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Simple Ceremony Marks Hussein's Return to Village for Burial

When the procession arrived in Auja, a few hundred mourners converged on the car with Hussein's coffin. With guns firing into the air, men carried the coffin into the domed center, chanting: "Allahu akbar," or God is great. Others chanted: "With soul and blood we sacrifice for you, Saddam." Women were crying and wailing.

Some of Hussein's relatives in attendance had traveled from neighboring Syria. A Washington Post special correspondent was also present. Hussein's cousins opened the coffin and uncovered his face, and a crowd gathered around the corpse to see his face and kiss him. Blood had stained the white shroud around his neck.

"There were two wounds with blood marks on Saddam's right cheek," one person said after he saw the corpse.

"The wounds happened because of the rope," another mourner said.

A black hood, which Hussein's hangmen had wrapped around his neck before his hanging, was still there, with patches of dried blood. One of Hussein's cousins removed the cloth.

Many tribal leaders wore traditional red-checkered head scarves, but without turbans, a sign that they would exact revenge for Hussein, according to Arab tribal traditions.

The funeral began at around 3 a.m. and lasted half an hour.

Then the Iraqi flag was draped over the grave, beneath a chandelier. A Koran was placed on a chair, near the head of the grave, beside a large portrait of Hussein dressed in a dark blue suit and fedora. Later Sunday, scores of residents in the region drifted into the hall to pay respects.

Hussein's final resting place is expected to be in his family's cemetery, where his sons Uday and Qusay, killed by U.S. troops two months after the invasion, are buried.

Habib Salih al-Majeed, another Hussein cousin, described the execution as a "crime" committed by the United States to erase Arab character in Iraq. He also described Maliki as a "sectarian prime minister who does not represent the Iraqi people but one small faction of it."

Then he made a vow.

"We shall carry arms and take revenge," he said. "They had crossed the red line by executing Saddam. He is now buried here, and Auja will become a symbol for the mujaheddin and the martyrs."

A Washington Post special correspondent in Auja contributed to this report.

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