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Saddam Hussein Executed

  • Margaret Besheer

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was executed Saturday morning for crimes against his people. Iraqi officials present at the hanging say Saddam went to his death a broken man, but showed no remorse for his actions. Hours later, bomb attacks in Baghdad and the Shi'ite city of Kufa killed at least 68 people. From Iraq, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Holding the Muslim holy book, the Koran, and refusing a black hood, Saddam Hussein faced the same fate many common criminals suffered during his more than 20 years as Iraq's president.

Shortly after 6 a.m. local time, the former strongman was hanged. The execution took place at a former military intelligence headquarters in Baghdad's Shi'ite neighborhood of Kazimiyah, outside the heavily fortified Green Zone.

In video footage released on state-run al-Iraqiyah television, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who did not attend the hanging, is shown signing the execution order. The video then cuts to the scene of the execution, where five masked men are escorting a calm Saddam Hussein to the gallows.

A black cloth is wrapped around his neck, but he is not hooded. His hands are tied behind his back and his legs are bound together. Two executioners put the large rope noose around his neck. The footage ends there.

Iraqi National Security Advisor Moaffaq al-Rubaie, who witnessed the execution, said it was handled completely by the Iraqis, and no American witnesses were present.

Rubaie told Iraqiyah state television that only Saddam was executed, because Iraqi officials wanted to make it a day only about him. Rubaie said they chose the execution time, just before sunrise, so it would occur before the official start of the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Initial reports said two of Saddam's lieutenants had been hanged just after him, but Rubaie said this was not the case, and that Barzan al-Tikriti and Bawad al-Bandar would be executed after the Eid holiday.

In Shi'ite neighborhoods of Baghdad, there was much jubilation, and celebratory gunfire could be heard across the capital.

Reflecting the sentiments of many Iraqis, this man says he cannot describe his happiness, because for more than 20 years Saddam crushed his people and destroyed Iraq.

Even some Sunni Arabs expressed relief at the execution of the former dictator, a Sunni.

Omar Abdel Satter, a Sunni Arab member of parliament, says the punishment is just, because Saddam himself inflicted it on so many people. He says it is the right of Iraqis to be happy today, but also to cry for their country, because Saddam is the reason it is passing through such a difficult time.

Additional video of a dead Saddam surfaced on Iraqi television stations affiliated with the Shi'ite Dawa party. The pictures were of poor quality and showed the former president's body wrapped in a white shroud. His head, which was not covered, was twisted at a sharp angle.

An Iraqi special tribunal condemned the former president to death on November 5 for his role in ordering the executions of 148 Shi'ite men from the town of Dujail after a failed assassination attempt against him there in 1982.

At his death, Saddam was standing trial for the murders of some 180,000 Kurds during the al-Anfal campaign of the late 1980s. The trial will likely continue for his six co-defendants.

Hours after the execution, three bombs exploded in close coordination in Baghdad, killing more than a dozen people. To the south, in Kufa, more than 30 people were killed when a car bomb exploded in a busy fish market.

In Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, police blocked the entrances to the town, and said nobody was allowed to leave or enter for four days. Elsewhere, Iraqi and U.S. forces remained on heightened alert.

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