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Idi amin murderous dictator dies { August 17 2003 }

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Murderous Uganda dictator Amin dies
August 17, 2003

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia--Idi Amin called himself ''a pure son of Africa,'' but his bizarre and murderous eight years as president of Uganda typified the worst of the continent's military dictatorships.

Mr. Amin died Saturday at King Faisal Specialist hospital, a hospital official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The former dictator was 80, Ugandan officials said.

Mr. Amin had been hospitalized on life-support since July 18. He was in a coma and suffering from high blood pressure when he was admitted to the hospital. Later, he suffered kidney failure.

A onetime heavyweight boxing champ and soldier in the British colonial army, Mr. Amin seized power Jan. 25, 1971, overthrowing President Milton Obote.

What followed was a reign of terror laced with a flirtation with Palestinian terrorism that led to the daring 1976 Israeli raid to rescue hijacked hostages in his country.

Ugandans initially welcomed Mr. Amin's rise to power, and his frequent taunting of Britain, former colonial ruler of much of Africa, often played well.

But his penchant for the cruel and extravagant became evident in 1972, when he expelled tens of thousands of Asians who had controlled the country's economy. Deprived of its business class, the East African nation plummeted into economic chaos.

Mr. Amin declared himself president-for-life of his landlocked country of 24 million, awarded himself an array of medals and ran the country with an iron fist, killing real and imagined enemies.

Human rights groups say from 100,000 to 500,000 people were killed during his eight-year rule.

Mr. Amin was born into the small Kakwa tribe in Koboko, a village in northwestern Uganda. His mother was a self-proclaimed sorceress of the Lugbara tribe, and he was in his 30s before he had regular contact with his peasant father.

Mr. Amin was a well-regarded officer at the time of Uganda's independence from Britain in 1962, and Obote made him military chief of staff in 1966.

The 250-pound president called himself Dada, or ''Big Daddy,'' and in 1975 was even chosen for the one-year rotating chairmanship of the Organization of African Unity despite objections from some member states.

In 1976, a Palestinian group hijacked an Air France airliner to Entebbe Airport in Uganda and kept its Israeli passengers as hostages. Israeli commandos flew to Entebbe under cover of darkness and rescued the captives. Mr. Amin claimed he had been trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution, but there was plenty of evidence he was in league with the hijackers.

Mr. Amin's overreaching designs led to his downfall after his troops failed in their attempt to annex parts of Tanzania in October 1978. Tanzanian troops counter-invaded, routed Uganda's army and reached the Ugandan capital, Kampala, in April 1979.

Mr. Amin fled to Libya, then Iraq and finally Saudi Arabia, where he was allowed to settle provided he stayed out of politics.


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