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Iraqi Kurds Mark 20th Anniversary of Halabja Poison Gas Attack

Iraqi Kurds are marking the 20th anniversary of a chemical weapons attack by Saddam Hussein's forces that killed five-thousand Kurdish villagers.

Saddam's government ordered the poison gas attack on Halabja on March 16th, 1988, as part of a campaign against Iraqi Kurds known as Anfal.

Villagers gathered in Halabja Sunday to mourn the dead and demand compensation for survivors still suffering from the effects of the poison gas. Community leaders also called for the execution of those responsible.

An Iraqi court has sentenced Ali Hassan al-Majid to death for overseeing the killings of 180-thousand Kurds in the 1980s. The use of poison gas in the attacks earned Majid the nickname "Chemical Ali".

Iraq's presidential council approved Majid's execution last month, but his hanging has been delayed by legal disputes.

Iraqi Kurdistan deputy prime minister Omar Fatah accused the international community of staying silent after the Halabja attack to maintain good relations with Saddam. He was speaking today in Halabja at a memorial ceremony.

Fatah also says authorities plan to build a $12-million hospital in the area to treat survivors of the gas attacks and research the biological impact of chemical weapons.