Militias hijacked Saddam's execution, claims government official

SADDAM Hussein was hanged by "militias and outsiders" who infiltrated the execution chamber, an official claimed yesterday.

He said the hanging was meant to be carried out by executioners employed by the interior ministry but that "militias" had taken over instead.

"The execution was carried out by militias and outsiders. They put aside the team from the interior ministry that was supposed to carry it out," the official said.

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The claim came as Iraqi investigators said a guard was being questioned in connection with the illicit filming of the former dictator's death.

The video, which has provoked demonstrations among Saddam's fellow Sunni Arabs and provoked international condemnation, shows him being subjected to sectarian taunts from Shiite observers as the noose is put round his neck.

Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, one of a group of 20 officials and other witnesses who were present at the execution at dawn on Saturday, said the person who took the video had infiltrated the chamber, but did not say the masked executioners were interlopers.

"Whoever leaked this video meant to harm national reconciliation and drive a wedge between Shiites and Sunnis," he said. "There was an infiltration at the execution chamber."

Major-General William Caldwell, a US military spokesman, said the US military, which had kept custody of Saddam until he was handed to Iraqis before the execution, had no role in the hanging, but added: "Had we been in charge we would have done things differently." Despite the controversy, preparations were being made to execute two of Saddam's co-defendants. His half-brother Barzan Ibrahim, a former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the Revolutionary Court's former chief justice, are expected to be executed today.