Sunnis Rage Over Saddam Execution

An Iraqi watches video footage of the execution ousted leader Saddam Hussein on a mobile phone at a shop in central Baghdad 31 December 2006. AFP PHOTO / WISSAM SAMI (Photo credit should read WISSAM SAMI/AFP/Getty Images) AFP/Getty Images

Anger over Saddam Hussein's execution exploded when images hit the Internet and satellite TV showing Shiite executioners and witnesses taunting the Sunni dictator during his final moments, CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports.

Iraq's prime minister ordered an investigation Tuesday to try to uncover who taunted Saddam and who leaked the inflammatory footage taken by camera phone of his hanging.

The unofficial video, on which at least one person is heard shouting "To hell!" at the deposed president and Saddam is heard exchanging insults with his executioners, dealt a blow to Iraq's efforts to prove it was a neutral enforcer of the law. Instead, the emotional, politicized spectacle raised tensions between the Shiite majority and Sunni Arabs who ran the country until their benefactor, Saddam, was ousted in the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

A prosecutor who saw the hanging said some of the taunting came from guards outside the execution chamber, not the masked ones who put the noose around Saddam's neck.

The Iraqi government did not say what, if any, punishment would await anyone uncovered in its probe of guards and 14 selected witnesses who attended the execution at a Baghdad prison before dawn Saturday. Some were high-ranking officials or people affiliated with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a political ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who had wanted to speed up the timing of the execution after an appeals court upheld the death sentence.

Throughout the Middle East, outraged Sunnis are protesting Saddam's execution, Pinkston reports. His oldest daughter, in exile in Amman, Jordan, made a rare public appearance to thank her father's supporters.

The grainy video appeared on the Internet late Saturday. Al-Jazeera television also showed the footage at that time, saying it was exclusive.

The footage contained audio of people taunting Saddam with chants of "Muqtada," a reference to al-Sadr. Also on the video, Saddam accuses his tormentors of being unmanly in scenes that stop just short of pandemonium.

The video was inflammatory not only because the chanting was clearly audible, but also for showing the ghastly spectacle of Saddam plummeting through the gallows trapdoor and dangling in death, his vacant eyes open and his snapped neck almost at a right angle to the line of his shoulders.

In contrast, the official video showed masked executioners placing a heavy noose around Saddam's neck, without a soundtrack. Another official video shows Saddam wrapped in a burial shroud after his death, though his head and neck are exposed as proof of his identity.

Munqith al-Faroon, an Iraqi prosecutor who helped convict and sentence Saddam to death for the killings of 148 people in the town of Dujail in 1982, said he was a witness to the hanging. He said two top officials had their mobile phones with them — even though the government-approved witnesses had been searched before boarding U.S. helicopter that carried them from the Green Zone to the site of the execution, their cell phones placed in a box for safekeeping.

  • Sean Alfano

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