The tomb of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was heavily damaged as Iraqi forces and Shiite militias clashed with militants from the Islamic State group to drive them from the northern city of Tikrit. An Associated Press (AP) video published late Sunday reportedly shows the remains of the tomb.
The video taken from the village of Ouja, just south of Tikrit, shows the mausoleum, which once featured poster-sized pictures of Saddam, now reduced to concrete rubble. Shiite militia flags and pictures of militia leaders, including Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who advises Iraqi Shiite militias, could be reportedly seen in the village. The hometown of Saddam witnessed heavy fighting on Sunday as Iraqi forces reportedly vowed to reach the center of Tikrit, nearly 80 miles north of Baghdad, within 48 hours.
"This is one of the areas where IS militants massed the most because Saddam's grave is here," Captain Yasser Nu'ma, an official with the Shiite militias, said, according to AP. "The IS militants' set an ambush for us by planting bombs around" the tomb.
Saddam's body, which was in the mausoleum since 2007, was reportedly removed last year and moved to an unknown location by his loyalists amid fears that it would be disturbed in the fighting.
ISIS had reportedly said in August that the tomb had been completely destroyed. However, local officials denied the claims, stating that it had been ransacked and suffered minor damage, the AP reported.
Saddam, who was from Tikrit, was captured by the U.S. forces in 2003 and an Iraqi tribunal convicted him of mass killing of Shiites and Kurds and later hanged him in December 2006.
A force, comprising nearly 20,000 troops and Shia militias, launched an offensive late last month against the ISIS, which captured Tikrit in June last year.