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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Saddam Hussein executed

US-backed Iraqi television station Al Hurra said Saddam Hussein had been executed by hanging shortly before 6 a.m.(0830 hrs IST) on Dec 30th 2006.

The former Iraqi president ousted in April 2003 by a US-led invasion was convicted last month of crimes against humanity over the killings of 148 Shi'ite villagers from Dujail after a failed assassination bid in 1982.

An appeals court upheld the death penalty on Tuesday. Iraq's government has kept details of its plans to conduct the execution completely secret amid concerns it could spark a violent backlash from his former supporters.

Arabic satellite channel Arabiya said Saddam Hussein's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and former judge Awad al-Bander were also executed by hanging today. Four car bombs targeting Shi'ites in Baghdad and a town south of the capital killed more than 70 people, hours after Saddam Hussein was hanged amid fears of revenge by his Sunni Arab supporters.

In Baghdad, three car bombs exploded in quick succession in the mainly Shi'ite neighbourhood of Hurriya, killing 36 people and wounding 77, an Interior Ministry source said. Police in Kufa, near the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, said 36 people were killed and 58 wounded by the car bomb at a market packed with shoppers ahead of the week-long Eid al-Adha holiday.

They said a mob killed a man they accused of planting the bomb in the town about 160 km south of Baghdad. The attacks came the same day as Saddam was hanged for crimes against humanity, prompting fears of a violent backlash by his supporters among his fellow Sunni Arabs.
While the attacks may have been a swift response to the execution, such bombings are common in a country where at least 100 people die on average every day in bombings, mortar attacks and death squad killings. Though today's bombings may have been planned independently of the execution.

They were typical of the cycle of sectarian violence that is driving both Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs and others from their homes, increasingly dividing Baghdad and surrounding areas on sectarian grounds. Bombs frequently provoke reprisals from militias, whose practice is to kidnap, torture and shoot their victims, leaving the bodies dumped in places where they will intimidate.

A formerly mixed neighbourhood, Hurriya, where the three car bombs struck on Saturday, has become increasingly dominated by Shi'ites as Sunni Arabs have been driven out by threats and attacks.

Saddam's execution was welcome by Shi'ites and Kurds, who were oppressed under his rule, but many in the once dominant Sunni Arab minority were angry and all sides feared it could spark even more violence.

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