- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 30, 2006

BAGHDAD — Saddam Hussein, who ruled Iraq with remorseless brutality for a quarter-century, was hanged early today.

The man who came to a grim end at the end of a rope had vexed three U.S. presidents. The 69-year-old dictator left the United States and a coalition of nations in a fight to quell a stubborn insurgency waged by Saddam loyalists.

On state-run Iraqiya television, a news announcer said, “Criminal Saddam was hanged to death.”

The station earlier broadcast national songs after the first announcement and ran a tag on the screen that read “with Saddam’s execution marks the end of a dark period of Iraq’s history.”

A U.S. judge yesterday declined to intervene in the execution.

Mariam al-Rayes, a legal expert and a former member of the Shi’ite bloc in parliament, told Iraqiya television that the execution “was filmed and, God willing, it will be shown. There was one camera present, and a doctor was also present there.”

Miss Al-Rayes, an ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, did not attend the execution. She said Mr. Al-Maliki did not attend, but was represented by an aide.

Mr. Al-Maliki had rejected calls that Saddam be spared, telling families of people killed during the dictator’s rule that would be an insult to the victims.

“Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him, and there will be no review or delay in carrying out the sentence,” Mr. al-Maliki’s office quoted him as saying during a meeting with relatives before the hanging.

In Crawford, Texas, President Bush said in a statement that Saddam’s execution was “the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.”

In Dearborn, Mich., dozens of Iraqi Americans gathered late yesterday at a mosque to celebrate reports that Saddam had been executed, cheering and crying as drivers honked horns in jubilation.

Dave Alwatan wore an Iraqi flag around his shoulders and flashed a peace sign to everyone he passed at an Islamic educational center in the suburb of Detroit, a city that has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of people with roots in the Middle East.

“Peace,” he said, grinning and laughing. “Now there will be peace for my family.”

Mr. Alwatan, 32, said Saddam’s forces tortured and killed relatives that were left behind when he left Iraq in 1991.

At his death, Saddam was in the midst of a second trial, charged with genocide and other crimes for a 1987-88 military crackdown that killed an estimated 180,000 Kurds in northern Iraq. Experts said the trial of his co-defendants was likely to continue despite his execution.

Many in Iraq’s Shi’ite majority were eager to see the execution of a man whose Sunni Arab-dominated regime oppressed them and Kurds. Before the hanging, a preacher in the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf on Friday called Saddam’s execution “God’s gift to Iraqis.”

“Oh, God, you know what Saddam has done. He killed millions of Iraqis in prisons, in wars with neighboring countries, and he is responsible for mass graves. Oh, God, we ask you to take revenge on Saddam,” said Sheik Sadralddin al-Qubanji, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

On Thursday, two half brothers visited Saddam in his cell, a member of the former dictator’s defense team, Badee Izzat Aref, told the Associated Press by telephone from the United Arab Emirates. He said the former dictator handed them his personal belongings.

A senior official at the Iraqi Defense Ministry said Saddam gave his will to one of his half brothers. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

In a farewell message to Iraqis posted Wednesday on the Internet, Saddam said he was giving his life for his country as part of the struggle against the United States. “Here, I offer my soul to God as a sacrifice, and if he wants, he will send it to heaven with the martyrs.”

One of Saddam’s attorneys, Issam Ghazzawi, said the letter was written by Saddam on Nov. 5, the day he was convicted by an Iraqi tribunal in the Dujail killings.

The message called on Iraqis to put aside the sectarian hatred that has bloodied their nation for a year and voiced support for the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency against U.S.-led forces, saying: “Long live jihad and the mujahedeen.”

Saddam urged Iraqis to rely on God’s help in fighting “against the unjust nations” that ousted his regime.

Najeeb al-Nauimi, a member of Saddam’s legal team, said U.S. authorities maintained physical custody of Saddam until the execution to prevent his being humiliated publicly or his corpse mutilated, as has happened to previous Iraqi leaders deposed by force. Care would be taken to avoid inflaming Sunni public opinion.

“This is the end of an era in Iraq,” Mr. al-Nauimi said from Doha, Qatar. “The Ba’ath regime ruled for 35 years. Saddam was vice president or president of Iraq during those years. For Iraqis, he will be very well remembered. Like a martyr, he died for the sake of his country.”

While he wielded a heavy hand to maintain control, Saddam also sought to win public support with a personality cult that pervaded Iraqi society. Thousands of portraits, posters, statues and murals were erected in his honor all over Iraq. His face could be seen on the sides of office buildings, schools, airports and shops and on Iraq’s currency.

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