A crowd of Iraqis, with the help of U.S. Marines, toppled a 40-foot statue of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in a main square of the capital Wednesday, pelting it with garbage and shoes and dragging the head through the streets.

It took a Marine tank recovery vehicle with a cable around the statue's neck to bring down the statue in Firdos — or "Paradise" — Square.

The first pull brought it halfway down, dangling off the high cylindrical pedestal as cardboard boxes and other litter rained on it. Another tug, and it broke in half, leaving only the twisthe symbols of Saddam's regime.

It began when a crowd of several hundred Iraqis threw a rope around the neck of the statue, which depicts the Iraqi president in civilian clothes, his right arm raised high in greeting to his people.

Some bashed at the 25-foot-tall base with a sledgehammer.

"I'm 49, but I never lived a single day. Only now will I start living," Yussuf Abed Kazim, a mosque preacher, said as he whacked away, knocking tile and concrete off the pedestal. "That Saddam Hussein is a murderer and a criminal."

The crowd pelted the statue with shoes and slippers — a gross insult in the Arab world — while a column of U.S. armor sat in the square, a large roundabout ringed with columns in front of the blue-domed Shahid Mosque.

The crowd, however, appeared unable to bring the statue down, or unsure how to do it safely.

The Marines got into the act, climbing up and briefly covering Saddam's face with an American flag like a hood. They replaced it with the black-white-and-red Iraqi flag, wrapped around the statue's neck.

The Americans then put their winch's cable in place, waved the crowd back out the way, and began to pull.