Saddam palaces will be turned into leisure park

U.S. commanders moved out of a complex of palaces that once belonged to ousted president Saddam Hussein, a site Iraqi officials hope to turn into a tourist destination.

The complex, which overlooks the Tigris River, was built just outside Saddam's hometown of Tikrit soon after the end of the 1989-90 Gulf war. It served as headquarters to the 42nd Infantry Division, responsible for military operations in north-central Iraq. Their replacement, the 101st Airborne Division, will be staying at a former Iraqi airbase a few kilometers up the road.

Local Iraqi officials will take control of the site at the end of the month.

The closure of the heavily fortified base, the 30th this year in Iraq, is also designed to concentrate U.S. troops and reduce their visibility and exposure to attacks.

American soldiers on Tuesday packed their bags, emptied the garbage, rolled up cables and took some final snapshots of the vast complex, which comprises 136 buildings, including 18 palaces.

Provincial governor Hamed Humud Shikti said plans are afoot to turn the complex into a tourist or leisure park when he officially takes over, AFP reports.


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