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Iraq's then-President Saddam Hussein fires a rifle in Baghdad on Nov. 20, 2000. Saddam fired two rifle shots to kick off festivities celebrating Iraq's commitment to liberating the holy city from Israeli rule. When U.S. leaders decided it was time to depose Saddam Hussein, he made the perfect foil. He was cocky and cunning. He looked dangerous and deranged standing at rallies firing a rifle into the air - conduct unbecoming a head of government.
AP file photo by Jassim Mohammed
Iraq's then-President Saddam Hussein fires a rifle in Baghdad on Nov. 20, 2000. Saddam fired two rifle shots to kick off festivities celebrating Iraq's commitment to liberating the holy city from Israeli rule. When U.S. leaders decided it was time to depose Saddam Hussein, he made the perfect foil. He was cocky and cunning. He looked dangerous and deranged standing at rallies firing a rifle into the air - conduct unbecoming a head of government.

IRAQIS HANG SADDAM
Ex-dictator dies on the gallows, Iraqi state-run TV reports

By Christopher Torchia
and Qassim Abdul-Zahra

Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Saddam Hussein, the shotgun-waving dictator who ruled Iraq with a remorseless brutality for a quarter-century and was driven from power by a U.S.-led war that left his country in shambles, was taken to the gallows clutching a Quran and executed Saturday, Iraqi state-run television reported.

It was a grim end for the 69-year-old leader who had vexed three U.S. presidents. Despite his ouster, Washington, its allies and the new Iraqi leaders remain mired in a fight to quell a stubborn insurgency by Saddam loyalists and a vicious sectarian conflict.

Also hanged were Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court. State-run Iraqiya television news announcer said "criminal Saddam was hanged to death and the execution started with criminal Saddam then Barzan then Awad al-Bandar."

Mariam al-Rayes, a legal expert and a former member of the Shiite 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."

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

The station earlier was airing national songs after the first announcement and had a tag on the screen that read "Saddam's execution marks the end of a dark period of Iraq's history."

The execution came 56 days after a court convicted Saddam and sentenced him to death for his role in the killings of 148 Shiite Muslims from a town where assassins tried to kill the dictator in 1982. Iraq's highest court rejected Saddam's appeal Monday and ordered him executed within 30 days.

A U.S. judge on Friday refused to stop Saddam's execution, rejecting a last-minute court challenge.

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," al-Maliki's office quoted him as saying during a meeting with relatives before the hanging.

The hanging of Saddam, who was ruthless in ordering executions of his opponents, will keep other Iraqis from pursuing justice against the ousted leader.

At his death, he 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.

Eager to see execution

U.S. Marine Alli Aeidan, 47, of Troy, Mich. celebrates in Dearborn, Mich., before the official announcement of Saddam Hussein's execution on Friday. Dozens of Iraqi-Americans gathered late Friday at a Detroit-area mosque to celebrate reports that Saddam Hussein had been executed, cheering and crying as drivers honked horns in jubilation.
AP photo by Gary Malerba
U.S. Marine Alli Aeidan, 47, of Troy, Mich. celebrates in Dearborn, Mich., before the official announcement of Saddam Hussein's execution on Friday. Dozens of Iraqi-Americans gathered late Friday at a Detroit-area mosque to celebrate reports that Saddam Hussein had been executed, cheering and crying as drivers honked horns in jubilation.
Many people in Iraq's Shiite majority were eager to see the execution of a man whose Sunni Arab-dominated regime oppressed them and Kurds.

Before the hanging, a mosque preacher in the Shiite 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 condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

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 U.S. "Here, I offer my soul to God as a sacrifice, and if he wants, he will send it to heaven with the martyrs," he said.

One of Saddam's lawyers, 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 him being humiliated publicly or his corpse being mutilated, as has happened to previous Iraqi leaders deposed by force. He said they didn't want anything to happen to further inflame Sunni Arabs.

'End of an era'

"This is the end of an era in Iraq," al-Nauimi said from Doha, Qatar. "The Baath 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."

Iraq's death penalty was suspended by the U.S. military after it toppled Saddam in 2003, but the new Iraqi government reinstated it two years later, saying executions would deter criminals.

Saddam's own regime used executions and extrajudicial killings as a tool of political repression, both to eliminate real or suspected political opponents and to maintain a reign of terror.

In the months after he seized power on July 16, 1979, he had hundreds of members of his own party and army officers slain.

In 1996, he ordered the slaying of two sons-in-law who had defected to Jordan but returned to Baghdad after receiving guarantees of safety.

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — President Bush said Friday that Saddam Hussein’s execution marks the “end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops” and cautioned that his death will not halt the violence in Iraq.

Yet, Bush said in a statement issued from his ranch in Texas, “it is an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror.”

In a message of assurance to the people of Iraq, Bush said the execution was a reminder of how far the Iraqi people have come since the end of Saddam’s rule.

“The progress they have made would not have been possible without the continued service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform,” he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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