Supporters Gather With Unlit Candles To Mourn Saddam Hussein And Mark His 70th Birthday

Saturday, April 28th 2007, 6:05 pm
By: News On 6

OUJA, Iraq (AP) _ Hundreds of people brought unlit candles and flowers to Saddam Hussein's tomb on Saturday to mark what would have been his 70th birthday.

Children wore white, along with badges bearing Saddam's portrait, and sang songs and poems as cake was served in Saddam's burial place, an ornate building with a marble floor that he had built for religious events in this Tigris River village.

The supporters said they were mourning the state of their country along with the ousted leader, who was hanged on Dec. 30 for crimes against humanity.

``We came with candles but won't light them because the candle of Iraq, President Saddam Hussein, has gone as a martyr,'' said Fatin Abdul Qadir, the director of a children's charity in nearby Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad. ``We will light them when Iraq is liberated again.''

Banners decorated buildings in the center of Tikrit, with one reading, ``We congratulate the Iraqi resistance and the Iraqi people on the occasion of the leader's birthday.''

Saddam's tomb was covered with an Iraqi flag and flowers.

``The martyr has gone but he is still immortal in our hearts,'' Abdul Qadir said. ``Baghdad flourished during his days, not like now.''

Many Sunni Arabs, a minority that enjoyed dominance in Iraq under Saddam's regime, oppose U.S.-led efforts in Iraq and have spearheaded a fierce insurgency leading to a cycle of retaliatory sectarian violence that has devastated the country.

Saddam, who was captured by American soldiers near Ouja in December 2003, was hanged following his conviction in the 1982 killings of 148 Shiites.

His stature has increased since his execution _ when he answered insults and taunts with disdain _ overshadowing the memories in much of the Arab world of the massacres and other atrocities committed by his regime.

For years, April 28 was marked by official celebration and enforced adulation of the authoritarian leader, who was ``unanimously'' endorsed by voters over the years in unopposed ``elections.''