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Obituary: Uday Saddam Hussein

Uday Hussein, the murderous and erratic oldest son of Saddam Hussein, controlled propaganda in Iraq and allegedly oversaw the torture of athletes who failed to perform.

The 39-year-old had a $15 million reward on his head as No. 3 on the list of 55 most-wanted men from the ousted Iraqi regime — only Saddam and younger brother Qusay ranked higher. The three also were on a U.S. list of former leaders who could be tried for war crimes.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of the U.S.-led coalition troops in Iraq, said Uday and Qusay were killed Tuesday during a gunbattle with American soldiers in northern Iraq.

As head of the Fedayeen Saddam (search) paramilitary force, Uday helped his father eliminate opponents and exert iron-fisted control over Iraq's 25 million people. The eldest of Saddam's five children, Uday was elected to parliament in 1999 with a reported 99 percent of the vote, but he rarely attended parliament sessions.

Iraqi exiles say Uday murdered at will and tortured with zeal, and routinely ordered his guards to snatch young women off the street so he could rape them. The London-based human-rights group Indict (search) said Uday ordered prisoners to be dropped into acid baths as punishment.

The Caligula-like Uday seemed proud of his reputation and called himself Abu Sarhan, an Arabic term for "wolf."

But his tendency toward erratic brutality even exasperated Saddam, who temporarily banished Uday to Switzerland after the younger Hussein killed one of his father's favorite bodyguards in 1988.

The bodyguard, a young man named Kamel Gegeo, arranged trysts for the Iraqi president — notably with one woman who later became Saddam's second wife. Worried that his father's relationship with the woman could threaten his own position as heir, Uday beat Gegeo to death with a club in full view of guests at a high-society party, according to some reports. Other reports said Uday killed Gegeo with an electric carving knife.

Uday had once been a strong candidate to succeed his father, but he was badly injured in 1996 in an assassination attempt by gunmen who opened fire as he drove his red Porsche through Baghdad. The attack left Uday with a bullet in his spine that forced him to walk with a cane. Younger brother Qusay was instead groomed to succeed Saddam, worsening already uneasy relations between the two brothers.

Uday owned Iraq's most widely circulated daily newspaper, Babil, which he used as a platform for regime propaganda, publishing signed editorials full of bombastic rhetoric. He also oversaw Al-Zawra, a weekly published by the journalists union that he headed, and owned the popular Youth TV.

Much of Uday's notoriety abroad stemmed from his position as head of the National Iraqi Olympic Committee (search), which was accused of torturing and jailing athletes.

The London-based human rights group Indict said the committee once made a group of track athletes crawl on newly poured asphalt while they were beaten and threw some of them off a bridge. Indict also said Uday ran a special prison for athletes who offended him. The International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, said earlier this year that it was investigating the allegations.

One defector told Indict that jailed soccer players were forced to kick a concrete ball after failing to reach the 1994 World Cup finals. Another defector said athletes were dragged through a gravel pit and then dunked in a sewage tank so infection would set in.

Army officers also were fair game for Uday's outbursts of violence. In 1983, Uday reportedly bashed an army officer unconscious when the man refused to allow Uday to dance with his wife. The officer later died. Uday also shot an army officer who did not salute him.

Things were hardly better on the family front, where relations between Uday and his uncles were especially bad. Uday reportedly divorced the daughter of one uncle, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, in 1995 after she complained of being beaten. Uday shot and wounded another uncle, Watban Ibrahim Hasan. Both uncles were captured after the war and are in the custody of U.S. coalition forces.

While millions of Iraqis suffered dire poverty, Uday lived a life of fast cars, expensive liquor and easy women.

When U.S. troops captured his mansion in Baghdad, they found a personal zoo with lions and cheetahs, an underground parking garage for his collection of luxury cars, Cuban cigars with his name on the wrapper, and $1 million in fine wines, liquor — and even heroin.

Uday's obsession with sex was evident everywhere: The house was adorned with paintings of naked women and photographs of prostitutes taken off the Internet, complete with handwritten ratings of each.

There were bags and boxes of pills and medicines everywhere — ginseng sexual fortifiers, heartburn medication, the anti-depressant Prozac — and an Accu-Rite HIV Antibodies Screening Test Kit was in Uday's office.

Nearby was a domed house believed to be the residence of Uday's concubines, a bastion of bad taste with statuettes of couples in foreplay, couches with fluffy pillows and a swimming pool with a bar.