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Former Iraqi Leader Saddam Hussein Executed in Baghdad

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. 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.

At shortly after 6 a.m., 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 is shown signing the execution order. The video then cuts to the scene of the execution, where six masked men are escorting a calm Saddam Hussein to the gallows.

He is wearing a black coat and white shirt. They wrap a black cloth around his neck, but do not put a hood over his head. His hands are tied behind his back. Two executioners put the large rope noose around his neck. The footage ends there.

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

Rubaie told Iraqiyah state television that only Saddam was executed, because they wanted to make it a special day for him. He 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 20 years Saddam crushed his people and destroyed Iraq.

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 and boys 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.

In Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, police blocked the entrances to the town and said nobody was allowed to leave or enter the city for four days. Elsewhere, Iraqi and U.S. forces remained on heightened alert over concerns of possible retaliatory attacks from Saddam loyalists and Sunni Arab extremists.