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6/21/03 - THE MASS GRAVES OF IRAQ - 2003-06-23


Since the U.S.-led coalition liberated Iraq from the dictator Saddam Hussein, the bodies of thousands have been found in dozens of mass graves around the country. A mansion that used to belong to one of Saddam Hussein's security guards has become a makeshift grieving place for Iraqis whose loved ones went missing during the ousted dictator's years of terror. The Committee for Free Prisoners helps relatives find out what happened to the hundreds of thousands who were murdered by Saddam's execution squads.

Layla Abdulhussein's brother Faud disappeared in 1981. "He was a university student majoring in law and one of the top students in his class," says Layla. "One day he went to a mosque and never came back. Three years later the secret police came to our house and told us we should not give him a funeral. We were not allowed to ask any questions. I don't believe my brother is still alive," Layla said. "I just want to know what happened to him and hope to recover his remains so that we can bury him in Najaf." Stories such as Layla's are heartbreaking -- and commonplace in post-Saddam Iraq.

But as Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator in Iraq, said, the cloud of fear in Iraq is being lifted. Coalition forces, he says, are helping Iraqis restore order:

"We have established control over the country of Iraq. We've turned water and power on, and we're working hard to improve the basic services nationwide. We've got an Iraqi police force up and running and conducting joint patrols with coalition military forces. We've got most of the ministries back to work one way or the other, some of them in their original buildings, some in temporary accommodations."

"This is a task," said U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, "that will take time and patience, trial and error. But this much is certain: The world community has a stake in Iraq's success -- because if Iraqis can build a free nation on the rubble of Saddam Hussein's tyranny, the effects on the region and the world could be significant."

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