Hussein, on Hunger Strike, Gets Feeding Tube at Hospital

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 23 — Saddam Hussein was hospitalized this morning, fed with a tube and given a battery of tests to ensure that he could stand trial later this week despite a hunger strike that began July 7, Iraqi and American officials said.

Iraq, meanwhile, was shaken by widespread sectarian violence after two days of relative calm, with at least 57 people killed today in bombings in Baghdad and Kirkuk, shootings all over the country, and 11 bodies found in the Tigris river, bound and with gunshot wounds to the head or chest.

Jaafar al-Musawi, the lead prosecutor in Mr. Hussein’s trial, said this evening that Mr. Hussein was conscious and talkative, and would be expected in court on Tuesday for the final stages of his case. He and seven co-defendants are accused of executing 148 men and boys from the Shiite town of Dujail.

“We had to move him to the hospital to make sure that he stays healthy,” Mr. Musawi said. “We wanted to make sure that he would be O.K.”

Mr. Hussein and three co-defendants stopped eating more than two weeks ago to protest the Iraqi court’s procedures and to demand greater security for their defense lawyers. Three of the lawyers have been killed since the trial started in October.

Mr. Hussein ended an earlier hunger strike during his court case after a few days.

One of Mr. Hussein’s defense lawyers, Ziyad al-Najdawi, said in a telephone interview that his colleagues saw Mr. Hussein on Saturday at 4 p.m. local time and that he seemed healthy and in good spirits. If his condition worsened, Mr. Najdawi said, it was because the American military — which has guarded the deposed Iraqi leader since he was captured in 2003 — provided inadequate care.

“They are responsible for his condition, his health and everything,” he said. Until the hospitalization, Mr. Hussein was drinking coffee with sugar, and water with nutrients.

Lt. Col. Keir-Kevin Curry, a spokesman for the American-run detention operation said Mr. Hussein “continues to maintain his hunger strike and is voluntarily receiving nutrition through a feeding tube. His condition is constantly monitored by medical personnel and is not life-threatening.”

Mr. Hussein’s decline came on a day that offered further evidence that Iraq is slipping toward civil war.

On Saturday, Iraqi officials met for the first time to discuss plans for reconciling the country’s warring factions, producing little more than buoyant assertions and plans for more meetings.

Today, dozens of Iraqis were killed or found dead, in nearly every region of the country, with Sunni Arab, Shiite and Kurdish areas all being hit.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber blew up a minibus at a busy market in the Shiite-dominated Sadr City area, killing at least 35 people, including several teenagers, and injuring 75, the authorities said.

Gunmen killed one man in the city’s mixed area of Dawra.

A volley of mortars in western Baghdad killed one person and wounded 12, including five children and two women.

Three policemen were killed in the al-Qadasiya neighborhood in western Baghdad after gunmen opened fire on their car, according to an Interior Ministry official.

In the Sunni Arab neighborhood of Adhamiya, four unidentified bodies were found in the Tigris river, bound and with gunshot wounds to the head; an additional 20 bodies were found throughout the city, according to officials.

Along another bend in the Tigris, about 25 miles south near the majority Shiite town of Suwayra, Iraqi police retrieved the bodies of seven others who had been handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head and chest, according to news agency reports.

One person was killed when a mortar hit a house in Mussayib, another town south of Baghdad. Near Ramadi, west of the capital, where American marines have fought a pitched battle with insurgents for weeks, gunmen attacked three trucks carry fuel, killing the drivers.

And in the north, gunmen killed a least two near the city of Baquba, including a butcher.

The car bomb that exploded in Kirkuk, in addition to those it killed, left 100 wounded outside the city’s crowded courthouse. Brigadier Yadekar Abdulla, head of the local police, said the bombing was the most gruesome attack the oil-rich, ethnically-mixed city has suffered since the American invasion in 2003.

American officials have acknowledged in recent days that the violence here is worsening. Gen. John P. Abizaid of the Army, the top American commander for the Middle East, said in an interview on Friday that the killings and reprisals among Sunni Arabs and Shiites had become more problematic than the insurgency. He said that additional forces would probably be sent to the Iraqi capital, where daily attacks recorded by the military have recently increased to 34 a day.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has yet to make significant progress in his plans for bringing Sunni Arabs and Shiites together.

Today, Mr. Maliki arrived in London to meet with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. He will visit Washington and President Bush on Tuesday.

Among some Iraqis, there are still buds of hope that somehow, with the help of outside powers, the country will unify against the violence and widening segregation by sect.

But far more common were dire predictions of an imminent civil war, and frustration with the government and American military’s inability to staunch the killing.

In Sadr City today, the American military conducted a raid before dawn that netted eight people suspected of planning violence, according to a military statement.

A few hours later, a minivan exploded within walking distance from another market where a car bombing killed at least 66 three weeks earlier.

Military officials said there was no evidence of a connection between the raid and bombing, but for Iraqi residents like Muhammad Abdul Sada, 57, a poor Shiite store owner who lost two teenaged sons in the explosion, the day as a whole looked like a symbol of the country’s dependent, dangerous state.

At Al Kindi Hospital a few miles away, where some of the injured were taken after the blast, families struggled to make sense of the carnage.

Saad Farhan, 21, said he came to Baghdad from Nasiriya, near Basra, as a boy in 1991 to make money for his sick father at home. Today, he was on his way home when the van exploded. In the hospital, he lay in bed, with blood all over his face and plastic bag under his head, holding his clothes and the money he never had a chance to deliver. Aadil Kadhum Ugla, 28, a Shiite mechanic, lay nearby. He said his life was saved because he was sitting low, on a curb behind a barrel when the bomb sent shrapnel screaming. All he wanted, he said, was freedom from fear.

“We can live on a piece of bread and a cup of tea without facing such filthy activities from other Iraqis,” he said.

With bandages on his chest, and his mother beside him wailing accusations at the government, Mr. Ugla said he was not certain it would ever happen.

“We were hopeful after collapse of the regime, but unfortunately we haven’t received anything from the government that has been promised,” he said. “Year after year, it has gone from bad to worse.”

Check Also

Biden admin openly hammering Israel’s military strategy in Gaza

A parade of top officials has ratcheted up their criticism of Israel, signaling deep frustration …