Saddam Hussein's 30-foot tall statue being toppled, 2003 (Photo: Reuters)
A bronze buttock from the statue of late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein toppled in Baghdad after the US-led invasion in 2003 is to be auctioned off in Britain, an auction house said Tuesday.
A former soldier from Britain's elite SAS regiment retrieved the two-foot (0.6-metre) wide piece of history and took it back to Britain shortly after US marines dragged the statue down on live television.
Nigel "Spud" Ely, now 52, was working with media covering the fall of Baghdad at the time. He said the marines gave him permission to remove the buttock using a hammer and crowbar.
"US Marines had erected a cordon of tanks to guard the square. But I wanted a piece of the statue, and when I mentioned to the marines that I was an old soldier and with the press they told me, 'No problem, buddy – help yourself,'" Ely said.
"I only wanted a piece big enough to put in my pocket, but I ended up with a chunk about two foot square. "I thought, 'What the hell am I going to do with this?”
"I threw it in the back of my truck and forgot about it until we tried to re-enter Kuwait, where the Kuwaiti army arrested us and searched us for plunder."
The ex-serviceman was allowed to keep the relic after saying it was armour for a truck, but had to pay a £385 (roughly $606) excess baggage charge to fly the souvenir back to Britain.
Ely recently set up his own company to promote “war relic art,” but has handed the sale of the memento over to Hansons Auctioneers, based in Derby, central England.
Auctioneer Charles Hanson called the bronze body part a "piece of modern history," saying he expected it to be sold for at least £10,000 when it goes under the hammer on 27 October.
"It should appeal to military and art collectors alike, not to mention anyone who has an interest in the major events that have helped shape the world we live in," he said.