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U.S. shows bodies to media

Many Iraqis want proof that Uday, Qusay were killed

The bodies said by the United States to be those of Uday and Qusay Hussein were shown to journalists Friday at a military mortuary at Baghdad International Airport.
The bodies said by the United States to be those of Uday and Qusay Hussein were shown to journalists Friday at a military mortuary at Baghdad International Airport.

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Gallery: Photos released by the United States as evidence of the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein  (These images are very graphic and difficult to view and are not recommended for children and some adults. Viewer discretion is advised.)
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Viewer discretion advised -- graphic video of what the U.S. says are the bodies of the Hussein brothers.
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Viewer discretion advised -- the U.S. says these graphic photos show the bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein.
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CNN's Harris Whitbeck on disbelief among Saddam supporters in Mosul.
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Is the U.S. right to release photos of the Hussein brothers' bodies?

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Skeptical Iraqis and the rest of the world viewed for the first time Friday graphic videotape of two bullet-riddled bodies the U.S. military says are the sons of Saddam Hussein.

The Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-backed administration in Iraq, had released still photographs of the blood-spattered, bearded corpses to Western news agencies Thursday evening.

The U.S. military took the unusual step of allowing reporters to view and videotape the bodies Friday at close range and in extensive detail to combat skepticism about assertions that Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed in an hours-long firefight with U.S. soldiers in the northern city of Mosul on Tuesday.

A coalition spokeswoman acknowledged that releasing still photos Thursday may not have been enough to prove Saddam's sons were dead. Most newspapers in the region didn't get the photos Thursday in time for Friday's editions. (Iraqis react, Viewer discretion advised: Gallery of still photos)

On Friday, military morticians told reporters seeing the corpses that the faces of both bodies had been partially reconstructed and prepared for viewing.

Military pathologists said each body had more than 20 bullet wounds. After viewing the photos Thursday, some military officials had speculated that wounds on Uday's body could have been self-inflicted. But military pathologists struck down the notion, saying they had seen no signs of suicide.

The morticians said they had also shaved Qusay's heavy beard, leaving only his trademark mustache, and trimmed the thick beard on Uday's face to the length he wore it in life.

Morticians confirmed that autopsy incisions were visible on both bodies, as were multiple gunshot wounds and other abrasions.

Military officials also showed reporters dental X-rays and X-rays of Uday's leg, which was severely damaged in an assassination attempt in 1996.

The metal rod doctors inserted into the leg was removed and displayed with the body. Officials said the rod's model and serial number matched that of the one that had been inserted in Uday's damaged leg.

The officials said the bodies would be stored in refrigeration until a family member claimed them.

Officials said a military lab in Washington will conduct DNA tests on tissue taken from both bodies.

Officials escorted reporters, including The Associated Press, Reuters and Al-Jazeera cameramen, into a mortuary tent at Baghdad International Airport for the viewing early Friday.

The Arab network Al-Jazeera aired the videos in all their detail, while American networks, including CNN, avoided some of the more graphic portions of the tapes.

Reactions, caution

Iraqis were able to view the images on Arab television in many cafes and other public places.

At one cafe, CNN's Rym Brahimi reported three reactions: Some said the video convinced them that Uday and Qusay were dead; some turned away from the videos' grim images; and some said it doesn't matter because the streets are still not secure and Iraqis don't have basic services.

After the viewing Friday, the streets of Baghdad did not echo with celebratory gunfire as they did Tuesday when the United States announced that it had identified the bodies as those of Saddam's sons.

Uday and Qusay Hussein were the second- and third-most wanted fugitives in Iraq, behind their father. (Timeline of the attack; profiles: Qusay Hussein, Uday Hussein, Flash interactive: Iraq's most-wanted)

Senior Iraqi officials in U.S. custody have identified the remains, U.S. officials said.

The U.S. government released the photographs through the provisional authority in Baghdad on Thursday because the U.S. military has traditionally been reluctant to release images of slain combatants. The Bush administration complained loudly when images of American dead were broadcast on Arab television networks during the war with Iraq. (Ethical questions)

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said providing proof of the Hussein brothers' deaths could demoralize the remnants of Saddam's regime that are battling U.S. troops, encourage Iraqis to come forward with information and convince them that the regime "is not coming back."

Rumsfeld said he made the decision to release the photos, and it was "not a close call for me."

"If it can save American lives, I'm happy to have made the decision I made," Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday. "That seems to me to outweigh the sensitivities -- the proper sensitivities -- that you have raised."

Along with releasing the photographs, the United States has also granted a request from Iraq's new governing council to see the bodies firsthand. The hope is that Iraqis will believe what they hear from their fellow Iraqis, even if they don't trust the United States.

Battle in Mosul

An Iraqi vendor organizes Arab newspapers carrying reports on Saddam Hussein's sons on the streets on Friday in Baghdad.
An Iraqi vendor organizes Arab newspapers carrying reports on Saddam Hussein's sons on the streets on Friday in Baghdad.

In a Wednesday news conference, U.S. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez detailed the operation that killed the brothers, an assault that started with a gun battle on the stairs of a house in Mosul, northern Iraq, and ended with the firing of about 10 anti-tank missiles.

The general said the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division and special operations forces played a role in the attack.

Iraqi police had a role in setting up a cordon around the area of the house in which Saddam's sons were said to be hiding, Sanchez said. (Map) Army .50-caliber machine guns and 10 Humvee-mounted TOW missiles were used in the assault and Sanchez said it's believed the missiles probably killed the brothers. (Details)

CNN correspondents Rym Brahimi, Nic Robertson, David Ensor, Jamie McIntyre, John King, Barbara Starr, Sanjay Gupta and Harris Whitbeck, and producers Pam Benson and Kevin Flower, contributed to this report.

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