Shiites in Baghdad celebrate Saddam Hussein execution
Saddam Hussein had been executed by hanging shortly before 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Saturday.
Earlier it was reported that the official witnesses to the ex-president's execution gathered in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone in final preparation for his hanging.
A U.S. judge on Friday refused to stop Saddam's execution, rejecting a last-minute court challenge. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said U.S. courts do not have jurisdiction to interfere in another country's judicial process. The ruling can be appealed, but it was issued within an hour of the time Iraqi officials said they expected the execution to be carried out.
The time of the execution was agreed upon during a meeting Friday between U.S. and Iraqi officials, said one Iraqi official.
Munir Haddad, a judge on the appeals court that upheld Saddam's death sentence, said that he was ready to attend the hanging and that all the paperwork was in order. "All the measures have been done," Haddad said. "There is no reason for delays."
Saddam's lawyers issued a statement Friday calling on "everybody to do everything to stop this unfair execution." The governments of Yemen and Libya made 90th minute appeals that Saddam's life be spared.
Yemeni Prime Minister Abdul-Kader Bajammal wrote to the U.S. and Iraqi presidents, warning in his letter to George W. Bush that Saddam's execution would "increase the sectarian violence" in Iraq, according to the official Yemeni news agency Saba. On his part, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi made an indirect appeal to save Saddam, telling Al-Jazeera television that his trial was illegal and that he should be retried by an international court.
State-run Iraqiya television initially reported that Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, also were hanged. However, officials later said only Saddam was executed.
"We wanted him to be executed on a special day," National Security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie told state-run Iraqiyah.
Sami al-Askari, the political adviser of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told The Associated Press that Saddam was clad completely in black, with a jacket, trousers, hat and shoes, rather than prison garb. Shortly before the execution, Saddam's hat was removed and Saddam was asked if he wanted to say something, al-Askari said.
"No I don't want to," al-Askari, who was present at the execution, quoted Saddam as saying. Saddam repeated a prayer after a Sunni Muslim cleric who was present.
"Saddam later was taken to the gallows and refused to have his head covered with a hood," al-Askari said. "Before the rope was put around his neck, Saddam shouted: 'God is great. The nation will be victorious and Palestine is Arab.'"
Saddam was executed at a former military intelligence headquarters in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah, al-Askari said.
"He did not ask for anything. He was carrying a Quran and said: 'I want this Quran to be given to this person,' a man he called Bander," he said. Al-Rubaie said he did not know who Bander was.
"Saddam was treated with respect when he was alive and after his death," al-Rubaie said. "Saddam's execution was 100 percent Iraqi and the American side did not interfere."
Following the news, in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, people danced in the streets while others fired guns in the air to celebrate the former leader's death.
In the USA, President Bush said that Saddam'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."