July 24, 2003 - Posted at: 9:52 a.m. CDT
CLICK HERE to view the photos -- WARNING: Graphic Nature
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military released photographs Thursday showing the bloodied faces of Saddam Hussein's sons, Odai and Qusai, in an effort to prove they were killed in a fierce gunbattle this week.
Some of the photos showed what appeared to be Odai, the older brother, with a thick beard and severely bloodied face. He had a gash across his blood-splattered face and contusions over his forehead.
Qusay, depicted in other photos, was also shown with a thick beard. His face and teeth were more intact than Odai's but he had bruises and blood marks on his eyes
The brothers were not known for wearing thick beards, and may have been trying to disguise their identities as they spent 3 1/2 months in hiding from coalition forces.
The release of the photographs was a move by the military to convince skeptical Iraqis that the feared brothers were dead. Many Iraqis, especially Saddam supporters, believed the story of the brothers' killing was concocted by the American military to demoralize opponents of their occupation of the country.
Iraqis who saw the photos Thursday said they appeared to be those of the brothers.
The photos showed the men from the chest up — one on bloody white sheets, the other in what appeared to be a body bag — with blood caked on their faces. Both men had their eyes closed, the lids darkly purpled.
In addition to the photos, the military released photos of Odai and Qusai when they were alive for comparison. They also released X-rays of Odai's leg, which was injured in an assassination attempt in the 1990s.
The photographs — two pictures of each man — were immediately broadcast to the Arab world including Iraq by two Arab satellite television networks, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya.
The top U.S. commander in Iraq said X-rays, dental records and four former members of Saddam's regime had confirmed that the two dead were the ousted Iraqi leader's eldest two sons.
They were killed in a fierce gunbattle with U.S. forces at a villa in the northern city of Mosul after an Iraqi informant tipped the Americans off to their presence there.
The military has said the brothers and a third man, believed to have been a bodyguard, were killed by U.S. TOW missiles fired into the villa where they were hiding out Tuesday. A fourth person in the house, believed to be Qusai's teenage son Mustafa, was shot to death by troops storming the house after the missiles devastated it.
The night the brothers were killed, Baghdad erupted in celebratory gunfire, but a large part of the Iraqi population remained unconvinced, with many people saying they would not believe the brutal pair who ran their father's military and intelligence forces were dead until they had seen the pictures.
In Baghdad on Thursday, some members of Iraq's Governing Council were shown the brothers' bodies, which are being stored at Baghdad International Airport, a Coalition Provisional Authority official said.
The authority also spoke with council members about how to release pictures of the bodies to the public, the official said on condition of anonymity.