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Saddam Trial Overshadowed by Renewed Violence

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Saddam Trial Overshadowed by Renewed Violence

Iraq

Saddam Trial Overshadowed by Renewed Violence

Saddam Trial Overshadowed by Renewed Violence

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The trial of Saddam Hussein resumed Tuesday. But it was overshadowed by bombings in Baghdad and reports that put the number of dead from recent sectarian violence as high as 1,300 across the country. Renee Montagne talks to Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Good morning. One of the latest mosques to be bombed in Baghdad holds the grave of the father of Saddam Hussein. Today is Tuesday, February 28th, and this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

Today's bombing in Saddam's hometown comes on the day his trial resumes.

I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. In this hour, we'll have a report from Baghdad and from New Orleans.

Today, is Fat Tuesday.

Also, many Gulf Coast residents want back into their homes, but for some, it is just as important to get back into their boats.

And amid investigations of a Dubai firm's purchase of port operations, an economist says there's something else to worry about when it comes to foreign investments.

This Tuesday is the birthday of Jack Abramoff. The former Republican lobbyist is 48 years old.

The news is next.

(Soundbite of music)

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

It's another day of sectarian violence in Iraq. A bomb partially destroyed the mosque in Tikrit, where Saddam Hussein's father is buried, and several explosions in and around Baghdad left more than a dozen people dead. The renewed violence in the capital follows the lifting of a three-day curfew and it came on the same day that Saddam's trial resumed. We're joined now by NPR's Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad, and Jamie, let's first talk about the violence there.

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

Well, it's the first full day without a curfew and there have been attacks across the city. We woke this morning to reports that a Sunni mosque in Baghdad had been damaged, and then later, a succession of bombs: two car bombs and a suicide bomber all in Shiite neighborhoods, and all civilians, according to the Interior Ministry. Those bodies are still coming in after the curfew was lifted. Interior Ministry officials say 1,300 people have been killed across the country since the shrine in Samara was attacked was last Wednesday, and of those, about 400 were in Baghdad. And those may not, they may not be the final numbers; more bodies have been discovered every day.

Today in Diala, for example, police found the bodies of nine men, all blindfolded, all with their hands and feet tied, and whatever calm there may have been because of the curfew, it looks like it's over now.

MONTAGNE: Does that mean that there is still talk that Iraq might be on the verge of civil war?

TARABAY: I don't think the talk ever really went away. Before the curfew was lifted, Sunni and Shiite leaders I spoke to said they didn't know what the atmosphere would be like afterwards; they didn't know whether everyone had a chance to calm down and move forward, and whether even at the political level they were anywhere near negotiations again. There's so much tension on so many fronts and by the looks of what's happened today, I don't think it's over yet.

MONTAGNE: Well as we said, Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants are back in court. What has happened at that trial so far today?

TARABAY: Well, the trial is back. There was a two-week break and we're told that today the prosecution will be reading testimony from six witnesses and presenting documents of evidence. Saddam and seven of his senior officers are again with their original defense team. They hadn't been in court for more than a month and Saddam was able to meet his chief lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, on Sunday.

And Dulaimi said that Saddam had appeared to be in good health. He'd gone on a hunger strike and called it off yesterday. You know, he'd been on a strike for 11 days. The defense wanted to postpone the trial because of the violence that's been going on, and we actually thought it wasn't going to happen, but they're in there again now.

MONTAGNE: And let's go back to the last time the trial was on, there were some quite, you know, extraordinary doings in court. Tell us a little about that.

TARABAY: Well, as I said, they didn't have their original defense team so Saddam and the other defendants had a court appointed defense team. Their original team had boycotted in protest against the new judge who'd been brought in to replace Rizgar Muhammad Amin. He'd been criticized for being too soft on Saddam and allowed him to grandstand insult the court.

Last time, the prosecution presented witnesses from the former regime, among them was the Minister of Culture and one of Saddam's chief aids. So far, no one's been able to directly link Saddam to the massacre in Dujail in 1982, and we're all looking to see whether today's evidence will be any more pertinent.

MONTAGNE: Jamie, thanks very much.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay speaking from Baghdad.

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