- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

BAGHDAD — Twin car bombs killed 13 persons yesterday in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood after a lull in violence, and Iraq prepared to execute two of Saddam Hussein’s co-defendants, despite an inquiry into an unruly scene in the former dictator’s execution chamber.

The explosions went off one after another at 10:30 a.m. in the Mansour neighborhood, setting fire to a gas station and incinerating at least a half-dozen cars. In addition to the dead, police said at least 25 persons were wounded.

Firefighters sprayed water on the wreckage as soldiers and civilians staggered around in a daze.

“What do they want from us? What do they want from us?” one Iraqi soldier asked, referring to those behind the blasts. Blood pooled among scattered containers for propane and kerosene, near where tea cups lay toppled on a blanket spread over wood crates.

Mansour is a primarily Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad. During Saddam’s regime, it was home to the most elite Iraqi families.

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said this week there had been a “downturn” in violence during the four-day Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, which began last weekend. Gen. Caldwell acknowledged that violence could surge again.

Police said 47 tortured bodies were found dumped across Baghdad yesterday, in addition to the 27 a day earlier. A U.S. soldier was killed by small-arms fire in western Baghdad, the military said.

Despite the row over Saddam’s hanging and a call for restraint from the United Nations, Iraqi officials said yesterday that they planned to execute two of the executed dictator’s co-defendants in the coming days.

“Nobody can stop the carrying out of court verdicts,” Sami al-Askari, an adviser to the prime minister, told the British Broadcasting Corp.’s Arabic service.

“The court’s statute does not allow even the president of the republic or the prime minister to commute sentences, let alone grant a pardon. Therefore, no pressure can stop the executions.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour appealed to Iraq not to execute Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam’s half-brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of the Revolutionary Court. Saddam and the two men were sentenced to death for the killing of more than 140 Shi’ites.

In Washington, attorneys for al-Bandar filed another request for the U.S. Supreme Court, this time to Justice John Paul Stevens, to block his transfer to Iraqi custody. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. turned down an identical request on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s interior minister said whoever recorded Saddam’s hanging on a cell-phone camera would be punished, and Mr. al-Askari said two Justice Ministry guards were being questioned.

“The investigation committee is interrogating the men. If it is found that any official was involved, he will face legal measures,” he said.

The grainy video shows Saddam being taunted in his final moments Saturday with shouts of “Go to hell” and “Muqtada, Muqtada” — a reference to radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon, one of 14 official witnesses to the hanging, told Iraqi state television that he did not think there was “any legal abuse, only moral violations.”

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