AL-AWJAH, Iraq: In his native village of Al-Awjah, the mausoleum of Iraq’s executed dictator Saddam Hussain has been reduced to broken concrete and tangled barbed wire, showing no trace of his remains.
The man who ruled Iraq with an iron fist for a quarter of a century was hanged at dawn on December 30, 2006.
But today, mystery and doubt hang over the final resting place of a man whose very name for decades filled Iraqis with dread.
Is his body still in Al-Awjah or was it exhumed, and, if so, where to?
Shaikh Manaf Ali Al-Nida, a leader of the Albu Nasser tribe to which Saddam’s clan belongs, has held on to a letter his family signed when they received the body, agreeing that Saddam be buried without delay.
Saddam, 69, was laid to rest before dawn in the mausoleum he had commissioned years earlier.
At Saddam’s grave, the paramilitaries of the Hashed Al-Shaabi coalition, tasked with security in the area, say the mausoleum was destroyed in an Iraqi air strike after the Daesh group, the so-called Islamic State (IS), posted snipers on its roof.
Shaikh Nida was not there to witness the blast — but he is convinced that Saddam’s tomb was “opened and blown up”.
Jaafar Al-Gharawi, the Hashed’s security chief, insisted: “The body is still there.”
One of his fighters, however, speculated that Saddam’s exiled daughter Hala had flown in on a private plane and whisked her father’s body away to Jordan.
“Impossible!” said a university professor and longtime student of the Saddam era, who declined to give his name.
“Hala has never come back to Iraq,” he said. “(The body) could have been taken to a secret place… nobody knows who moved it or where.”
If that was the case, Saddam’s family would have closely guarded the secret of the location, he added.
But some, including Baghdad resident Abu Samer, believe the Iraqi strongman is still out there.
“Saddam’s not dead,” he said. “It was one of his doubles who was hanged.”