a secure facility in northern Baghdad for crimes against humanity.
Leaders of Iraq’s community living in exile expressed concerns over the possibility of more sectarian violence. Hundreds of thousands of Christians are believed to have fled during and
before war broke out in Iraq. There are currently roughly 450,000 Christians still living in Iraq down from an estimated 750,000 three years ago, according to church observers.
It was unclear Saturday, December 30, how Sunni Muslims, who were seen as more supportive to Saddam, would react to the execution. Christians are often in the cross fire as they are seen by Muslim militants as close to what they call the "US occupiers" of Iraq and America’s political and religious views, analysts say.
Apparently fearing more violence, in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, police reportedly blocked the entrances to the town and said nobody was allowed to leave or enter the city for four days, while elsewhere US and Iraqi forces stepped up patrols.
In a statement, Joseph Kassab, executive director of the Detroit-based Chaldean Federation of America, said his Christian humanitarian organization is against the taking of human life. Other evangelical Christians have said only God can judge over life and death and that they prever imprironment as in their view anyone should have an opportunity to meet Christ as personal Savior and Lord and to repent of sins, including Saddam Hussein.
But, in published remarks, Kassab also said the world must reflect on Saddam’s execution, "so we never again relinquish our destiny to tyrants like him."
Human rights groups and organizations such as the Council of Europe have expressed opposition to the death penalty, and some activists suggested that justice was not served as Saddam Hussein had still to be prosecuted for other crimes, including his alleged involvement in massacring Kurdish people.
However since December 2003, when American forces discovered Saddam hiding in a bunker near his hometown of Tikrit, Iraqis said his execution was inevitable. An Iraqi special tribunal condemned the former president to death on November 5 for his role in ordering the executions of 148 Shi’ite men and boys from the town of Dujail after a failed assassination attempt against him there in 1982.
Saddam was still standing trial for the murders of some 180,000 Kurds during the al-Anfal campaign of the late 1980s. The trial was to continue for his six co-defendants, observers said.
Imad Hamad, director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dearborn, said the glee surrounding Saddam’s death was laced with uncertainty about the future. "The joy would have been complete if we were to see the healthy Iraq, the united Iraq, the safe Iraq," Hamad said in comments released by The Associated Press (AP) news agency. "Then everybody would be jumping up and down, celebrating."
Yet others were celebrations as Arabic television networks began airing pictures of the moments before Saddam Hussein was hanged. Some Iraqi showed victory-signs as they celebrated in the Shiite-majority Baghdad suburb Sadr City.
In still video footage, he could be seen holding the Koran, seen as a holy book by Muslims, and refused a black hood. Saddam Hussein faced the same fate many others suffered during his more than 20 years as Iraq’s leaders.
Officials said the former strongman was hanged early Saturday at a former military intelligence headquarters in Baghdad’s Shi’ite neighborhood of Kazimiyah, outside the heavily fortified Green Zone. He was apparently handover by US soldiers after officials asked Saddam Hussein’s defense team to pick up his personal belongings.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed the execution order and video showed how six masked men escorted an apparently calm Saddam Hussein to the gallows. He was wearing a black coat and white shirt. The executors wrapped a black cloth around his neck, but did not put a hood over his head. His hands were tied behind his back and two executioners put the large rope noose around his neck after which he was apparently hanged.
Iraqi National Security Advisor, Mouaffac al-Rubaie, who witnessed the execution, reportedly said it was completely handled by the Iraqis and no American witnesses were present. "We wanted him to be executed on a special day," he told state-run Iraqiyah. the official added that they chose the execution time, just before sunrise, so it would occur before the official start of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca.
United States President George W. Bush, who as Texas governor signed up to several executions, was reportedly a sleep when Saddam Hussein was hanged. But in a prepared statement, he said that Saddam received a fair trial.
"Fair trials were unimaginable under Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical rule," Bush explained. "It is a testament to the Iraqi people’s resolve to move forward after decades of oppression that, despite his terrible crimes against his own people, Saddam Hussein received a fair trial."
US-based Human Rights Watch said however that the trial didn’t meet international standards of fairness and criticized the Iraqi government for actions that it said undermined the court’s independence. It said the court was unfamiliar with the law it was attempting to apply.
Despite heavy security, Iraq experienced new bloodshed Saturday, December 30, as a bomb planted on a minibus killed 31 people in a mostly Shiite town south of Baghdad. The blast reportdly occurred in Kufa, a Shiite town 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the Iraqi capital. At least 58 people were wounded, news reports quoted Issa Mohammed, director of the morgue in the neighboring town of Najaf, as saying.