Published December 14, 2003
| Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Celebratory gunfire rang out across the Iraqi capital, radios played festive music, drivers honked their horns and passengers on buses and trucks chanted "They got Saddam, they got Saddam," as word of the former dictator's capture spread from car to car and shop to shop on a sun-filled Sunday afternoon.
U.S. troops stationed around the country cheered when they heard the news and held back as Iraqis fired their guns in the air. Iraqi journalists gave U.S. officials a standing ovation and cheered wildly when video of a captured Saddam was shown during a news conference announcing the arrest.
But not everyone was happy and many said they wanted proof that the man in U.S. custody is the real Saddam Hussein (search).
"I heard the news, but I'll believe it when I see it," said Mohaned al-Hasaji, a 33-year-old who owns a cosmetics shop on Baghdad's bustling Karada street. "They need to show us that they really have him."
Outside his shop a paper boy sold copies of Sunday's edition of Shaheed, or the Witness, a weekly newsmagazine whose cover story was graced with photos of Saddam and banned headline that asked "Who's the real Saddam?"
At the Palestine hotel (search), where foreign journalists and American contract workers are staying, Abil Daoud was sad.
"We lost our only hope and now we are stuck with the Americans," said Daoud, who is employed by U.S. troops as a local security guard. Some called Saddam a "coward" for getting caught. Others were glad he didn't die a martyr.
"He killed my son Mohammed and he tortured his people," said Halem a-Jassen, 40, as she celebrated in the street.
Members of the Iraqi Communist Party (search), which was banned and persecuted under Saddam's rule, passed around bags of candy and raised red flags outside their party headquarters.
A Shiite cleric named Azhad al-Faili thanked the Almighty "for ridding the world of the tyrant."
Ayet Bassem, who wore the traditional black cloak of religious Muslim women, was overcome with a sense of relief.
"Things will be better for my son," she said, clutching the hand of six-year-old Zenalbadin. "My son now has a future."
With random gunfire in the streets, she said it was time to go home and leave the shopping for later.
Worried shopkeepers hurried to close up their businesses early and get home before the shooting increased.
Among them was Yehya Hasson.
"I'm very happy. Now we can start a new beginning."