WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2006 - Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was executed today, according to a statement issued by President Bush.
The Iraqi High Tribunal sentenced Saddam and seven other former aides to death Nov. 5 for ordering the massacre of 148 men in Dujail, Iraq, in 1982. Acting on Saddam's orders, Iraqi
security forces gunned down and tortured the villagers in retaliation for a failed assassination attempt against the former dictator.
State Department officials told reporters on background before the trial began Oct. 19 that the Dujail incident wasn't the most egregious of atrocities of which Saddam was accused,
just the first case ready to take to trial.
Other atrocities included the 1988 Anfal campaign against the Kurds, including chemical attacks on the village of Halabja; the brutal crushing of a Shiite revolt in southern Iraq in
1991; and repression of the Faylee Kurds, officials said.
Rather than waiting for investigations on those and other cases to conclude, the Iraqis opted to move forward with the Dujail trial, officials said.
Saddam interrupted the proceedings regularly, Baathist "dead-enders" tried to intimidate members of the court and insurgents killed three defense lawyers in the course of the trial,
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad noted when the verdict was announced Nov. 5.
In a written statement, Khalilzad called the verdict "an important milestone for Iraq" that demonstrates the Iraqi's commitment to the rule of law. "A former dictator feared by
millions, who killed his own citizens without mercy or justice, who waged wars against neighboring countries, has been brought to trial in his own country - held accountable in a court
of law with ordinary citizens bearing witness," he said of the verdict.
The Appellate Chamber of the Iraqi High Tribunal rejected Saddam's appeal Dec. 26, upholding his conviction and clearing the way for his execution.
Coalition forces toppled Saddam's repressive regime in March 2003. U.S. forces captured Saddam, who was hiding in a "spider hole" near his hometown of Tikrit, in December 2003. The
Iraqi government maintained legal custody of the former dictator, although Multinational Force Iraq officials had physical custody of him until before the execution, at the Iraqi
government's request, defense officials said.