A gold-plated AK-47 believed to have been owned by former Iraqi PresidentSaddam Hussein is to go on public display for the first time. Hussein and his sons gave the gleaming rifle to “people they wanted to influence,” according to the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, northern England, which will be displaying the weapon as part of a new exhibition from Dec. 16.
The museum says the assault rifle came from a royal palace in Iraq.
It was discovered by British customs officers at Heathrow Airport in 2003, according to a newspaper report at the time, along with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, six bayonets and a sniper rifle. The weapons were reportedly in containers marked as containing computer equipment.
The “Re:Loaded” exhibit at the armouries museum examines the crossover of guns and art. It will open almost exactly 20 years after Hussein was captured by U.S. forces on Dec. 13, 2003.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we got him,” U.S. coalition authority boss Paul Bremer said at a news conference eight months after U.S. troops controversially invaded Iraq.
Three years later, in December 2006, Hussein, refusing to wear a hood, was hanged on television after being convicted of murder. Hussein was sentenced over the killing of 148 Shiite Muslims in an Iraqi town where assassins had tried to kill him in 1982.
During his reign, Hussein and his Baath party used “violence, killing, torture, execution, arbitrary arrest, unlawful detention, enforced disappearance, and various forms of repression to control the population,” according to a European Union report.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, as well as 4,500 U.S. service members, died in the war sparked by the U.S.-led invasion, which toppled Hussein from power but sparked a ferocious insurgency and a long sectarian conflict.