Former dictator Saddam Hussein.
Photo : A
video taken from Al-Iraqiya television shows
ousted Iraq president Saddam Hussein moments before
being hanged in Baghdad. •
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A video taken from Iraqi private network Biladi TV
shows the dead body of former Iraqi leader Saddam
30,— Saddam Hussein was hanged for crimes against
humanity at dawn on Saturday, a dramatic, violent
end for a leader who ruled Iraq by fear for three
decades before a U.S. invasion toppled him.
"It was very quick. He died right away," one of the
official Iraqi witnesses told Reuters, saying the
president's face was uncovered, he appeared calm and
said a brief prayer as Iraqi policemen walked him to
the gallows and put the noose round him.
President Bush, who branded Saddam a tyrant and a
threat to global security even though alleged
nuclear and other weapons were not found after the
2003 invasion, hailed the execution as a "milestone"
on Iraq's path to democracy.
The deaths of four troops pushed the American death
toll to three short of the emotive 3,000 mark. Bush
already faces mounting public dismay at the war as
Iraq slides toward all-out civil war between
Saddam's fellow Sunnis and majority Shi'ites.
As day broke on one of the holiest dates of the
Muslim year and the call to prayer echoed out from
minarets across a dark and bitterly cold Baghdad,
officially backed television channels flashed the
news shortly after 6 a.m. (0300 GMT).
"He seemed very calm. He did not tremble," a senior
official present at the execution told Reuters.
Saddam, 69, was bound and shackled but his face was
uncovered as he met his death.
The former president recited the Muslim profession
of faith "There is no God but God and Mohammed is
his prophet" but made no other remark after
policemen escorted him to the scaffold.
The official would not say where the execution took
place but said it was not in the fortified Green
Zone compound. Another said it was at a facility
known to Americans as "Camp Justice" -- a former
base for Saddam's feared security services and now
used regularly for executions by Iraqi's courts.
National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told
state television Saddam seemed to him "a broken man"
on the gallows.
He and other officials denied a statement read out
earlier on state television that said Saddam's
half-brother and a former judge were also hanged.
The senior official said Barzan al- Tikriti and Awad
al-Bander, convicted with Saddam last month, would
be executed after the week long Eid al-Adha holiday.
BUSH HAILS "MILESTONE"
"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," Bush said in a
Saddam's appeal was rejected four days ago and the
rapid execution will delight Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's
Shi'ites, who were oppressed under Saddam, but may
anger Saddam's resentful Sunni minority,www.ekurd.net
as well as
some Kurds who were hoping to see him convicted of
genocide against them.
"The timing of the execution and the sudden way it
has been done may irritate people," Saleem al-Jibouri,
spokesman for the main Sunni party in the national
unity government, said.
The start of the week-long Eid al-Adha holiday at
noon, coinciding with the haj pilgrimage to Mecca,
had seemed it might cause a delay in the execution
before a late-night meeting between Maliki and U.S.
officials agreed the final procedures.
Saddam's daughter Raghd, in Jordan, "is asking that
his body be buried in Yemen temporarily until Iraq
is liberated and it can be reburied in Iraq," a
source close to the family said.
One senior Iraqi official said the family could
claim the body. It might also be sent to Saddam's
home town of Tikrit, where the governor had declared
a four-day curfew.
Seeking an 11th hour reprieve, defense lawyers asked
a U.S. federal court to order a halt to the
execution because Saddam is a defendant in a civil
case in Washington. But a U.S. judge denied the
move, saying Saddam was not being held in U.S.
custody and as a result her court lacked
U.S. troops are on alert for trouble from insurgents
among Saddam's Sunni minority. While there were some
protests at November's verdict by a U.S.-sponsored
court, few Sunnis have deep feelings about the fate
of the fallen strongman.
An execution at the start of Eid is highly symbolic.
The feast marks the sacrifice the prophet Abraham
was prepared to make when God ordered him to kill
his son and many Shi'ites could regard Saddam's
death as a gift from God. Such symbolism could
further anger Sunnis, resentful of new Shi'ite
Saddam was found guilty over the killing, torture
and other crimes against the Shi'ite population of
the town of Dujail after Shi'ite militants tried to
assassinate him there in 1982.
Saddam, who said in court he had no fear of dying,
had a farewell meeting with two of his half-brothers
on Thursday, his lawyers said, adding the fallen
dictator was in high spirits.
International human rights groups criticized the
year-long trial, during which three defense lawyers
were killed and a chief judge resigned complaining
of political interference.
The United Nations and many of Washington's Western
allies called on Bush and Maliki not to go ahead
with the execution.
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