Saddam's son was shot to avenge dead Iraqi general

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The Independent Online
The attempted assassination of Uday, the son of President Saddam Hussein, was carried out as part of a feud by the family of a senior Iraqi general killed by the Iraqi leader for criticising the regime.

The Independent has learned from an Iraqi source that the leader of the plot was Ra'ad al-Hazaa, a former army officer in his thirties, who is the nephew of General Omar al-Hazaa. The general, a member of the same clan as Saddam Hussein, was executed in 1990.

The assassination bid took place in Baghdad on 12 December last year when Uday, 32, the notoriously brutal son of the Iraqi leader, was driving through the city. Opposition groups say he was hit by four bullets, one of which is still lodged in his spine. Last week the French government officially turned down an Iraqi request that Uday be permitted to enter a hospital in France. The re- quest implies that Uday's wounds are serious.

The attack was previously claimed by al-Dawa, a militant Shia group, with a history of trying to assassinate Iraqi leaders. They are believed to have been involved in the logistics and organisation of the plot, but the driving force was Ra'ad al-Hazaa and some of his relations, who were able to acquire details of Uday's movements because they moved in the same elite circles.

The feud which led to the attack on Uday had its origin in the killing of General Hazaa seven years ago. Like Saddam Hussein he came from the northern city of Tikrit and was a divisional commander in the regular army. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s General Hazaa retired, but was increasingly critical of the Iraqi leader. Arrested in 1990 he was executed, reputedly after his tongue was cut out. His house in Baghdad was demolished.

Uday is not known to have played any part in the death of the general. But he is the most visible member of the regime in Baghdad, famed for his womanising and drunkenness. The would-be assassins are said to have received information from "Lubna", a girlfriend of Uday.

After the assassination bid those who had taken part fled to Iran. The Iranian government had no prior knowledge of the plot and continues to deny that the men are in Iran in the face of an official Iraqi demand, through the UN, that they be handed over. Worried that they might be secretly returned, some of the group made contact with friends abroad to put pressure on the Iranian government not to give them up to Iraq.

In order to distance Iran from the assassination, al-Dawa, based in Tehran, claimed the attack from Damascus. If Uday is paralysed, his brother Qusai, head of the security services, becomes the heir apparent.