Saddam goes to the gallows, world on edge

Baghdad, Dec 30 | Updated: Dec 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
Former president Saddam Hussein, accused of killing more than 100,000 civilians during his 23-year rule over oil-rich Iraq, was hanged to death about 6 am local time on Saturday after being transferred to Iraqi authorities from US military custody. Hussein, 69, ousted in April 2003 by a US-led invasion, was convicted in November of crimes against humanity over the killings of 148 Shia villagers from Dujail after a failed assassination bid in 1982.

The execution took place in a prison where Husseins al-Mukhabart secret police tortured opponents. The former dictator had a swift death, Iraqi officials who witnessed the execution said in interviews on Al Arabiya TV.

He declined to make final comments and refused a hood, the officials said. However, shortly after the execution, analysts said Husseins execution will fuel further violence in Iraq and elsewhere as the former presidents supporters use his death as a rallying point.

Reacting to the execution in an e-mail statement, US president George W. Bush said Husseins execution is an important milestone on Iraqs course to becoming a democracy. Added Judith Yaphe, a Middle East specialist at the National Defense University in Washington: Very few Iraqis are going to waste their time mourning for Saddam. There are too many of them who would have rather been the executioner.

Meanwhile, in a guarded response to the execution, India has expressed its disappointment over the unfortunate event with political parties and Muslim leaders strongly denouncing the illegal hanging of a friend of the country. The government, which had earlier opposed Hussains execution, hoped it will not affect the process of reconciliation and restoration of peace in the trouble-torn country. We had already expressed the hope that the execution would not be carried out. We are disappointed that it has been (carried out), external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement. We hope that the unfortunate event will not affect the process of reconciliation, restoration of peace and normalcy in Iraq, he said.