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Two more hangings in Iraq

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January 15, 2007

Saddam Hussein’s half brother and the former head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court were hanged before dawn Monday, two weeks and two days after the former Iraqi dictator was executed in a chaotic scene that has drawn worldwide criticism.

In confirming the executions, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the head of one of the accused, Barzan Ibrahim, had been severed during the hanging in what he called “a rare incident.”

But he stressed that all laws and rules were respected during the proceedings, choosing his words carefully after Saddam’s execution became an unruly scene that brought worldwide criticism of the Iraqi government. Video of the execution, recorded on a cell phone camera, showed the former dictator being taunted on the gallows.

“Those present signed documents pledging not to violate the rules or otherwise face legal penalties. All the people present abided by the government’s rule and there were no violations,” he said, adding the hangings occurred at 3 a.m. “No one shouted slogans or said anything that would taint the execution. None of those charged were insulted.”

Barzan, Saddam’s half brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court, had been found guilty along with Saddam of in the killing of 148 Shiite Muslims after a 1982 assassination attempt on the former leader in the town of Dujail north of Baghdad.

The announcement drew outrage from some in the Sunni community while majority Shiites who were heavily persecuted under Saddam’s regime expressed joy.

Khalaf al-Olayan, a leader of the main Sunni bloc in parliament, demanded to see any video taken during the execution. It was not known if the government took an official video, as it did during Saddam’s execution.

“It is impossible for a person to be decapitated during a hanging,” he told Al-Jazeera television. “This shows that they (the government) have mutilated the body and this is a violation of the law.”

“We want to see the video that was taken during the execution of the two men in order for them (government) to prove what they are saying,” he added.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information, said the families of Ibrahim and al-Bandar would collect the bodies later Monday.

“The two bodies are being held at a morgue at the present time,” the official said, without specifying which morgue.

The executions reportedly occurred in the same Saddam-era military intelligence headquarters building in north Baghdad where the former leader was hanged two days before the end of 2006, according to an Iraqi general, who would not allow use of his name because he was not authorized to release the information. The building is located in the Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah.

The two men were to have been hanged along with Saddam on Dec. 30, but Iraqi authorities decided to execute Saddam alone on what National Security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie called a “special day.”

Last week, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani urged the government to delay the executions.

“In my opinion we should wait,” Talabani said Wednesday at a news conference with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. “We should examine the situation,” he said without elaborating.

On Tuesday, al-Maliki said that Khalilzad asked him to delay Saddam’s execution for 10 days to two weeks, but added that Iraqi officials rejected the demand.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, along with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, had called on the Iraqi government to refrain from executing Ibrahim and al-Bandar.

The Iraqi foreign minister, meanwhile, called on 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 two-pronged statement Sunday by Hoshyar Zebari highlighted the delicate balance facing the Iraqi government as it tries to secure Baghdad with the help of American forces while maintaining ties with its neighbors, including U.S. rivals Iran and Syria.

“Any interventions — or any harmful interventions to kill Iraqis or to provide support for insurgency or for the insurgents should be stopped by the Iraqi government and by the coalition forces,” Zebari said in an interview with CNN’s “Late Edition.”

But he also stressed Iraq has to keep good relations with its neighbors in the region.

“You have to remember, our destiny, as Iraqis, we have to live in this part of the world. And we have to live with Iran, we have to live with Syria and Turkey and other countries,” he said. “So in fact, on the other hand, the Iraqi government is committed to cultivate good neighborly relations with these two countries and to engage them constructively in security cooperation.”

The U.S. military said the five Iranians detained last week in the Kurdish-controlled northern city of 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.

Iran’s government denied the five detainees were involved in financing and arming insurgents and called for their release along with compensation for damages.

“Their job was basically consular, official and in the framework of regulations,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Sunday. “What the Americans express was incorrect and hyperbole against Iran in order to justify their acts.”

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.

At least 78 people were reported killed or found dead on Sunday, including 41 bullet-riddled bodies discovered in Baghdad. The U.S. military also said two American soldiers died Sunday from roadside bombs in Baghdad.

On Monday, three policemen were killed and two hurt when a roadside bomb targeted their car in a southeastern section of Iraq’s capital.

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Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press