Ten years since Saddam’s execution

AFP . Baghdad | Update:

How US forces found toppled Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 2003. AFP

Ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was hanged inside one of his own regime’s former torture centres a decade ago on December 30, 2006.

Following is an account of the demise of the man who had ruled Iraq ruthlessly for more than two decades:

No sign of fear

On December 30, 2006, Saddam was hanged at the military intelligence headquarters in the Kadhimiyah district of northern Baghdad.

Officials who witnessed the pre-dawn execution say Saddam, 69, remained defiant to the end, railing against his Iranian and American enemies and praising insurgents who had pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.

“I didn’t see any signs of fear,” then national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, who oversaw the execution, told AFP in 2013.

“I didn’t hear any regret from him, I didn’t hear any request for mercy from God... or request for pardon,” he said.

Rubaie said he pulled the lever to hang Saddam, but it did not work. An unidentified person then pulled it a second time, killing him.

Just before he was executed, Saddam started reciting the Islamic testament of faith, but was unable to finish it.

A two-and-a-half minute video shot on a mobile phone showed him falling though the trapdoor to his death amid shouts from those present.

A close-up showed his head lolling to one side in the noose, his neck snapped.

Crimes against humanity

The former strongman was executed after being found guilty of crimes against humanity for the 1982 killing of 148 Shiites in the town of Dujail. The massacre followed an assassination attempt against him there.

His rule was marked by brutal repression, disastrous wars and punishing international sanctions.

Saddam disputed the legitimacy of a special Iraqi tribunal set up with US support to try him, and described his October 2005 to July 2006 trial as “a comedy”.

Some Shiite Muslims, who suffered under his regime, danced in the streets after the hanging.

But the execution, in which the United States said it played no part, was slammed by Sunni Iraqis and governments around the world—although not by Saddam’s arch-enemies Israel and Iran.

The day after his execution, Saddam was buried in the village of Awja, his birthplace near Tikrit, 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad.

The betrayal

It was also near Tikrit that on the moonless night of December 13, 2003, the former dictator was captured by US forces. Washington had offered a $25-million reward for his capture.

After being overthrown by the US-led invasion, Saddam was on the run for eight months with the help of bodyguards from his family, according to local tribal leaders.

But one betrayed him, leading American troops to Saddam’s hiding place after himself being detained.

Far from the luxury of his presidential palaces, Saddam was found hiding on a farm down what American troops called a “rat-hole”, an underground hideout with enough space for a person to lie down in, equipped with an air vent and an exhaust fan.

As he peered out from his den, he announced in English: “I am the president of Iraq and I want to negotiate,” US army officers said.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we got him,” a smiling American diplomat Paul Bremer said the following afternoon as he announced Saddam’s capture.

In video and pictures broadcast around the world, the fallen dictator was shown with wild hair and a thick beard, staring absently into the camera.

He was seen sitting still as a doctor wearing white surgical gloves poked a wooden spatula into his open mouth during a checkup.

The military also displayed two mugshots of Saddam, one with a beard and one after he had been shaven.

But his captors left the famous moustache intact.

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