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Brutal pictures of brutal brothers

Baghdad, July 24 (Reuters): The US military released grisly photographs of the bodies of Saddam Hussein’s sons today to try to convince Iraqis the feared brothers were dead and staunch a wave of deadly guerrilla attacks.

Officers in Baghdad released two mortuary pictures showing the head and torso of Uday and two of Qusay, along with comparative pictures of the brothers when they were alive and X-ray slides apparently used to help identify Uday.

The pictures showed the bodies of the two men lying face up on plastic sheeting. Both had thick beards. Uday’s face was splattered with blood from a wound to his nose and upper lip.

Military officers said Uday appeared to have been killed by a bullet in the head, but it was not yet known whether he had been shot by US soldiers or had committed suicide.

A spokesman for the US-led civil authority in Iraq said journalists would be allowed to film the bodies for themselves tomorrow to dispel any doubts the photographs were authentic.

Dental records and X-rays would also be made available.

Washington hopes the killing of Uday and Qusay in an attack on their hideout in the northern city of Mosul on Tuesday will tighten the noose around Saddam himself and demoralise guerrillas who have mounted daily attacks on US troops.

But three soldiers were killed south of Mosul today when their convoy was attacked with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, in the second deadly raid on the 101st Airborne Division since 200 of its troops stormed the villa in Mosul where Uday and Qusay were hiding.

There was no evidence it was a revenge attack, a US army spokesman said, but he did not rule out that motive.

Five US soldiers have now been killed since the deaths of Uday, 39, and Qusay, 37, Saddam’s heir apparent.

Dubai-based Al Arabiya television broadcast footage of a group of masked men with automatic rifles who said they were members of Uday’s notorious Saddam Fedayeen militia and vowed to press on with a jihad, or holy struggle, against US forces.

The US army’s decision to release the photographs is a controversial one — the military was outraged when Arab television channels broadcast pictures of dead and captured American soldiers during the war that toppled Saddam.

Many Iraqis had said they would not believe Uday and Qusay were really dead unless they saw proof.

“I don’t know why, but if I don’t see with my own eyes I won’t believe it,” said Nairy Bedrosian, an Iraqi woman who works at an Internet cafe.

Most Iraqi newspapers do not publish tomorrow, the Muslim holy day, but Ismail Zaiyer, editor-in-chief of Al Sabah, a newspaper backed by the US-led administration, said he would run a special edition tomorrow to show the photographs.

The brothers were tracked down after a tip-off from an Iraqi informant expected to get the two $15 million rewards offered for information leading to their death or capture. Their father has a $25 million price on his head.

They were holed up in the Mosul villa with a bodyguard and Qusay’s teenage son, US officials say. Armed with only AK-47 assault rifles, they wounded four American soldiers and held out for hours against a devastating array of US firepower, including attack helicopters, heavy machineguns and grenades.

US commanders said Uday, Qusay and the bodyguard were eventually killed after the house was blasted with 10 anti-tank missiles. The teenager made a last stand but was shot as troops raced up the stairs after finally getting into the villa.

The deaths of the brothers, and the capture of a cousin of Saddam who led the elite Special Republican Guard, brought to 37 the number of Iraqis on a list of 55 most-wanted fugitives to have been caught or killed since Saddam was overthrown. In Baghdad, two Iraqis were killed when US troops opened fire on a car that ignored instructions to stop.

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