Qusay Hussein

Saddam's 'cold' second son and trusted deputy
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Qusay Hussein al-Tikriti, military commander: born Baghdad 17 May 1966; married (two sons, one daughter); died Mosul, Iraq 22 July 2003.

When America and Britain launched their anticipated attack on Iraq in March this year, Qusay Hussein was serving as Saddam Hussein's deputy in all but two of the many positions his father held. He was, in effect, deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces, as well as head of Iraqi intelligence - the Mukhabarat - and the special forces that protected Saddam. Saddam's second son was always trusted by his father to succeed him in leading the thuggery of the Baath Party in Iraq, even when his elder brother Uday was thought to be the heir apparent.

When Qusay was only 22, Saddam made him a deputy director of the fearsome Amn el-Khas - the special security apparatus that was formed in the style of the notorious Romanian securitate as early as 1988. Four years later, Qusay became director of the apparatus after showing an exceptional ruthlessness in dealing with opposition and putting down the 1991 rebellion by Shia in the south of Iraq. He designed and administered the destruction of the southern marshes from 1992 over the next four years; an action aimed at Shia Marsh Arabs living there.

The marshes, covering about 3,200 square miles, had provided the necessities of life for tens of thousands of marsh dwellers for at least 1,000 years. This was the birthplace of the Jewish biblical story of the "waters of Babylon". The area was destroyed through a large-scale water diversion project, intended to remove the possibility of insurgents hiding there, which dried the land to enable Saddam's Republican Guard's elite armoured units to move against the helpless inhabitants.

Qusay used his university law studies to justify the torture, massacre and destruction of opponents, and also oversaw Iraq's notorious detention centres. He is believed to have initiated the "prison cleansing" scheme, a means of relieving severe overcrowding in jails with arbitrary killings or through a lottery. Citing testimony from former Iraqi intelligence officers and other state employees, the New York-based organisation Human Rights Watch estimates that several thousand inmates have been executed at Iraq's prisons over the past several years.

Prisoners were often eliminated with a single bullet to the head. Witnesses have signed affidavits that some inmates were dropped into shredding machines. Some prisoners went in head first and died quickly, while others were put in feet first and died screaming. A witness said that, on at least one occasion, Qusay supervised the first experimental shredding-machine murders in the mid-1990s.

Qusay was "very cool", said a former Iraqi official who worked in his father's palace and knew Qusay for 18 years but defected after falling out with him when Qusay objected to the official inviting "dirty clothed, foul smelling" tribal and country people to the "clean palace" to receive an award ordered by his father. "He tries to show the attitude of a sphinx," said Hytham al-Wahaieb, a former aide to Saddam Hussein. "He wants to have the image of someone who is very cold, although he has to work at that; it doesn't come naturally."

Born in the al-Karch district of Baghdad in 1966, Qusay witnessed his father's bid for power following the military coup in 1968. Like his elder brother Uday he was sent to the elite secondary school Baghdad College and, like Uday, he was taken by his father on several occasions to watch "traitors and enemies" being tortured or executed. He read Law at the University of Baghdad from 1983 and graduated four years later, with the expected honours.

He was quieter, more discreet, colder and more calculating than Uday, but equally ruthless and even more dangerous. Unlike his brother, Qusay kept his very few love affairs secret, even from his bodyguards and advisers. At the age of 16, he married the bride chosen by his father - Luma, daughter to General Maher Abdel-Rashid, a second cousin of Saddam and commander of the Republican Guard. Saddam designed the marriage to keep the ambitious General Abdel-Rashid under control. The general died at the end of the Iran-Iraq war in mysterious circumstances. Luma bore Qusay two sons, Hassan and Omar, and one daughter, Zynab.

Qusay's true love, according to insiders, was Lyla, a local, well- educated teacher of outstanding beauty from a prominent Shia family. Insiders swear that Lyla too loved him dearly, while Qusay kept the affair discreet and made sure that the army officer she married in 1990 as a family choice was never to find out. Her husband was promoted and was never humiliated. Unlike Uday, Qusay treated women with respect. "Even the occasional prostitute that came to entertain his guests was treated with respect and showered with gifts," said a former aide. "He was a true statesman who knew what damage sexual scandals could cause."

Following an attempt on the life of Uday in 1996 that left him half immobile - and insiders insist it was Qusay's doing - Saddam pushed Qusay to the higher ranks of the ruling Baath party. He took charge of the Fedayeen unit (of suicide fighters) which had been founded by his older brother. Observers interpreted the move as a sign that Uday had become too frail and too unstable to be considered the heir apparent any longer.

Realising his danger and his importance to the regime, the Americans made Qusay, not Uday, number two on the coalition forces' "most wanted 55" pack of cards. He was also number two on the Bush administration's most wanted list for Iraqis who could face war crimes trials. Qusay was far more trusted by his father and appeared to be his heir before the regime crumbled. In televised meetings with top security and military men, Qusay would be seated next to his father, wearing well-tailored suits and dutifully noting his father's every word.

Dissident Iraqis claimed that only Qusay and Saddam's private secretary, Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti - who was arrested last month by the Americans - knew of Saddam's movements after the fall of Baghdad. They thought Uday was too reckless to be trusted with such information.

In a move that puzzled observers, Qusay, for inexplicable reasons, lost his cool and joined his brother - which went contrary to Saddam's policy for survival - and made a last suicidal stand in Mosul with only two others against 200 well-armed American troops.

Adel Darwish