Saddam Hussein executed in Baghdad

by Dave Clark
Sat Dec 30, 6:30 PM ET

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Ousted Iraqi despot
Saddam Hussein was hanged inside one of his former torture centres in the final act of a brutal 30-year tragedy that left the stage strewn with tens of thousands of corpses.

Officials who witnessed the execution said the 69-year-old former strongman remained defiant to the last, railing against his Iranian and American enemies and praising the rebels who have pushed
Iraq to the brink of civil war.

A grainy video showing his corpse draped in a white shroud was shown on private television after the state network broadcast a clip of masked hangmen placing a noose around his neck, cutting away just before his execution.

In the hours after his death, car bombs exploded across Iraq, killing over 70 people, as post-Saddam Iraq continued its headlong plunge into the abyss of civil strife.

Iraqi Shiites, persecuted during Saddam's 24-year rule, feted his demise, dancing and cracking off bursts of automatic fire, while Sunni extremists slammed the US-backed government for hanging their hero.

In the video footage, the ousted despot appeared calm, exchanging words with his burly, leather-jacketed executioners as they wrapped his neck first in black cloth then a thick hemp rope and steered him onto a metal platform.

Saddam was manoeuvred forward firmly but not aggressively by the guards wearing black balaclava-style hoods, the grey-bearded prisoner looking thin inside a dark overcoat over a pressed white shirt but no tie.

"He said he was not afraid of anyone," said Judge Moneer Haddad, a member of the panel of appeal court judges who had confirmed Saddam's conviction for crimes against humanity and who attended the pre-dawn execution.

"It was a terrifying scene. Saddam was in self-control. I was not expecting him to be like that," Haddad told AFP.

"One of the attendants asked him 'are you afraid?' He said 'I have never been afraid as long as I lived. I lived as a mujahedeen and expected death any moment,'" he described.

"We heard the cracks of his neck. It was a horrendous scene," he added. After the execution an ambulance took the body to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government and US embassy, Haddad said.

With that Saddam -- the swaggering sadist who slaughtered Iraq's Kurdish minority, invaded
Iran and Kuwait and fought two disastrous wars with the United States -- stepped off Iraq's political stage for good.

National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said in a series of broadcast interviews that the late strongman's final minutes were lived in the same spirit as his grandstanding appearances in an Iraqi court.

"One thing I can't explain, I have never seen any repentance, never seen any remorse there," Rubaie told CNN.

Rubaie said officials and executioners had danced around the body afterwards. "This is a natural reaction. These people have lost loved ones."

Sami al-Askari, a Shiite lawmaker close to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who also saw the hanging, said it had taken place in an old Saddam-era military intelligence headquarters in the Kadhimiyah district of northern Baghdad.

He said the location had symbolic value, because it had been a centre of torture and execution under Saddam.

Saddam's and two co-accused -- his half brother and intelligence chief Barzan Hassan al-Tikriti and revolutionary court judge Awad Ahmed al-Bandar -- were sentenced to death by an Iraqi court on November 5.

Officials said that the execution of Saddam's aides had been postponed until after the Eid al-Adha religious holiday, which ends on Thursday.

Over several months, the Iraqi High Tribunal heard how they oversaw a campaign of collective punishment against the Shiite village of Dujail, north of Baghdad, where Saddam escaped an assassination bid in 1982.

Dujail's orchards were torn up and 148 men and boys were executed after being dragged through Bandar's kangaroo court.

More than 20 years later, Saddam was overthrown by a US-led invasion and later put on trial by a new Shiite-led government. The trio's death sentences were confirmed by a panel of appeal court judges on December 26.

The hangings then became inevitable, with Maliki's government determined to avenge Saddam's brutal 24-year reign and to strike a blow against a violent Sunni insurgency that still honours his name.

"Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself," said US
President George W. Bush.

Maliki urged Iraqis not to see the execution as an attack on one community or another.

"The door is still open for everyone whose hands are not stained with the blood of innocents to take part in the building of Iraq. New Iraq shall not be ruled by one party or sect," he declared.

But Saddam's end was vigorously denounced by Sunni Iraqis, who mourned in their hundreds in the area around his home town of Tikrit and the insurgent bastion of Samarra.

Human Rights Watch complained that Maliki's administration had pressured the judge to return guilty verdicts, and was quick to attack the execution.

"The test of a government's commitment to human rights is measured by the way it treats its worst offenders. History will judge the deeply flawed Dujail trial and this execution harshly," said the watchdog's Richard Dicker.


Saddam buried in native village: tribal chief

By Alastair Macdonald 27 minutes ago

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -
Saddam Hussein was buried before dawn on Sunday in his native village of Awja, near Tikrit in northern
Iraq, the head of his tribe said.

Ali al-Nida, head of the Albu Nasir tribe, told journalists the burial in a family plot took place in the early morning, less than 24 hours after the former president was hanged for crimes against humanity.

His sons Uday and Qusay, killed by U.S. troops in 2003, are also buried in Awja, close to Tikrit, where tribal elders received the body on Saturday from Baghdad.

Al Jazeera television also quoted a family source saying Saddam was buried in Awja, despite a statement from the family late on Saturday saying the body might be taken from Tikrit to the western city of Ramadi for burial.

Iraqi officials in Ramadi said they were unaware of any plan to bury Saddam there.

Saddam, 69, was hanged at dawn on Saturday in a base in Baghdad once used by his own feared intelligence services.

He was shown on state television going calmly to his death on the scaffold. Grainy video later showed his body in a white shroud, the neck twisted and blood on a cheek.

Three decades after Saddam established his personal rule by force, it closed a chapter in Iraq's history marked by war with
Iran and a 1990 invasion of Kuwait that turned him from ally to enemy of the United States and impoverished his oil-rich nation.

However, as
President Bush said in a statement, sectarian violence pushing Iraq toward civil war had not ended.

Car bombs set off by suspected insurgents from Saddam's once-dominant Sunni minority killed more than 70 people in Baghdad and near the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, in areas populated by Shi'ite Muslims oppressed for decades and now in the ascendant.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, his fragile authority among fellow Shi'ites significantly enhanced after he forced through Saddam's execution over hesitation from Sunni and Kurdish members of his government, has reached out to Sunni rebels.



執行時間が近づくと、カウントダウンが始まる。「テン、ナイン、エイト、セブン…」。その合間に「Go ahead!」とか「Do it!」のような歓声が混じる。執行の時間に沸き上がる「やった〜」という響きの奇声。拍手。