Anger as hanging decapitates Saddam's half-brother

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The Independent Online

Saddam Hussein's half brother and the former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court were hanged before dawn today, two weeks and two days after the former Iraqi dictator was executed in a chaotic scene that has drawn worldwide criticism.

In confirming the executions, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the head of one of the accused, Barzan Ibrahim, had been severed during the hanging in what he called "a rare incident."

But he stressed that all laws and rules were respected during the proceedings, choosing his words carefully after Saddam's execution became an unruly scene that brought worldwide criticism of the Iraqi government. Video of the execution, recorded on a cell phone camera, showed the former dictator being taunted on the gallows.

"Those present signed documents pledging not to violate the rules or otherwise face legal penalties. All the people present abided by the government's rule and there were no violations," he said, adding the hangings occurred at 3 a.m. "No one shouted slogans or said anything that would taint the execution. None of those charged were insulted."

Ibrahim, Saddam's half brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, had been found guilty along with Saddam of in the killing of 148 Shiite Muslims after a 1982 assassination attempt on the former leader in the town of Dujail north of Baghdad.

The announcement drew outrage from some in the Sunni community, while majority Shiites who were heavily persecuted under Saddam's regime expressed joy.

Khalaf al-Olayan, a leader of the main Sunni bloc in parliament, demanded to see any video taken during the execution. It was not known if the government took an official video, as it did during Saddam's execution.

"It is impossible for a person to be decapitated during a hanging," he told Al-Jazeera television. "This shows that they (the government) have mutilated the body and this is a violation of the law."

"We want to see the video that was taken during the execution of the two men in order for them (government) to prove what they are saying," he added.

Ibrahim's son-in-law, Azzam Saleh Abdullah, said "we heard the news from the media. We were supposed to be informed a day earlier but it seems that this government does not know the rules."

He said it reflected the hatred felt by the Shiite-led government. "They still want more Iraqi bloodshed. To hell with this democracy," he said.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information, said the families of Ibrahim and al-Bandar would collect the bodies later Monday.

"The two bodies are being held at a morgue at the present time," the official said, without specifying which morgue.

The head of Saddam and Ibrahim's clan, meanwhile, said he was going to Baghdad to claim the bodies.

Sheik Ali al-Nidda told The Associated Press that he was going to claim the bodies and al-Bandar had asked in his will to be buried beside Saddam. He also said a mourning session would be held in the Saddam mosque in the ousted leader's hometown of Tikrit.

He said there has been no reaction to the latest executions yet in Tikrit but noted the city has been without power since Sunday.

The executions reportedly occurred in the same Saddam-era military intelligence headquarters building in north Baghdad where the former leader was hanged two days before the end of 2006, according to an Iraqi general, who would not allow use of his name because he was not authorized to release the information. The building is located in the Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah.

"They (government) called us before dawn and told us to send someone. I sent a judge to witness the execution and it happened," prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon said.

Al-Dabbagh said those in attendance included a prosecutor, a judge and a physician.

"All laws were respected," he said, but added that "in a rare incident the head of the accused Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan was separated from his body during the execution."

An Egyptian forensics expert, Fakhri Mohammed Saleh, told Al-Jazeera that decapitations sometimes occur during hangings if the rope used is of the wrong quality or the people carrying out the executions are inexperienced.

"This is a grave mistake because what meant by execution to end the one's life not to torture him," he told the pan-Arab station from Bahrain. "So, if they want to carry out a death by hanging, they should bring a person who is an expert on this operation to check that the rope is appropriate and it does not consist of artificial fibers that do not lead to a cut in the neck."

The two men were to have been hanged along with Saddam on Dec. 30, but Iraqi authorities decided to execute Saddam alone on what National Security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie called a "special day."

Last week, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani urged the government to delay the executions.

"In my opinion we should wait," Talabani said Wednesday at a news conference with US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. "We should examine the situation," he said without elaborating.

On Tuesday, al-Maliki said that Khalilzad asked him to delay Saddam's execution for 10 days to two weeks, but added that Iraqi officials rejected the demand.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, along with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, had called on the Iraqi government to refrain from executing Ibrahim and al-Bandar.

The Iraqis and the Americans, meanwhile, prepared for a new joint security operation to secure Baghdad as it faces spiraling sectarian violence.

Bush said on Wednesday that additional 21,500 US troops will head to Iraq soon to try improve the security situation mainly in Baghdad and the western province of Anbar.

At least 78 people were reported killed or found dead yesterday, including 41 bullet-riddled bodies discovered in Baghdad. The US military also said two American soldiers died Sunday from roadside bombs in Baghdad.

On Monday, three policemen were killed and two hurt when a roadside bomb targeted their car in a southeastern section of Iraq's capital. A civilian also was killed in a drive-by shooting in Kut, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Baghdad, police said.

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