Hussein's ex-deputy hanged in Iraq
At least 26 killed in violence in Baghdad, Kirkuk
BAGHDAD -- The former deputy in Saddam Hussein's government was hanged before dawn today for the killings of Shi'ites, an official with the prime minister's office said, despite appeals from international human rights groups.
Taha Yassin Ramadan, who was Hussein's vice president when the regime was ousted nearly four years ago, was the fourth man to be executed in the killings of 148 Shi'ites following a 1982 assassination attempt against the former leader in the town of Dujail north of Baghdad.
The official, who witnessed the hanging but spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made, said precautions had been taken to prevent a repeat of what happened to Hussein's half brother and codefendant Barzan Ibrahim, who was inadvertently decapitated on the gallows.
Ramadan, who was nearly 70, was weighed before the hanging and the length of the rope was chosen accordingly, the official said.
The execution took place at a prison at an Iraqi Army and police base, which had been the headquarters of Hussein's military intelligence, in a predominantly Shi'ite district in northern Baghdad. Ramadan had been in US custody but was handed over to the Iraqis before the hanging, the official said.
The prosecutor read out the verdict of the appeals court upholding the death sentence along with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's decision to carry it out, the official said, adding that a defense lawyer received Ramadan's written will. The contents were not revealed.
Ramadan appeared frightened and said words that indicated he was remorseful, the official said, although he was not more specific.
"He recited the two shahadahs. The execution was flawless," the official said, adding that the hanging was videotaped for official purposes. The two shahadahs are the declaration of faith repeated by Muslims -- "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet."
Ramadan was convicted in November of murder, forced deportation and torture, and sentenced to life in prison. A month later, an appeals court said the sentence was too lenient, and returned his case to the High Tribunal, which sentenced him to death.
Around Iraq, meanwhile, bombs tore through a Shi'ite mosque during prayers in Baghdad and struck several targets in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk yesterday, killing at least 26 people.
The latest attacks highlighted the challenges facing US and Iraqi forces in their bid to curb sectarian bloodshed with the month-old security crackdown. Execution-style killings usually blamed on Shi'ite militias have fallen dramatically but bombings have not kept pace in the downward trend.
Late yesterday, US and Iraqi troops engaged in a major operation as part of the crackdown in the volatile Hurriyah neighborhood in northern Baghdad, state television said. Witnesses said there were many people reported holed up in two Shi'ite mosques, surrounded by US forces.