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Byline: Douglas Jehl The New York Times

Two sons-in-law of Saddam Hussein who returned to Iraq last week after defecting to Jordan six months ago have been slain by their relatives, the Iraqi government said Friday night.

An interior ministry statement broadcast on a government-controlled television station said the two men, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid and Col. Saddam Kamel al-Majid, who were brothers, had been killed in an armed clash when members of their family stormed their residence in the Iraqi capital Friday.

When the two men and their wives, both daughters of the Iraqi leader, returned to Baghdad on Tuesday after fleeing the country Aug. 8, the Iraqi government said they would be received as ordinary citizens.

But the announcement Friday night that the brothers had been slain followed reports that both had been divorced by their wives, and the two were denounced by the Iraqi News Agency on Friday as "disappointed traitors." There seemed little doubt that their fate had been officially sanctioned as punishment for former Gen. Kamel for his vow last summer from the garden of a Jordanian palace to help to topple the Iraqi regime.

Madeleine Albright, the U.S. delegate to the United Nations, said Friday night that Gen. Kamel, who had headed the country's clandestine weapons program, and his brother, the former head of the country's secret police, had provided Western governments with important information about Iraq's development of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

"The issue here is that Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator, and that his brutality knows no bounds," Albright told reporters at the United Nations.

The defection of Gen. Kamel and his relatives was celebrated by the West as a sign of a powerful division within the Iraqi regime. It prompted the Iraqi government to provide U.N. inspectors with a vast catalog of new information about its secret weapons program, apparently in an attempt to pre-empt what it believed the defecting general was about to hand over anyway.

The effect was to set back by at least a year an end to the U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. Dismantling the Iraqi weapons systems was a prerequisite to ending the sanctions.

Gen. Kamel, about 40 years old, had apparently seen himself as a potential successor to Saddam Hussein, whom he condemned last summer for adopting policies that had led to Iraq's isolation.

But while he was quickly embraced by King Hussein of Jordan and praised for his courage by Western governments, he soon found himself ignored by Jordan and the West, who made clear that they did not regard him as a palatable future leader of Iraq.

Even from his exile in a Jordanian palace, he found himself shunned by other Iraqi opposition figures, who said they could never forgive him for the role he had played in his father-in-law's regime.

People close to Gen. Kamel and his family said he had grown increasingly lonely and embittered in recent weeks as it became clear that neither King Hussein nor the West was willing to include him in discussions about the future of Iraq.

But his return to Iraq on Tuesday in a convoy of limousines provided by the Jordanian government was greeted in Washington with what a State Department spokesman called stunned disbelief, and the announcement of his death Friday night was described as similarly shocking.

The announcement, first broadcast on Shebib Television, a Baghdad station owned by President Hussein's son Uday, quoted an interior ministry statement as saying that the men had been killed by relatives who declared that "blood should be shed due to their treason to the homeland."

Also killed in the gunbattle at the residence to which the two men returned only three days before were their father and another brother, Hakim Hussein, the interior ministry said.

Only hours earlier, the official Iraqi News Agency reported that the daughters of President Hussein had Thursday sought and been granted requests to divorce the Kamel brothers, with whom they had been living in asylum in Jordan since fleeing Baghdad.

The report said that the daughters, Raghad Saddam and Rana Saddam, had learned of their husbands' plans only when they arrived in Jordan last summer from the Iraqi capital. It said that they had appealed to King Hussein but were told that the Jordanian ruler was too busy to receive them.

"They are refusing to stay married to men who betrayed the homeland, the trust, and the lofty values of their noble families and kinfolk," the report by the government-controlled press service declared.

Saddam Hussein has never been known to excuse the slightest insubordination, and he is believed to have ordered hundreds of his subordinates slain in the period of nearly a quarter-century in which he has held power.

But the smooth way in which Gen. Kamel and his party were allowed to return to Baghdad had kindled a view that their experience might somehow be different.

Before he retraced the journey they made in August, Gen. Kamel told interviewers that he had sought permission to return. And as he crossed the border an Iraqi government spokesman announced that the country's Revolutionary Command Council and the ruling Baath Party had agreed in a joint session that he should be forgiven.

There have been reports in the Arab-language newspaper Al Hayat, which is published in London, that the party had even been greeted at the Iraqi border by Uday Hussein, the president's son and a longtime rival of Gen. Kamel.

But the returning party was received with little fanfare in Baghdad, whose official newspapers denounced Gen. Kamel last summer as a coward, a traitor and a thief. Western diplomats said in retrospect that in a country long torn by family feuds, the bitter end should not have been surprising.

On Iraqi television Friday night, an announcer read a telegram to President Saddam Hussein from the al-Majid family.

"It asked for clemency and said the family's members had to kill the defectors to cleanse their honor, which had been tarnished by treason," the announcer said.

The television later played Iraq's national anthem and praised Saddam Hussein.



Photo Saddam Hussein's sons-in-law Hussein Kamel al-Majid, far left in back, and Saddam Kamel al-Majid, second from left in back, were reported killed Friday. This family photo was taken in 1991. Associated Press
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 25, 1996
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