Saddam Hussein Is Put to Death

Former Iraqi President Hanged Before Dawn in Baghdad to Divided Reaction

Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, December 30, 2006; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Dec. 30 -- Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was hanged in the predawn hours of Saturday for crimes against humanity in the mass murder of Shiite men and boys in the 1980s, sent to the gallows by a government backed by the United States and led by Shiite Muslims who had been oppressed during his rule, Iraqi and American officials said.

In the early morning, Hussein, 69, was escorted from his U.S. military prison cell at Camp Cropper, near the Baghdad airport, and handed over to Iraqi officials. He was executed on the day Sunni Muslims, of which he was one, were to begin celebrating the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, described on state television Hussein's last moments. The execution took place in the headquarters of Hussein's former military intelligence service in Baghdad's Kadhimiyah neighborhood.

"He was frightened. It was clear in his face, but he turned his face at me and said, 'Don't be afraid,' " Rubaie said. "It was just like he was talking about himself."

He added that Hussein did not resist. "It was unbelievable. He just surrendered himself."

Only a small group of Iraqi officials were present in the execution room, Rubaie said. American officials waited outside.

Sami al-Askari, a member of parliament, said Hussein refused to wear a black hood for his hanging. "He died instantly," Askari said on al-Arabiya television.

In Crawford, Tex., President Bush said in a statement that Hussein received "the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime." He added, "Fair trials were unimaginable under Saddam Hussein's tyrannical rule. It is a testament to the Iraqi people's resolve to move forward after decades of oppression that, despite his terrible crimes against his own people, Saddam Hussein received a fair trial. This would not have been possible without the Iraqi people's determination to create a society governed by the rule of law."

After the execution, which was announced on state television at 6:10 a.m., celebratory gunfire broke out in Baghdad. Iraqis across the nation sent text messages to their relatives and friends as soon as they heard of Hussein's execution. Ali al-Hayeri, one of the witnesses who testified openly in the Dujail trial, said he received his first text message at 3:15 a.m. It read: "We congratulate you for the execution of the tyrant Saddam."

"This is what should happen," said Suad Shakir, 52, a resident of the Karrada district in Baghdad, and a Christian. "People will be relieved. I hope that it will bring good to Iraq." She said she wanted Hussein to be executed. "He hurt Iraqis," she said. "We haven't seen anything good from him."

In the southern city of Najaf, hundreds of Shiites stepped outside and began firing guns in the air in joyous celebration. "Saddam executed seven of my relatives," said Muhammad Hussein Kamil, 45, a laborer. "It is the end for any dictator, and he will be an example to every dictator in the world."

In Hussein's home town of Tikrit, the streets were calm. But some women were beating themselves in a gesture of mourning.

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