The soldiers were from the influential Duri tribe, which has provided career officers for generations. Their crime was to be too outspoken when their views were sought over whether the appointment of Uday Hussein as defence minister would be popular with the army.
President Saddam last month sacked his prime minister in a move to consolidate his grip on power. He gave the important portfolios in the cabinet to his immediate family, while others went to relatives from the Takriti tribe. He wanted to entrust defence to his son because, in the President's words, he 'possessed . . . his father's fine leadership qualities'.
Since the army is the only force that could topple the President, the last thing he wants is disaffection in the ranks. President Saddam's brothers instructed loyal Takriti officers quietly to test the views of the top brass on Uday's popularity before announcing the cabinet reshuffle. They reported concern about Uday's lack of any military qualities or army training.
But the outspoken Duris, such as Saber el-Duri, the former military intelligence chief, Talliee, the military governor of Bable, and General Kheidhr Abed el-Aziz, were summoned to Baghdad. They were escorted by presidential guard to the capital to 'say goodbye to their families and pack their bags', according to reports from the Iraqi capital. They have not been seen or heard of since. 'With our experience of Saddam, we regard them as martyrs by now,' said a relative yesterday.Reuse content