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Saddam buried in his home village

The former dictator is buried in his home village of Awjah in northern Iraq.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2006 13:28 IST

Saddam Hussein was buried early on Sunday in his home village of Awjah in northern Iraq after he was hanged for crimes against humanity, a member of his family said.

"Saddam Hussein has been buried today at 4:00 am in a place that was constructed during his regime in the centre of Awjah," said Musa Faraj, one of Saddam's relatives from the area.

Faraj said the building where Saddam was buried was a hall usually used for condolence meetings in Awjah, 180 kilometres north of Baghdad.

He said the burial was attended by the governor of Salaheddin province, Hamed al-Shakti, and Ali al-Nida, chief of Saddam's tribe of Albu Nasir and many other members of the tribe.

Shakti and Nida were part of a delegation that went to Baghdad on Saturday to receive the former dictator's corpse after he was hanged.

Faraj said security forces had sealed off the town of Tikrit, the stronghold of Saddam's supporters, since Saturday so that "nobody could participate in the burial" at Awjah, just four kilometres (two miles) south of Tikrit.

Saddam was born in Awjah, a bastion of the Albu Nasir tribe and part of Salaheddin province. His sons Uday and Qusay, killed by US troops in Mosul in July 2003, are also buried in Awjah.

The former strongman was sentenced to death by an Iraqi court on November 5 for the killing of 148 men and boys in the Shiite village of Dujail in 1982 after an attempt was made there to assassinate him.

The death sentence was confirmed by a judicial panel on December 26, and carried out at dawn on Saturday inside a former torture centre used by Saddam's intelligence service in the Shiite district of Kadhimiyah in northern Baghdad.

Iraqi Shiites, persecuted during Saddam's 24-year rule, feted his demise, dancing and cracking off bursts of automatic fire, while Sunni militants slammed the US-backed government for hanging their hero.

Even during the final minutes of his hanging the executioners sent Saddam to the gallows with a final mocking taunt, chanting the name of one of his most bitter opponents as they readied his noose and filmed the scene.

In the latest video footage of the execution, apparently captured on a mobile phone and now spreading across the Internet, members of the party carrying out Saddam's hanging can be heard chanting "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada!"

The reference is to Moqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric whose father Mohammed Bakr Sadr and his uncle were murdered by Saddam's agents, and who has risen to prominence since Saddam's fall as a politician and militia leader.

Saddam appears to react sarcastically to the chant but remains composed in his final minutes. As he drops through the metal trapdoor his last prayer is caught short: "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his prophet."

On Saturday, soon after Saddam was hanged, at least 77 people were killed in a series of bomb attacks, mostly against crowded Shiite areas.

A car bomb exploded in a fish market in the Shiite town of Kufa, and a triple bombing ripped through a Shiite neighbourhood in Baghdad.

Daily car bomb attacks on Shiite crowds in Iraq are usually blamed on Sunni insurgent groups such as Al-Qaeda or the Islamic Army of Iraq, whose members are linked to Saddam's defunct Baath party and his armed forces.

Although it was not clear whether the attacks were masterminded by Saddam loyalists to avenge his death, the abyss of civil strife into which Iraq has sunk since the US-led invasion has cast a shadow over Shiite celebrations.

US President George W. Bush hailed Saddam's execution as "an important milestone" on the road to building an Iraqi democracy, but European countries including US allies criticised use of the death penalty.

Saddam's execution, which came just as one of Islam's most important festivals was beginning, rankled in the Middle East. Analysts warned that public opinion in the Arab world could turn even further against the United States.

Grainy footage of a grey-bearded and calm-looking Saddam being prepared for the gallows was aired on Iraqi state television and re-broadcast across the Arab world as Muslims began celebrating Eid al-Adha.

Even the West's leading Middle East allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, publicly spoke out against the choice of the first day of the Muslim feast of sacrifice to put Saddam to death.

"Generally in the region, people's emotions are already anti-US, and these images will add to that feeling," warned Emad Gad, a researcher with the Cairo-based Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies.

First Published: Dec 31, 2006 02:01 IST