Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was executed in Baghdad at 6:05 a.m. Saturday morning (December 30), 10:05 p.m. ET, less than a week after a death sentence against him was upheld for his role in the ordering the execution of 148 Shiite Muslims in 1982, CNN has confirmed.
The execution was not shown on live television, although it was videotaped, CNN reports. Images of atrocities wreaked by his regime were broadcast on state TV leading up to the hanging, according to The Associated Press. The execution was held outside the U.S.-fortified Green Zone, with no Americans present at the hanging, Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said. The exact location of the gallows was not disclosed.
A source told CNN that people danced around Hussein's body and engaged in Shiite chants in the room where he was executed, although a correspondent had previously described the streets of Baghdad as "eerily quiet" as Iraqis were awakening to discover the former dictator had died. In Dearborn, Michigan — home to the largest concentration of Arabs in the U.S. — opponents of Hussein's regime went into the streets celebrating and waving the Iraq flag.
U.S. officials handed Hussein over to Iraqi authorities Friday after having had him in custody since he was captured in December 2003, and last-minute appeals on his life were made by the governments of Yemen and Libya. The executions of Hussein's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and ex-Revolutionary Court Chief Justice Awad Hamed al-Bandar were postponed "because we wanted to have this day to have an historic distinction," al-Rubaie said.
In the meantime, U.S. forces — nearly 3,000 of which have died since the Iraq invasion in March 2003 — were on high alert in anticipation of retaliation from Hussein's Sunni supporters, potentially intensifying the civil strife that has gripped the country. A member of Hussein's legal team told AP that U.S. authorities were working to prevent the mutilation of the ex-dictator's corpse in order to stave off an uprising.
Little advance notice was given about the time and location of the final procedure for fear it would also set off insurgent violence. Ten people registered to witness the hanging, and a Muslim cleric, lawmakers, senior officials and relatives of Hussein's victims were among those believed to be in attendance. Hussein's body was taken to his hometown of Tikrit, where he is expected to be buried Sunday morning in the same cemetery where other family members — including sons Uday and Qusay — are also buried.
Hussein was sentenced to death on November 5 by a court set up to judge his actions during his years in power (see "Saddam Hussein Sentenced To Death"). An appeals court handed down its ruling less than two months later, handing out death sentences to Hussein and his co-defendants. The sentence ended a drama-filled year of testimony in the trial, which was frequently interrupted by Hussein's refusal to show up in court, his righteous outbursts from the defendant's box, a change in judges midway through, as well as the murders of a number of lawyers and witnesses who participated in the proceedings.
In a letter addressed to the Iraqi people released just days before his death, Hussein referred to himself as someone who is known for being "faithful, honest, caring for others, wise, of sound judgment, just, decisive, careful with the wealth of the people and the state" and whose heart is "big enough to embrace all without discrimination." He said he was offering his soul to God as a "sacrifice," in the hope that he would be sent to "heaven with the martyrs."
Hussein urged his people not to hate, "because hate does not leave a space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking and keeps away one from balanced thinking and making the right choice." He also asked that Iraqis not hate the foreign forces occupying their country and to blame the decision-makers who sent them, not the people. He signed the letter off with the final words, "God is Great. . Long live Iraq. . Long live Palestine. . Long live jihad and the mujahideen."
For continuing coverage of this developing story, visit CBS News.
This story was originally published at 10:45 p.m. ET on 12.29.06