Guards taunted Saddam in final seconds

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Saddam Hussein went to his death in a scornful exchange with the masked hangmen who taunted him with sectarian jibes even as the noose was tightened around his neck.

Grainy and jerky video circulating on the internet, apparently filmed on a mobile phone, contrasted with the officially-sanctioned pictures broadcast by Iraqi television on Saturday which bestowed a silent dignity on the Iraqi dictator's last moments.

But in the 2 minute, 37 second version broadcast by Al Jazeera television yesterday, he can be seen and heard exchanging insults with his Shia executioners and other witnesses.

Saddam's final words were in keeping with his court appearances, during which he railed against his tormentors and the invaders of his country. National security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, told The New York Times that one of the guards shouted at Saddam: "You have destroyed us. You have killed us. You have made us live in destitution."

"I have saved you from destitution and misery and destroyed your enemies, the Persians and Americans," Saddam responded."God damn you," the guard said. "God damn you," came the reply. The assembled witnesses to the execution, gathered below the gallows, can be heard ignoring appeals for propriety as a man shouts out "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada." That is a reference to the powerful young Shia militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, whose father, a revered Shia cleric, was executed by Saddam in 1999. Saddam hits back: "Do you consider this bravery?"

Another voice praises the founder of the Shia Dawa Party, who was executed in 1980 along with his sister by Saddam.

The images, which can be viewed across Iraq and the world, can only heighten the sectarian tensions between the Shia rulers and the Sunni minority which have brought the country to the brink of civil war.

With the noose wrapped around a black scarf placed around his neck, Saddam begins reciting the Muslim profession of faith, the Shahada. He had carried a Koran as he had entered the gallows chamber, dressed in a black overcoat.

"There is no God but Allah and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God," he intones. "There is no God but Allah and I testify that Muhammad..."

His words end abruptly half-way through the second verse as he falls through the trapdoor and the 69-year-old former dictator can be seen swinging on the rope.

"The tyrant has fallen!" comes the cry. "Let him swing for three minutes" are the last words on the video.

Dictator's last words

Saddam: "Oh God."

Voices: "May God's blessings be upon Mohamed and his household. And may God hasten their appearance and curse their enemies."

Voices: "Moqtada [al-Sadr] ... Moqtada ... Moqtada."

Saddam: "Do you consider this bravery?"

Voice: "Long live Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr."

Voice: "To hell."

Voice: "Please do not. The man is being executed. Please no, I beg you to stop."

Saddam: "There is no God but Allah and I testify that Mohamed is the messenger of God. There is no God but Allah and I testify that Mohamed..."