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"Long Live Sadr" at Saddam Hanging
BAGHDAD — Sectarianism was present when Saddam Hussein was sent to the gallows with a final taunt by hangers, who chanted the names of two of Shiite leaders while the noose was readied.
In video footage of the execution, apparently captured on a mobile phone and spreading across the Internet on Sunday, December31 , the hangers can be clearly heard chanting "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada," and "Mohammad Baqir Al-Sadr," according to Al-Jazeera satellite channel.
The reference is to Moqtada Al-Sadr, a firebrand Shiite scholar whose Mahdi Army militia is blamed for much of the sectarian bloodshed in chaos-marred Iraq, and his father Mohammad Baqir Al-Sadr.
One of the execution party calls: "Long live Mohammed Baqir Al-Sadr!"
"Go to hell," said another.
Saddam appears angry but remains composed in his final minutes, standing on a dusty steel platform in a dark hall in a north Baghdad military base, his hands bound and a rough hemp rope round his neck, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
As the Sunni leader drops through the metal trapdoor his final prayer, the "Shahadah" or the testimony of faith, is caught short: "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet. There is no god but Allah and Muhammad..."
Noise erupts in the room as the filmmaker struggles to get a shot of Saddam's face, hanging lifeless to one side. "The tyrant has fallen, damn him!"
Saddam was executed by the Iraqi government at dawn on Saturday, December30 , in a former military intelligence building in the Khadimiyah district of Baghdad.
The69 -year-old strongman had been convicted of crimes against humanity in the case of the village of Dujail, a Shiite community north of Baghdad where in 1982 Saddam survived an assassination attempt.
Saddam fell in March2003 , when a US-led invasion force took Baghdad, and he was arrested by American commandos after nine months on the run.
He was tried by a new Shiite-led government and convicted on November 5 after a year-long series of rowdy hearings, marked by boycotts from his lawyers and by political grandstanding from the defendants.
That some Sadr supporters, described by the Pentagon as the most dangerous faction in Iraq's current sectarian war, were present at Saddam's death seems likely to increase tension in the country after the execution.
Iraqi state television showed a different video of the execution in which the exchange was not audible, and which cut away before the trapdoor opened.
But on Sunday, the bootleg version including the bitter final verbal exchange was spreading across Internet file-sharing sites, popping up on satellite channels and being sold hand-to-hand in Baghdad's Shiite bastion of Sadr City.