3 Saddam Video Suspects Arrested

This image, copyright owner unknown, obtained from an Arab language web site, and seemingly shot on a camera phone appears to show former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein just prior to his hanging in Baghdad early Saturday, Dec. 30, 2006.
AP Photo
Iraqi officials reported the arrests Wednesday of two guards and a supervisor of Saddam Hussein's hanging, and said the guard force was infiltrated by outsiders who taunted the former leader and shot the video showing his body dropping through the gallows floor and dangling at the end of a rope.

Meanwhile, investigators are trying to determine the veracity of a rumor that the video was sold for $20,000, reports CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston.

National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie laid the blame for the cell phone video on ill-educated security guards, saying "Their feelings were expressed in a wrong way, in an unacceptable way, in a disgusting way."

But one of the prosecutors from Saddam's trial disputes that, telling CBS News, "They are trying to blame the guards. The guards are innocent."

Al-Rubaie told CNN that the guard force at the execution was infiltrated by an Arab television station or another outsider.

The clandestine and leaked footage appeared on Al-Jazeera satellite television and Web sites just hours after Saddam was hanged Saturday. The tumultuous scenes quickly overshadowed an official execution video, which was mute and showed none of the uproar among those on the floor of the chamber below the gallows.

The video, which ignited protests by Saddam's fellow Sunni Arabs in various Iraqi cities, has threatened to turn the ousted dictator into a martyr. Saddam was shown never bowing his head as he faced death, and asking his taunters if they were acting in a manly way.

In other developments in Iraq:

  • Four Americans and an Austrian abducted in November in southern Iraq spoke briefly and appeared uninjured in a video believed to have been recorded nearly two weeks ago and delivered Wednesday to The Associated Press. The men — security contractors for the Crescent Security Group, based in Kuwait — appeared separately on the video, and three of them said they were being treated well. They were kidnapped Nov. 16 when suspected militiamen in Iraqi police uniforms ambushed a convoy of trucks.
  • The number of civilians killed in the violence in Iraq rose sharply during the last three months, accounting for 5,000, or about 40 percent, of the more than 12,000 who died in 2006, the Iraqi government says. Only about half as many Iraqi soldiers died in 2006 as American troops, the government reported Tuesday. But the number of Iraqi security forces killed jumped to 1,539 — nearly double the American death count of 823 for the year — when the deaths of police, who conduct paramilitary operations, are added to the number of slain Iraqi soldiers.
  • An American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol south of Baghdad, the U.S. military reported Wednesday. The statement said the soldier, whose name was withheld until his family could be notified, died on Sunday. The military released no further information on the death.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he has no interest in a second term — and seems fed up with his job even before the end of his first. Asked whether he would accept a second term, Maliki said in an interview published Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal: "Impossible." He added: "I wish it could be done with even before the end of this term. I would like to serve my people from outside the circle of senior officials, maybe through the parliament, or through working directly with the people."
  • The military says U.S. troops in western Iraq have detained 23 people suspected of having ties to senior al Qaeda leaders. The raids took place today in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's volatile western Anbar province. During the raids, three of the suspects detonated an improvised explosive device, then ran into a house. American troops shot one of the suspects, wounding him as he tried to flee.

    A U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, said Saddam was dignified and courteous to his American jailers up to the moment he was handed over to the Iraqis outside the execution chamber. He said no Americans were present for the hanging.

    Sami al-Askeri, a Shiite lawmaker who advises al-Maliki, said two Justice Ministry guards were being questioned. "The investigation committee is interrogating the men. If it is found that any official was involved, he will face legal measures."

    A second key al-Maliki adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said, "In the past few hours, the government has arrested the person who videotaped Saddam's execution. He was an official who supervised the execution and now he is under investigation."

    Despite the report of only one arrest in the videotaping, prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon, one of 14 official witnesses to the execution, told The Associated Press that he saw two government officials using their camera phones.

    "I saw two of the government officials who were ... present during the execution taking all the video of the execution, using the lights that were there for the official taping of the execution," he said. "They used mobile phone cameras. I do not know their names, but I would remember their faces."

    Caldwell said the tumultuous execution would have gone differently had the Americans been in charge.

    As the storm over the handling of the hanging gained strength, Caldwell was among several U.S. officials who suggested displeasure with the conduct of the execution.

    "If you are asking me: 'Would we have done things differently?' Yes, we would have. But that's not our decision. That's the government of Iraq's decision," Caldwell said.