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Saddam Begins Trial for Ordering Deaths of Thousands of Kurds

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is being tried for ordering the genocide of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq during his rule.

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  • PAUL EEDLE, ITV News Correspondent:

    It's April 1989, and Saddam Hussein is visiting the north of Iraq, Kurdistan. Channel 4 News has obtained this exclusive footage taken by one of the Iraqi president's personal cameramen. It shows Saddam looking on top of the world and Kurds desperate to reach him to hand him petitions.

    This woman has swum across the river with her plea in a plastic bag. We don't know exactly what — maybe a son missing, husband arrested. Saddam graciously signs. He's father of his people, approachable. "Here, let me help you with your cloak."

    There was a reason for Saddam's broad smile and the Kurds desperation to ask favors: The year before, Saddam's army had swept through Kurdistan in a campaign against Kurdish rebels, which killed anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 men, women and children.

    Saada Ali lost eight members of her family: her husband, two sons, her daughter-in-law, and five grandchildren. Her house was bulldozed and her livestock killed. With all her immediate family dead, she's never been able to rebuild her farm and now lives far from her village with an elderly brother-in-law. She blames it all on Saddam.

  • SAADA ALI (through translator):

    Just like he destroyed my life and killed my relatives, my hope and wish is that he ends up dead and buried, as well. When I see these photos, I just cry. It's just a piece of paper. I can never see the boys or talk to them again.

  • PAUL EEDLE:

    This was the Anfal campaign. Anfal means "spoils of war," and it's a chapter in the Koran about defeating God's enemies.

    From February to September 1988, eight military operations attacked areas where guerrillas fighting for Kurdish independence were strongest. The campaign was led by Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, now on trial alongside him.

    Thousands of Kurds died in their villages, thousands more in prison camps far away from Kurdistan, buried in mass graves only uncovered after Saddam was overthrown in 2003. Chemical Ali's forces are accused of attacking villages with mustard gas and nerve gas on at least 40 occasions.

    Channel 4 News' Iraqi news team reached Qeitoul, a village at the heart of the third Anfal operation. It was a tough three-hour drive from the regional capital, Sulaimaniya, across unmade roads to a farming community that's still dirt poor.

    Hussein Abdullah Karim was a teenager when the Anfal hit Qeitoul; now he's the prayer leader of the mosque.

  • HUSSEIN ABDULLAH KARIM (through translator):

    On the morning of 9th of April, 1988, the people woke up and found the army all over these hills. There were seven helicopters. The people started realizing what was going on. The tanks arrived at the village by 11:00 a.m. The villagers started fleeing. The army then started burning and destroying the village.

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