The Iraqi government's attempt to close a chapter on Saddam Hussein's repressive regime — by hanging two of his henchmen — only appeared to anger many of Saddam's fellow Sunni Muslims after the former leader's half brother was decapitated on the gallows.
A thickset Barzan Ibrahim on Monday plunged through the trap door and was beheaded by the jerk of the thick beige rope at the end of his fall, in the same the execution chamber where Saddam was hanged a little over two weeks earlier.
A government video of the hanging, played at a briefing for reporters, showed Ibrahim's body passing the camera in a blur. The body came to rest on its chest while the severed head lay a few yards away, still wearing the black hood pulled on moments before by one of Ibrahim's five masked executioners.
The decapitation appeared inadvertent, and Iraqi officials seemed anxious to prove they had not mutilated Ibrahim's remains.
The hangings came as a suicide car bomber slammed into an Iraqi army patrol in the northern city of Mosul Monday, killing seven people and wounding 40 others, police said. A total of at least 55 people were killed or found dead across Iraq, authorities said.
The U.S. military, meanwhile, announced the deaths of two more soldiers, both killed in Baghdad.
While Ibrahim's body was wrenched apart by the execution, his co-defendant, Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Saddam's Revolutionary court, died as expected — swinging at the end of a rope. Both men met death at 3 a.m. wearing reddish orange prison jumpsuits.
Prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi, who witnessed the hangings, said Ibrahim looked tense and protested his innocence as he was brought into the chamber. The condemned man had once ran Saddam's feared security agency, the Mukhabarat.
"I did not do anything," al-Moussawi quoted Ibrahim as saying. "It was all the work of Fadel al-Barrak." Al-Barrak ran two intelligence departments in Saddam's feared Mukhabarat.
Saddam was hanged amid shouted taunts and insults from Shiite witnesses — a scene Iraqi officials said was not repeated Monday.
All three executions took place in Saddam-era military intelligence headquarters, located in the north Baghdad neighborhood of Kazimiyah, a Shiite area.
By day's end at least 3,000 angry Sunnis, many firing guns in the air, others weeping or cursing the government, assembled for the burials of Ibrahim and al-Bandar in Saddam's hometown of Ouja, near Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad.
"Where are those who cry out in demands for human rights?" Marwan Mohammed, one of the mourners, asked in grief and frustration. "Where are the U.N. and the world's human rights organizations? Barzan had cancer. They treated him only to keep him alive long enough to kill him. We vow to take revenge, even if it takes years."In other developments:A suicide car bomber slammed into an Iraqi army patrol in the northern city of Mosul on Monday, killing seven people and wounding 40 others, police said. At least 18 people were killed in bombings and shootings across Iraq on Monday, mostly outside Baghdad. The violence came as Iraqi and American forces prepared a new military offensive to pacify the Iraqi capital by cleansing it of militiamen and other sectarian killers that threaten to divide the country.
Attorneys for a Marine charged in the killing of Iraqi civilians in Haditha want the U.S. military to look into the leak of an investigative report in the case to the news media. Lawyers for Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich says the leak "presents a publicly unfavorable portrait" of Wuterich. The Washington Post published photos and information from the investigative file this month that had not previously been made public, including one showing five Iraqis sprawled near a taxi. Wuterich is one of two Marines charged with murder in the five deaths from November of 2005.
The Iraqi foreign minister called Sunday for the release of five Iranians detained by U.S. forces in what he said was a legitimate diplomatic mission in northern Iraq, but he stressed that foreign intervention to help insurgents would not be tolerated. The U.S. military said the five Iranians detained last week in Irbil were connected to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard faction that funds and arms insurgents in Iraq. It was the second U.S. raid targeting Iranians in Iraq in less than a month.
The Iraqis and the Americans, meanwhile, prepared for a new joint security operation to secure Baghdad as it faces spiraling sectarian violence. Bush said Wednesday that additional 21,500 U.S. troops will head to Iraq soon to try improve the security situation mainly in Baghdad and the western province of Anbar.
The U.S. military said two American soldiers died Sunday from roadside bombs in Baghdad.
At least 78 people were reported killed or found dead on Sunday, including 41 bullet-riddled bodies discovered in Baghdad. Three policemen were killed and two hurt Monday when a roadside bomb targeted their car in a southeastern section of Iraq's capital.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that a recently-increased American military presence in the Persian Gulf is meant to counter "very negative" behavior by Iran, and demonstrate that the U.S. military is not stretched too thin by the war in Iraq to look after its long-standing security concerns elsewhere. "We are simply reaffirming that statement of the importance of the Gulf region to the United States and our determination to be an ongoing strong presence in that area for a long time into the future," Gates said.
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