Security agents arrested more than 120 people after assailants fired machine guns and hurled grenades at a car, wounding Saddam Hussein’s eldest son, opposition sources said Friday.
Odai Hussein, sometimes described as Saddam’s heir apparent, reportedly said from his hospital bed Friday that he was not seriously injured in the attack. But exiled Iraqi sources said Odai was in critical condition.
The intersection where the attack took place was swept clean of glass fragments Friday afternoon, and residents of the district slaughtered 50 sheep to show their loyalty to Saddam and appreciation that Odai was saved.
Opposition sources in Amman said assailants fired heavy machine guns and hurled grenades at Odai’s car as it passed near the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in the upscale al-Mansour district of Baghdad.
The front windshield of Odai’s car was smashed in the attack and he was injured in the head or the upper body, the sources said.
An organization calling itself the Mohammed Madhlum al-Dulaimi Group claimed responsibility for the attack, Bayan Jabr, a member of the Higher Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said from Damascus, Syria.
Members of the 1 million-strong al-Dulaimi clan had led riots against security forces in May after the execution of Mohammed Madhlum al-Dulaimi, an air force general accused of plotting to kill Saddam.
Iraqi officials thoroughly searched cars and passengers crossing the border Friday, after sealing the border for several hours Thursday. Opposition sources said elite troops were deployed near the television and radio stations - key targets in any coup attempt.
Security agents in Baghdad arrested as many as 120 people, most of them passersby at the scene, said the opposition sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The reports could not be independently confirmed.
“A few passers-by who were carrying weapons were arrested,” said Sa’ad Kassim, a merchant in the area. “Some were released directly after finding their proper papers and the others were taken to the police station.”
The manager of Iraq’s soccer team said Odai telephoned to say he was in good condition. Odai, 32, is president of the Iraqi Soccer Federation.
“Mr. Odai told us that he … is fine and there is no danger (to his life) whatsoever,” Namir Abdulkarim said in the United Arab Emirates, where the team is playing in a tournament.
Odai has been the target of at least two other assassination attempts since the 1991 Gulf War. He was injured in 1992, when gunmen shot him in the arm as he was driving north of Baghdad.
Since the Gulf War, Saddam has put key ministries and military units under the supervision of his sons, Odai and Qusai.
Their power increased after Saddam’s sons-in-law defected to Jordan in August 1995, vowing to topple the regime. The sons-in-law, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid and his brother Saddam, were killed by family members after returning to Iraq in February.
Opposition sources say Odai played a major role in the killings, and that relatives of the slain brothers have pledged to avenge the deaths by killing one of Saddam’s sons.