Iraqis blame Tony Blair for their suffering

Iraqis blame Tony Blair for their suffering

The Iraqi man who was filmed attacking Saddam Hussein's statue with a sledgehammer when US troops stormed into Baghdad in 2003 says Iraq was in a better shape under his rule and George W Bush and Tony Blair should be put on trial "for ruining" it.

Kadhim Hassan al-Jabouri was speaking on Wednesday as British former civil servant John Chilcot released a long-awaited report criticising Britain's role in the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The report said that "policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments", and that claims that Iraq posed a threat by possessing weapons of mass destruction were "presented with unjustified certainty".

It said that the turmoil unleashed in Iraq since the invasion should have come as no surprise.

"I regret striking the statue," said Mr Jabouri, a Shi'ite who lost more than a dozen relatives under Saddam, a member of the Sunni Muslim minority.

He said they were killed for opposing the Iraqi leader, who was hanged in 2006.

The statue of Saddam was pulled down by US Marines shortly after Mr Jabouri and other Iraqis attacked it on April 9, 2003.

Images of it being ripped from its plinth were broadcast live around the world and symbolised the moment Saddam's ruthless quarter-century in power came to an end.

"I wish Saddam would return; he executed many of my family but he is still better than these politicians and clerics who got Iraq to the way it is," he said.

Mr Jabouri owned a motorcycle repair shop in the Karrada district of central Baghdad at the time of the invasion.

The mainly Shi'ite neighbourhood was hit by a huge truck bomb on Saturday night, claimed by the ultra-hardline Sunni group Islamic State, which killed about 250 people.

It was the highest toll from a single bombing in more than a decade of chaos following the war which toppled Saddam.

Mr Blair and Mr Bush "must be put to trial as they have ruined Iraq with their lies. It turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction," Mr Jabouri said.

The head of Iraq's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, Hassan Khudhair, said people who suffered in the conflict deserved reparation.

However, others who suffered under Saddam said they were grateful to Washington and London.

"Overthrowing Saddam's regime was a dream that came true thanks to the US and Britain - and all those who say otherwise are liars," said former political prisoner Faris Mohammed, who was serving a life sentence when the invasion took place.

Mowaffak al-Rubaiee, a member of parliament and former National Security Adviser, said the war was waged for a noble cause - to oust a tyrant.

But Abu Yasser, a retired marketing manager at Iraqi Airways and a member of Iraq's Sunni community, said Mr Chilcot's report offered little comfort to Iraqis marking the start of the Eid al-Fitr religious holiday on Wednesday.