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Iraqi tribunal releases video showing questioning of Hussein


BAGHDAD, Iraq - The special war crimes tribunal that will try Saddam Hussein released a video yesterday showing the deposed Iraqi president being questioned.

The footage showed a bearded Hussein wearing a dark suit and open-collared white shirt, and speaking with Raad Juhi, the tribunal's head judge. There was no audio.

A statement accompanying the video said it showed Hussein being questioned about the 1982 massacres in the southern village of Dujail. Dozens of Dujail residents are thought to have been executed after Hussein escaped an assassination attempt there.

Juhi, approached yesterday evening at a heavily guarded garden reception for the new Egyptian ambassador, declined to comment on the video.

The accompanying statement did not say when it was shot, but Badeea Arif, one of Hussein's lawyers, told Al-Arabiya television that it appeared to have been shot in the previous 24 hours. Arif said his client's health appeared to be "not good."

It was unclear why the tribunal released the video. The questioning had less legal significance than last summer's arraignment, which captivated Iraqis.

Also, the charges related to the Dujail killings are dwarfed in scope by other counts Hussein is likely to face. Those include suppression of the 1991 uprisings in the Shiite Muslim south and Kurdish north, the systematic eradication of dozens of Kurdish villages and the 1990 occupation of neighboring Kuwait.

No date for the trial has been announced. Many Iraqi lawmakers have expressed an interest in an early prosecution, even if it means skipping some of the more complicated charges, which would take years to properly investigate.

They hope that a speedy trial would shore up public faith in the new U.S.-backed political order while dealing a psychological blow to the insurgency.

Insurgents continued their violent campaign against the government yesterday with scattered attacks in Baghdad and the north that killed 10 Iraqis and wounded at least 55.

A car bomber detonated his vehicle yesterday afternoon outside the offices of the local district council in Baghdad's Yarmouk neighborhood, killing a young girl, injuring five other Iraqi civilians and just missing a top U.S. diplomat.

Residents said the bomber apparently targeted a U.S. convoy carrying soldiers who regularly attend the district council's weekly meetings. The council offices are around the corner from the headquarters of the Iraqi Islamic Party, and party officials said U.S. Charge D'Affaires James Jeffrey had left a meeting at the party offices minutes before the explosion.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman declined to comment on whether Jeffrey had visited the party offices.

On the road from Baghdad to Baquba, insurgents with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades attacked a police checkpoint, killing four and wounding another four. Police reinforcements responding to the scene were attacked by a car bomber, and six more officers were wounded.

In Tikrit, Hussein's hometown, a car bomber targeted a police convoy, killing two high-ranking officers and wounding two others, along with 10 civilians.

In the Zeitoun region, west of the northern city of Kirkuk, a car bomb was detonated at an Iraqi army checkpoint, wounding five Iraqi soldiers.

In Samarra, a car bomber struck a house used as a temporary base by Iraqi soldiers. The attack touched off hours of running battles with U.S. and Iraqi forces, who imposed a daytime curfew on large sections of the city. Iraqi Army Capt. Laith Muhammed said three policemen were killed and that seven officers and 16 civilians were wounded.

Meanwhile, in Paris, speculation swirled around whether a ransom had been paid to secure Sunday's release of Florence Aubenas, a French journalist who was held captive in Iraq for more than five months.

Like their counterparts in Italy, Romania and other countries that have endured abductions of their citizens in Iraq, the French government said that no ransom had been paid.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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