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Saddam's capture celebrated

From Staff Reports

Residents across the Southern Crescent celebrated Sunday as the news that U.S. forces had captured Saddam Hussein spread across the country.

Although optimistic, many said they don't think the capture will end the fighting in Iraq.

"No, the fighting was going on first," said Travis Turner of Riverdale. "When he was a dictator he had really strong supporters. I don't believe because he's caught they're going to just get up and go away."

Hurairah Sanni of Rex was pleased by the news of Saddam's capture but said there is a long way to go before the war comes to an end.

"Until we get all the terrorists, I don't think the fighting will end," Sanni said. "I'm glad we got their chief."

Sana Kong of Riverdale was hopeful the fighting would soon cease.

"If they caught (Saddam), why fight on?" Kong said.

In Dearborn, Mich., a heavily Arab suburb of Detroit, people danced in the snowy streets, banging drums and waving Iraqi and American flags. Signs near Fort Hood, Texas, proclaimed the capture and thanked the troops. And in homes and stores across the country, people gathered around televisions to see footage of the scruffy, bearded man some thought would never be caught.

"At first I didn't believe it," said Jim Lee of McDonough. "He was known to have five or six stand-ins around the country who would mimic him."

But the Desert Storm veteran and commander of McDonough Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 11576 said that once President Bush announced the capture, he was pretty convinced.

Lee said he thinks Saddam's capture is a windfall for Iraq, America and the world.

"It's a morale booster for the American people," he said. "It more justifies why we went over there ? A lot of politicians can't say it in public, but I believe behind the scenes a majority of the civilized world is glad he's gone."

McDonough resident Michael Lustri, a Vietnam veteran, said the capture has implications for both the present and the future.

"(Thomas) Jefferson always said, ?Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God,'" Lustri said. "We had not only a moral obligation, but a historical precedent, to (liberate Iraq) ? In retrospect, historians will look very favorably on our actions."

The news was particularly sweet for Iraqi Americans.

"You know what they should do? Put a statue of Bush," said Habib Iradily, a 37-year-old truck driver from Detroit who fled Iraq to Saudi Arabia in 1991.

For Alan Zangana, a Kurd who fled Iraq in 1981, the phone started ringing at his Chula Vista, Calif., home early Sunday with people sharing the reports of the capture.

"I have been waiting for this for the last 35 years," said Zangana, director of Kurdish Human Rights Watch in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon.

Saddam's arrest could alter the violent resistance to the U.S. presence in Iraq since some insurgents were acting against the coalition "because they thought Saddam was alive and would come back and cut their throats," Zangana said.

While news of the capture caught much of the country by surprise, Adrienne Pittard had a hunch something was up.

Her husband, a member of the Fort Hood-based 4th Infantry Division, whose soldiers captured Saddam in an underground crawl space of an Iraqi farmhouse, had told her there was going to be "some big operation" over the weekend.

Early Sunday, she was roused from sleep by her mother, who repeated, "They got Saddam! They got Saddam!"

"I was just really excited because now that they got him maybe my husband will be coming home a little sooner," said Pittard, who has been living with her parents in Southport, N.C., while Zeke Pittard was overseas.

"This is what they've been working for," she said. "Finally the real work in Iraq can begin."

Some, though, were wondering how successful that work will be.

"He's caught, but what do we do now?" asked Lamont Frazier, a 30-year-old from Boston, who speculated that the capture would win President Bush "an extra million votes."

Others doubted the capture would end the violent opposition that has led to the deaths of at least 315 U.S. soldiers since Bush declared major combat over on May 1.

"They're in a war," Diane Rice, a 37-year-old Chicagoan, said of the Iraqi insurgents. "They're fighting for something. His capture isn't going to keep them from fighting."

Still, even some who had opposed the war expressed relief at Saddam's capture.

At All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., a politically active liberal church with many members who oppose the war, the Rev. J. Edwin Bacon Jr. told parishioners he was happy about the capture of a person he said had a "tyrannical, evil and bloody rule."

Bacon said he hoped the capture would speed the end of the U.S. occupation ? a view shared by others elsewhere in the country.

"Our whole excuse for staying over there was (Saddam)," Julian Collins, 25, from Tallahassee, Fla. "We're gonna find out really if we're gonna let them take back over their country or if we're going to run it."

Others were more interested in talking about how Saddam should be punished.

"I would like to say 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' but that's not right," said Rachel Quarshie, 37, of Dallas. "I'd like to just see him break bricks for the rest of his life."

Pika Patel, a 24-year-old Chicagoan, was less forgiving.

"Just kill him ? no trial," said Patel, a gas station owner.

Kelly Wright, a 35-year-old saleswoman from Sacramento, Calif., had one more person on her mind. "Capture of Osama would be a nice conclusion," she said, referring to the leader of the al-Qaida terrorist network who has not been caught despite a manhunt that begun November 2001.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.