Photographs of the corpses of Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, are to be released by the US government to convince sceptical Iraqis that the dictatorship is really at an end, the Bush administration said last night.
Paul Wolfowitz, the US deputy defence secretary, had said the White House was "weighing the decision" to release gruesome pictures to prove the two men, the most powerful in Iraq after Saddam, were killed in a raid on a villa in Mosul on Tuesday.
Then the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld later said the photographs would be released "soon" although he had not decided precisely when.
Many Iraqis still expressed doubts yesterday, despite the insistence of George Bush and Tony Blair and other senior US and British officials that they had been killed.
The US commander in Iraq, Ricardo Sanchez, went into extensive detail about how the two bodies had been positively identified when he described the assault on the house in Mosul at a Baghdad press conference yesterday. Coalition commanders hope the deaths of Uday and Qusay will help quell the daily attacks on US troops which have appeared increasingly well co-ordinated. But two more soldiers were killed and eight wounded in separate assaults on American convoys yesterday, bringing to 155 the number of US troops killed in action since the start of the war. And an audiotape, purporting to be by Saddam and dated two days before his sons were killed, was broadcast by an Arab television station, urging Iraqis to keep up their resistance.
In a live broadcast from the White House Rose Garden, President Bush congratulated US troops on the deaths of the brothers. Flanked by his Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and Iraq's civil administrator, Paul Bremer, he insisted the US would "keep its promise to destroy every remnant of the regime".
Mr Blair said the deaths represented "a great day for the new Iraq". In Hong Kong on the last leg of his round-the-world tour, he said: "These two particular people were at the head of a regime that wasn't just a security threat because of its weapons programme, but was responsible for the torture and killing of thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqis. The celebrations that are taking place are an indication of just how evil they were."
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said the deaths would provide "reassurance to the Iraqi people".
In Baghdad, Lt-Gen Sanchez said dental and X-ray records, plus independent identifications by four senior figures from Saddam's regime now in US captivity, had definitively established the identities: "We have no doubt we have the bodies of Uday and Qusay." He said the coalition would provide final proof "in due time" that the brothers were dead. Dental records were said to be a 100 per cent match for Qusay and a 90 per cent match for Uday because of his injuries. Senior military sources in Washington said the pictures were "pretty bad" but recognisable.
Such a move would be highly controversial after the furore over the Iraqi regime's decision to broadcast television pictures of captured US soldiers and the storm of protest after the Arab television station al-Jazeera showed pictures of British dead, in contravention of the Geneva Convention.
But photographs may be needed if Iraqis remain sceptical about US claims. Mr Wolfowitz said: "We are going to make sure the Iraqi people believe us at the end of the day. The main consideration on the other side in our minds is saving the lives of American men and women who are on the line."Reuse content