Saddam Hussein put to death

Mike Sheehan
Published: Friday December 29, 2006
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Refusing to have his face covered and uttering curses upon his perceived foes, condemned Iraqi ex-dictator Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging early Saturday morning in a Baghdad square outside the Green Zone.

The Associated Press reports that Hussein's half-brother, Ibrahim Barzan al-Tikriti, and the former Revolutionary Court chief justice, Awad Hamed al-Bandar, were also to be hanged, though the exact times for each was unclear.

The deposed strongman's execution, just before 6 AM Baghdad time, came as the Muslim feast of Eid ul-Adha began.

CNN reported "celebratory gunfire" in the Iraqi capital and showed footage of Iraqis in Dearborn, Michigan cheering the demise of the 69-year-old Hussein, who was put to death for the 1982 massacre of 182 Iraqi Shi'ites. There was also a report that Iraqis at Hussein's execution site "were dancing around his body."

Small protests were held by supporters of the former Iraq leader in his hometown of Tikrit, according to Deutsche Presse Agentur.

The White House released a written statement by President Bush in which he said that the death of Hussein "comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops." He acknowledged that "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..."

Reuters reported that the President, vacationing in Crawford, Texas, was asleep at the time of Hussein's execution and was not awakened. He had been informed by his staff earlier in the evening that "the execution would take place in a few hours."

Buildup to dictator's demise

Earlier, the Associated Press reported that U.S. authorities were "maintaining physical custody of Saddam to prevent him from being humiliated before his execution," and will "try to prevent the mutilation of his corpse."

Iraq's national security adviser told CNN's Anderson Cooper that Hussein's body would be prepared according to traditional Muslim rituals, and, despite an expressed desire by his daughter to have him laid to rest in Yemen, could "absolutely" be buried in Iraq if his family requests it, saying "we can agree on the whereabouts."

McClatchy Newspapers said that Hussein was in a "state of shock" and had "come apart" after realizing "he couldn't escape this," according to an Iraqi parliament member present at Friday meetings concerning Hussein's execution. Later, United Press International quoted an Iraqi official who witnessed the execution as saying the deposed dictator was "quiet and obedient" as the noose was placed around his neck. "We were astonished," the official said. "It was strange. He just gave up."

Rumors had flown into the night about the timing of Hussein's hanging, with news agencies reporting conflicting details.

Late Friday evening, the Associated Press reported that the Iraqi government had prepared all necessary documents for the hanging to commence, "including a 'red card' - an execution order introduced during Saddam's dictatorship."

Iraqis gathered in throngs during the early morning leadup to the execution, reports said. Reuters reported that some in the Kurd region of Iraq awaited Hussein's death with "grim satisfaction."

Some U.S. embassies around the world warned American travelers of potential "problems" they might encounter due to Hussein's hanging. The Pentagon stated that U.S. troops were prepared to deal with any increase in violence that could follow the execution.