Saddam's Sons Also Known for Brutality and Ruthlessness

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When President Bush gave Saddam Hussein until Wednesday to leave Iraq, he told him to take his sons with him.

While their styles are dramatically different, Odai Hussein, 39, and his younger brother, Qusai Hussein, 37, both have reputations for being as brutal and ruthless as their father.

Qusai Hussein, whom Saddam is believed to be grooming as his successor, is a low-key, soberly dressed, ambiguous figure who moves in his father's shadow. His nickname among Iraqis is Mr. Snake.

His more widely known, flamboyant brother Odai Hussein calls himself Abu Sarhan, an Arabic euphemism for a wolf.

Characteristically, it was Odai Hussein who responded first to Bush's ultimatum, not only rejecting it but turning it around.

Bush is "unstable" and "should give up power in America with his family," Odai Hussein said in a statement distributed in Baghdad by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.

Any attack on Iraq would leave "the wives and mothers of those who fight us constantly crying," he added. "They should not believe there is a single safe spot for them inside Iraq or outside Iraq."

Such rhetoric is not unusual from Odai Hussein, who seemed to be Saddam's heir apparent before he was partially paralyzed in a 1996 assassination attempt. He lost favor with his father after a bloody family rift five years ago that led to the defection of the Iraqi leader's two sons-in-law to Jordan.

Despite his waning political fortunes, he remains a very powerful figure in Iraq, although his extravagance and violent reputation have won him little popular support.

He commands Fedayeen Saddam, a paramilitary militia used by the regime to oppress internal foes. He has a seat in parliament, runs Iraq's most popular newspaper, Babil, and popular Youth TV channel, and heads the national Olympic committee.

Qusai Hussein, who for years has been in charge of the elite Republican Guard Corps and his father's own personal security, was put in charge Saturday of defending the capital and heartland against any attack.

In meetings Saddam has been holding with his senior commanders, Qusai Hussein always appears in well-tailored suits and kisses his father's hands, a sign of respect and obedience. Sitting next to his father, he usually takes notes from his father's speeches in a notebook he carries with him.

Qusai Hussein already was deputy commander of the Iraqi armed forces and head of the security apparatus. Since 2000 he also has been in charge of the army branch of the ruling Baath party, meaning virtually all the army's movements were under his supervision.

In his capacity as head of the special intelligence service, he in charge of some of the notorious detention centers. Iraqi dissidents who worked close to Qusai Hussein charge that he was responsible for the killing of many political activists.

Members of the regime "portray him with an image of suspense around him to instill fear in their enemies," said Haroun Mohammed, an Iraqi writer in London.

The London Sunday Times reported that Qusai Hussein ordered the killing of Khalis Mohsen al-Tikriti, an engineer at the military industrialization organization, on suspicion he was planning to leave Iraq.

In 1998, Iraqi opposition and human rights groups accused Qusai Hussein of ordering the executions of thousands of political prisoners after hundreds of inmates were summarily executed to make room for new prisoners in crowded jails.

In December 1996, the Iraqi National Congress -- one of the main Iraqi opposition groups -- claimed that Qusai Hussein had been wounded after a group of dissidents shot at the vehicle in which he was traveling in a Baghdad suburb.

Odai Hussein suffered serious leg wounds in a shooting in the same suburb a year earlier and now walks with great difficulty.

Qusai Hussein was married in 1984 to the daughter of Gen. Maher Abdel Rashid, an army commander, but the marriage ran into trouble a few years later and the two are said to be separated. He is believed to have two daughters.

Saddam and his estranged wife, Sajida Khairallah Telfah, have three daughters and two sons. Saddam also is widely known to have a third son, Ali, who is about 18, from a secret marriage to Samira al-Shabandar. But he does not assume any official post.