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Saddam's fate divides a city torn apart by conflict
Shias welcome execution while Sunnis fear the consequences
Ghaith Abdul Ahad in Baghdad
Saturday December 30, 2006
Haji Ali pushed his thick white moustache against the window of the plane as it spiralled towards Baghdad airport, and peered down at Saddam Hussein's palace sitting like a Disney toy in the middle of a green lake.
"For who did you build all these places?" the burly Shia businessman said, as though addressing the former leader. "Now the Americans have taken your place, and tomorrow you will be killed. What did all these palaces benefit you?"
Shawkat, a thin, bearded taxi driver, was more reflective of the mood in the city as residents digested the news that the execution of the man who ruled them for two decades was imminent. "So what if they kill him? Will his execution stop the civil war in the streets? People are getting killed by dozens, looters are manning checkpoints, you leave your house and you're not safe. They can kill him 10 times but it won't bring safety to the streets because there is no state of law."
On cue, the sound of heavy machinegun fire echoed through the street. Two American soldiers ran for cover behind their armoured vehicles as more gunfire crackled nearby. Earlier, at least 10 people were injured when a mortar round slammed into a city centre square. Another 20 bodies bearing signs of torture were found elsewhere in the capital.