his village of Balisan in April in 1987.

The second witness, Najiba Khider Ahmed, a 41-year-old woman from Sheik Wasan, said Saddam Hussein was worse than Hitler.

"Saddam Hussein used to shout about 'the Iraqi people'," she told the court. "If we were his people, why did he bomb us with all sorts of weapons?"

Two of the defendants told the court that Anfal was a campaign targeting Iranian troops - and Kurdish guerrillas supporting them. The Iran-Iraq war was not yet over at the time of the campaign.

After the witnesses testified, chief judge Abdullah al-Amiri adjourned the trial until Wednesday.

'Many dead'

Both of Tuesday's witnesses described people being blinded and vomiting after a chemical attack.

Ali Mustapha Hama said there was greenish smoke, and minutes later, a smell like rotten apples or garlic.

Prosecution witness Ali Mustapha Hama
Under cross-examination, Hama admitted sheltering Kurdish fighters

He spoke of a newborn infant who was trying to "smell life", but breathed in the chemicals and died. Many others died too, he added.

During cross-examination, defence lawyers asked Mr Hama how he knew the aircraft were Iraqi, and prompted Hama to say he had helped shelter guerrillas in his village.

One of the defendants, Sultan Hashim Ahmed, commander of the Anfal operation and a former defence minister, said his orders were to prevent the Iranians from occupying Iraq at whatever price.

Saddam Hussein: Genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity
Ali Hassan al-Majid, ex-Baath leader in northern Iraq: Genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity
Sultan Hashim Ahmed, ex-defence minister: War crimes and crimes against humanity
Saber Abdul Aziz, ex-intelligence chief: War crimes and crimes against humanity
Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, ex-Republican Guard head: War crimes and crimes against humanity
Taher Muhammad al-Ani, ex-governor of Nineveh province: War crimes and crimes against humanity
Farhan al-Jibouri, ex-military commander: War crimes and crimes against humanity

But he said civilians were moved safely to other areas.

Saber Abdul Aziz, the director of military intelligence at the time, said Anfal aimed to clear northern Iraq of Iranian troops.

All the defendants face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, while Saddam Hussein and Ali Hassan al-Majid are additionally charged with genocide.

All seven face the death penalty if convicted.

Saddam Hussein and seven different defendants have already been tried for the killing of 148 Shias in Dujail in 1982.

A verdict is due on 16 October.

Minister arrested

Meanwhile, a former electricity minister wanted on corruption charges has been arrested after surrendering to a court, Iraqi officials say.

The former minister, Ayham al-Samarrai, served in the interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi following the American-led invasion in 2003.

He is one of more than 20 officials from the former administration to be accused of corruption, and one of most senior to be arrested.

At least 12 people were killed in attacks around the country.

Police said eight Shia men from Najaf were killed late Monday in Madaen, near Baghdad.

A government official said they had been kidnapped and their bodies dumped on the roadside.

Ali Mustapha Hama gives evidence at Saddam's trial

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