Kurd Testifies About Chemical Attack at Saddam Hussein's Genocide Trial

A Kurdish doctor told Saddam Hussein's genocide trial Thursday that children vomited blood, people broke out in skin rashes and itching, and animals fell dead after a gas that "smelled like flowers" blanketed his village in a 1987 military offensive.

Another Kurdish doctor said he treated men, women and children for serious body burns and blindness from the alleged chemical attack amid airstrikes and a ground offensive on the village as part of Saddam's 1987-88 campaign against the Kurds known as Operation Anfal.

"I treated a man whose entire body was full of chemical bubbles, but he died a few days later," he said in a brief testimony, recalling one of his April 1987 patients.

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Saddam and his six-defendants — all former members of his regime — sat silently throughout the hearing, which later adjourned until Dec. 18 after the testimony.

The seven men have pleaded innocent to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in Operation Anfal. Saddam and one other defendant have pleaded innocent to the additional charge of genocide. If convicted, they could all be condemned to death.

The prosecution estimates that 180,000 Kurds were killed when Saddam's army waged a scorched-earth campaign against Kurdish separatist guerrillas, allegedly destroying hundreds of villages, killing or forcing their residents to flee.

The names of the two doctors — both dressed in Western-style business suits and speaking Kurdish through an Arabic interpreter — were not announced when they took the stand, as is the court's practice. It was not immediately clear if the court deliberately withheld their names.

In previous hearings, some witnesses who preferred to remain anonymous spoke from behind a curtain.

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The first doctor testified that airstrikes preceded the arrival of Saddam's ground forces into his village.

"On April 16, 1987, I saw many planes hovering in the sky as I was standing outside my clinic," said the physician, who added that he also was a Kurdish guerrilla fighter.

"There was a strange smell, some people said it was like garlic or apples," he said. "It was not a bad smell, it smelled like flowers."

Shortly after the chemical attack, "I saw dozens of women and children walking with their eyes red, many were vomiting blood," he said.

"Everything in the village was dead, the birds, the animals, the sheep," he said, adding that he and some villagers fled to nearby mountains to escape Saddam's advancing troops.

Days later, he said he returned to the village to find it "entirely burned, there were no people, only some blind animals who had survived were there."

He said fellow Kurdish fighters told him it was "the first chemical attack on Kurdistan." He insisted that there was another "chemical attack" on his village in 1988, but said he did not see any dead people in both assaults.

"I was infected by the chemicals," he said, describing feeling "a burning sensation" on his skin and coughing up blood. He did not specify when he sustained his chemical injury.

On Nov. 5, Saddam was convicted in a separate trial in the slaying of 148 Shiite Muslims, including children, following an assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail in 1982. He was sentenced to death by hanging.

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