OUJA, Iraq — The tomb of Iraq's late dictator Saddam Hussein was virtually leveled in heavy clashes between militants from ISIS and Iraqi forces in a fight for control of the city of Tikrit.
Fighting intensified to the north and south of Saddam Hussein's hometown Sunday as Iraqi security forces vowed to reach the center of Tikrit within 48 hours. Associated Press video from the village of Ouja, just south of Tikrit, shows all that remains of Hussein's once-lavish tomb are the support columns that held up the roof.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
Poster-sized pictures of Saddam, which once covered the mausoleum, are now nowhere to be seen amid the mountains of concrete rubble. Instead, Shiite militia flags and photos of militia leaders mark the predominantly Sunni village.
"This is one of the areas where ISIS militants massed the most because Saddam's grave is here," said Captain Yasser Nu'ma, an official with the Shiite militias, formerly known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. "The ISIS militants' set an ambush for us by planting bombs around" the tomb.
ISIS has controlled Tikrit since June. The militant group claimed in August that Saddam's tomb had been completely destroyed, but local officials said it was just ransacked and burned, but suffered only minor damage. Iraqi media reported last year that Saddam's body was removed by loyalists amid fears that it would be disturbed in the fighting. The body's location is not known.
— The Associated Press