Skip to comments.Camp reveals dark secrets of Saddam's notorious Fedayeen
Posted on 04/05/2003 3:30:14 AM PST by Prince Charles
Camp reveals dark secrets of Saddam's notorious Fedayeen
Andrew Buncombe in Nasiriyah
05 April 2003
The painted mural of Saddam Hussein surrounded by his ninja-dressed Fedayeen had been thrown into the gutter and the gates of the compound flung wide open.
For a generation the gates of this camp belonging to President Saddam's fanatical militia had been kept tightly shut, the things that went on inside only to be told in whispers by the people of Nasiriyah, or else experienced first-hand by those unlucky enough to be brought here.
But yesterday the white-walled compound lay in blackened ruins and its open gates led the way to some of its awful secrets -- torture, execution, ruthless support of President Saddam and even, it would seem, the imprisonment of American prisoners of war.
Yesterday's visit by The Independent was the first time an outsider had investigated the compound in Nasiriyah, and possibly any Fedayeen base inside Iraq. What lay inside the metal gates was a staggering scene and indicative of the way President Saddam has used these militia -- officially under the control of his son Uday -- to maintain his grip over the people of Iraq.
The Fedayeen have been President Saddam's most fanatical supporters since they were established in the early 1990s. Filling a space between the security services and the Republican Guard, Saddam has used them in the current conflict to support and strengthen units of the regular army in strategic locations. The Fedayeen have been responsible for some of the most deadly attacks on US forces.
They have also been used for internal repression and to spread fear among the civilian population, their black outfits synonymous with terror.
Those black overalls lay scattered around the compound floor, with a number of black helmets of a style that suggested they had been designed for Darth Vader. They looked ridiculous lying on the floor among the broken glass, but one wondered how terrifying they must have looked when worn by the men who had left them here and then fled.
It was a uniform of a different sort that most disturbed the members of the US Marines human exploitation team -- the unit searching for some of the American soldiers seized by the Iraqis in Nasiriyah -- who arrived at the compound yesterday. One prisoner, Jessica Lynch, was rescued by special forces soldiers earlier this week, but many are still missing.
The soldiers were handed a US camouflage jacket bearing the name of an army sergeant. The officers would not confirm the sergeant was one of the missing soldiers but they took the jacket away.
"I was not expecting to find anything," said Sgt Robert Rivera, a marine who found the jacket while on sentry duty at the compound. "This is our brothers and sisters. I am thinking what they went through. I don't know if they were here, I just don't know."
It seems very likely that some of the US prisoners were indeed held here, if only briefly. The remains of two burnt-out trucks belonging to the logistical unit that was ambushed by the Iraqis stood on one side of the compound. There was a room in the far right corner of the compound that appeared to have been used as a cell.
The metal door had several sliding bolts and there was a small hatch that could be opened to see inside.
The air of the small, dark room was fetid and the floor was littered with some filthy mattresses and some torn clothes. A plastic bucket on the floor may once have held food but was now full of cockroaches. There was a small hole in one wall, covered with a cloth, that must have served as the lavatory.
"It looks as though there has been someone here recently," said one of the marines. He looked shocked and disgusted. The dormitories presumably used by the Fedayeen were on the other side of the compound and were spotless by comparison. There was no proof that the Fedayeen had committed torture in the compound, but there were some suspicious signs. Close to the cell was a room with a wall in which several holes had been made. Strips of wire ran through the holes and had someone been forced to sit down with their back against the wall, the wire could have been used to secure them. A number of loose electricity wires dangled from the walls and ceiling, but these could have been the result of the bombing.
One man insisted horrors had taken place here. Mather Ahmed Jabbah, who lived near by, led the way to the centre of the square and raised his hand above his head before bringing it down in a karate chop. "People were executed here with swords," he said, in broken English. "I saw it happen. They used to make a video of the killings and send them to Uday."
It was a chilling story, if impossible to prove. But on the way out of the compound one could not help noticing the trademark curved sword insignia of the Fedayeen that were fixed to the gates.
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