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Reports: Saddam puts wife under house arrest, thinks of invading Kuwait

January 29, 1997

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Saddam Hussein put one of his wives under house arrest after she opposed his plan to forgive the killers of his two sons-in-law, Iraqi dissidents said Wednesday.

Saddam has also ordered training exercises for his troops and is pondering invading Kuwait again, a senior U.S. military officer said in Washington.

The Iraqi president increasingly has relied on a dwindling inner circle of close family members since the end of the Persian Gulf War, when a U.S.-led alliance forced him to withdraw his troops from Kuwait.

Dissidents say he wants relatives of his sons-in-law to forgive the killers as a way of reuniting his feuding clan. But Sajida Talfah, Saddam’s first wife, insisted that those who took part in the killings must be punished before there can be a family reconciliation, the dissidents said.

White House spokesman Mike McCurry said Wednesday there appeared to be ``complicated internal struggles for power″ going on in Iraq, citing as evidence an attempt last month on the life of Saddam’s eldest son and heir apparent, Odai.

Odai, meanwhile, appeared on Iraqi television Wednesday night, lying on his hospital bed while chatting with senior government officials. Television footage of the reception at Ibn Sina hospital was shown on Youth Television, the TV station owned and run by Odai.

Odai, in his early 30s, was wearing a white hospital shirt. He was moving his right arm freely, but there was no visible movement in his left arm.

The U.S. military official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Odai may be paralyzed and could lose a leg to gangrene.

The house arrest of Saddam’s first wife apparently is linked to the deaths of Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid and his brother Saddam. They were killed by family members after returning to Iraq in February from Jordan, where they had defected.

Hussein Kamel al-Majid had been in charge of Iraq’s secret weapons program and Saddam Kamel al-Majid was deputy head of the Iraqi leader’s palace guard. They were married to Saddam’s daughters Raghda and Rana, and their defection was a major embarrassment to his regime.

At the time, Saddam blessed the killings and called the two men traitors.

Haroun Mohammed, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Accord, a dissident group based in Jordan, said Saddam now hoped to repair the brothers’ reputations and forgive their killers as a way to unite his clan.

Mohammed said Saddam decided to give the al-Majid family the equivalent of $750,000 in blood money so the killers of his sons-in-law could be forgiven.

According to Islamic law, blood money should be paid by the killer to the family of the victims to ask forgiveness. Families who refuse the money usually seek revenge.

Mohammed said Sajida has insisted that all those who participated in the slayings must be punished.

Sajida is Odai’s mother. He once reportedly bludgeoned a servant to death in 1988 to defend his mother’s honor, because the servant was arranging romantic liaisons for his father.

Saddam and Sajida have another son and three daughters. Since the slayings, Sajida and her two daughters have reportedly had a falling out with Saddam.

Saddam is believed to have married a second wife, whom he has since divorced, and then to have taken another wife.

The senior U.S. military officer, speaking Tuesday with Pentagon reporters on condition of anonymity, quoted unidentified intelligence sources as saying Saddam ``comes in every morning and makes a decision″ on whether his forces should move toward Kuwait.

He said Iraq’s air and ground forces have maintained a rapid pace of training over the past several weeks, presumably to educate new commanders put in place after a recent military purge.

American planes patrol southern Iraq to enforce a ``no-fly″ zone set up after the Gulf War to protect Shiite Muslims, and would presumably be immediately aware of any Iraqi move toward Kuwait.

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