Two sons-in-law of Saddam Hussein who returned to Iraq this week after defecting to Jordan six months ago have been killed by their relatives, the Iraqi News Agency said Friday night.
The two, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid and his brother Saddam Kamel al-Majid were slain in a gunbattle at their residence three days after their return from exile and a day after their wives divorced them.
When they returned from Jordan Tuesday with their wives, both daughters of Saddam, the Iraqi government said they were welcome back as “ordinary” citizens despite their having once advocated the overthrow of the government.
But their welcome was short-lived.
Their wives divorced them on Thursday, the news agency said. On Friday, relatives of the two men declared that their “blood should be shed due to their treason to the homeland,” the news agency reported.
Clan members - members of their extended families - then stormed the al-Majid residence in Baghdad and killed the brothers in a gunbattle, the agency said, citing sources in the Interior Ministry.
The father of the al-Majids and a third brother were also killed in the clash. Two other clan members were killed and an unspecified number were injured, according to the news agency.
“Competent authorities are now investigating the incident,” the agency added, citing the Interior Ministry.
Iraqi society has a long history of violence, and disputes are sometimes settled by the gun. The country also has a tradition of “honor killings” carried out within the family when one or more members are perceived to have stained the family’s honor. This informal system of punishment is centuries old in Iraq, and generally tolerated by authorities.
When the al-Majids defected to Jordan last August they were the highest-ranking members of the inner circle to depart. It was a major embarrassment to Saddam at a time when the country’s 20 million people were suffering from the hardships of United Nations sanctions imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Hussein Kamel al-Majid had been in charge of Iraq’s secret weapons program; his brother was deputy head of the Iraqi leader’s palace guard.
But the defections never threatened Saddam Hussein’s rule, and the al-Majids were shunned by Iraqi opposition groups because of their close links to the Iraqi leader.
Earlier Friday, the Iraqi News Agency announced that Saddam’s daughters had divorced the al-Majids, who were described as “failed traitors.”
“They are refusing to stay married to men who betrayed the homeland, the trust and the lofty values of their noble families and kinsfolk,” the agency said of Raghad and Rana, who were married to Hussein and Saddam Kamel al-Majid, respectively.
The women made no public statement during their time in Jordan.
However, there were unconfirmed reports that they had been duped by their husbands into thinking they were going on holiday when they left Iraq by road to Jordan last August.
King Hussein of Jordan, who initially threw his weight behind the defectors, later kept them at an arm’s length.
Before they returned to Iraq, the defectors said that “reforms” by Saddam’s government had encouraged them to go home.
In addition, sources in contact with the defectors said their wives had become homesick and wanted to go back. Raghad is known to be the Iraqi leader’s favorite daughter and is said to have played a key role in arranging their return.
The Iraqi agency’s report said Raghad and Rana had never wanted to defect. The two women asked to see the Jordanian monarch so he could “facilitate their return to their country, people and family because they had been deceived and misled by the two failed traitors,” the Iraqi News Agency said.
They never met the king despite repeated requests, the agency added.
“God almighty has now secured their release and they have returned to their homeland, their genuine people and their noble family,” said the agency.
At the United Nations in New York, ambassadors from the United States and Kuwait blamed the Iraqi government but offered no evidence to support their assertions.
“Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator and his brutality knows no bounds. The whole way they were welcomed and pardoned and murdered shows a great deal about the way Saddam Hussein deals with people,” U.S. representative Madeleine Albright said.
Kuwaiti Ambassador Mohammed A. Abulhassan said, “It didn’t surprise us at all because we know that a brutal regime like this will not honor any of their commitments.”