Saddam Hussein has killed two of his own grandchildren in his savage purge of two defectors and their supporters, Iraqi opposition groups claimed Wednesday.
Reports of a bloodbath persisted, with one opposition group saying many army officers in the northern city of Mosul were fleeing with their families for fear they, too, had been marked for death because of real or suspected links with the defectors, Saddam’s sons-in-law.
There has been no independent confirmation of the opposition reports of a purge orchestrated by Saddam’s sons, Odai and Qusai. Diplomats in Baghdad reported the capital was quiet, although there were opposition reports of clashes in the city.
One report said the eldest son of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, a longtime confidant of Saddam’s, had been arrested.
If that is true, it could indicate the purge may be mushrooming out of control with Odai targeting his rivals as well as those deemed tainted by their connections to the high-ranking former defectors. Odai and the younger Aziz have been business rivals for years.
The state-run Iraqi media has been silent on the reports from various opposition factions which, despite some contradictions, concurred on several points.
The two defectors - Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid and his brother Col. Saddam Kamel - were among the first to be slain Friday, three days after returning to Baghdad in the apparent belief that Saddam had forgiven them. Another brother and their father also were reported murdered.
The al-Majid brothers had been married to Saddam’s daughters, Raghad and Rana. The women accompanied their husbands to Jordan when they fled Aug. 8, then divorced them a day before they were slain.
The Iraqi government said the brothers were killed by relatives shamed by the defections. Critics say Saddam ordered the killings.
The one point on which most opposition reports agree is that Saddam’s son Odai is slaughtering anyone connected with the al-Majid brothers. Opposition sources said Odai himself led the squad that killed the brothers and their relatives Friday.
King Hussein of Jordan said Tuesday that he had reports that “many of the children” in the defectors’ families had been slaughtered.
Opposition sources said the children included at least one of Hussein Kamel’s three children, 10-year-old Ali, and Saddam Kamel’s 7-year-old son, Ahmed.