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Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment from Friedberg, Germany, guard a hotel complex Wednesday, with a mosque in the background. For a while Tuesday night, the sky above their post was full of gunfire as Iraqis celebrated the deaths of the Saddam Hussein's sons.
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment from Friedberg, Germany, guard a hotel complex Wednesday, with a mosque in the background. For a while Tuesday night, the sky above their post was full of gunfire as Iraqis celebrated the deaths of the Saddam Hussein's sons. (Kent Harris / S&S)

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq’s largest city was a war zone of sorts Tuesday night as gunfire ripped through the sky for about a half-hour.

This time, however, most — if not all — of it came from Iraqis celebrating the news of the deaths of Odai and Qusai, the sons of Saddam Hussein.

“All Iraqis are very, very happy about the news,” said Hussein Ali, a 33-year-old engineer sitting in the lobby of the Palestine Hotel. “If American troops capture or kill Saddam Hussein, then we’ll have a big celebration for that.”

Firing weapons at events such as weddings and funerals is a common practice in Iraq. But not on the scale of Tuesday night.

“They’re all allowed one weapon, and there are 5 million people in this city,” said Staff Sgt. Dale Hall, standing guard over the complex that includes the Palestine and Sheraton hotels.

“[The gunfire] just exploded all over the city. It had to be a reaction to [Lt.] Gen. [Ricardo] Sanchez’s announcement.”

Sanchez, the top U.S. commander stationed in Iraq, told reporters Tuesday: “We are certain that Odai and Qusai were killed” earlier in the day in the city of Mosul.

The sudden eruption of gunfire started a little after 10 p.m. and was startling in its intensity.

Sgt. Christopher Woodruff and others from the 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment ran out of their compound in downtown Baghdad after hastily putting on their gear.

“At first, we thought it was some sort of attack going on,” he said Wednesday morning. “It sounded like it was inside the compound. That’s how loud it was.

“Then word came down the radio that it was just celebratory.”

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