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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 10:02 GMT
Gloom in Saddam's Sri Lanka village
As many Iraqis celebrate the capture of their former leader Saddam Hussein, a state of gloom has descended upon a Sri Lankan village.

The village of Saddam Hussein, just north of the city of Batticaloa on the island's east coast, owes its survival - and its name - to the man now facing trial for crimes against his countrymen.

The Muslim residents of the village are in shock.

Saddam Hussein donated funds to rebuild the village after a cyclone laid waste to it in 1978.

He was among many Arab leaders who offered to aid the disaster's victims - and the people of the village have not forgotten this.

US criticised

"As far as we are concerned, he gave funds to establish our village, and this was a humanitarian gesture," said villager J Abdul Jawad.

Some of our people think [this is] Saddam's strategy to create a double and flee attempts to capture him
Abu Haniffa
Traders' Association president

"I can only understand [his capture] as one more [example] of US high-handedness and dictatorship. Saddam Hussein is not an Islamic fundamentalist."

The village's inhabitants have been playing down its name ever since the US military toppled Saddam Hussein in April.

But the news of his arrest was too much for many to take.

"None of us want to believe it," said Abu Haniffa, the president of the Traders' Association.

"Some of our people think the pictures could be part of a US ploy or Saddam's own strategy to create a double and flee attempts to capture him," said Mr Haniffa.

Other villagers were critical of the US policy in Iraq.

One of them, R Jiffri, said the arrest was "unacceptable" and that the US and its allies were "evading the issue" of the missing weapons of mass destruction.

"Meanwhile, we are receiving a number of reports about the murder of innocent people and harassment of women in Iraq," Mr Jiffri said.

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