Word just in from al-Arabiya that Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti is dead.
Sic Semper Tyrannis. Watch this space for more details.
Update (AP): Al-Hurra is reporting it too. I’m monitoring Al Jazeera in the expectation that they’ll have the video before American media does.
Al-Hurra’s the American-backed Arab station, FYI, so their sources here are probably trustworthy.
Update (AP): HuffPo “celebrates.”
Update (AP): Al-Arabiya (via Fox) says photographers and cameramen were on the scene.
Update (AP): “‘Peace,’ he said, grinning and laughing. ‘Now there will be peace for my family.’”
Update (AP): Human Rights Watch sticks to their wormy script: “The execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein following a deeply flawed trial for crimes against humanity marks a significant step away from respect for human rights and the rule of law in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today.”
Update (AP): An excellent, unsparing obituary from the Times of London.
Update (AP): Here’s a twist — Fox says Al-Arabiya is claiming that, contrary to earlier reports, it happened outside the Green Zone. Nice head fake.
Update (AP): What to do with the body? There’s “wide disagreement” among U.S. and Iraqi officials, says the Times:
The most discussed options include sending his body out of the country to his family in Jordan, where two of his daughters live; burying him in a secret location never to be made public; burying him in a secret location but, after a period of time, having him disinterred and sent to his family or tribe; or sending him immediately to his hometown of Tikrit to be buried with members of his tribe.
In fact, a top Sunni politician even raised the prospect of holding a state funeral for Mr. Hussein. That idea, a Western official said, had very little chance of becoming reality.
Update (AP): “State-run Iraqiya television said: ‘Criminal Saddam was hanged to death’, and played patriotic music, while showing images of national monuments and other landmarks.”
Update (AP): Who said it? “Just in time for Eid, the Iraqis decided Saddam Hussein was one old acquaintance who really should be forgot.” Who else?
Update (AP): Here’s the graphic FoxNews.com is using. Heh.
Update (AP): The first bucket of cold water from the Times splashes down.
Update (AP): CNN says al-Iraqiya will air photos of Saddam on the way to his execution. And now Fox is saying they’ll show the video, too. I don’t get al-Iraqiya, but I do get Al Jazeera. If the video makes its way onto the air there, it’ll be here soon after.
Update (AP): CNN is quoting Iraq’s NSA as saying Saddam had “fear on his face.” We’ll see.
Update (AP): This is going to be some video: “What the images might also show, according to one eyewitness to the event: observers chanting and dancing around the body.”
Update (AP): Bush’s reponse is low key. According to Fox, he was, er, asleep when it all went down.
Update (AP): More on reaction at the scene, plus your quote of the year:
Witnesses to the execution told NBC News’ Richard Engel that they were cheering around the body of Saddam after the execution.
NBC could hear cheers and celebrations in the background while talking to an official in the prime minister’s office.
“This son of a bitch is lying under my feet.… I can’t talk now because of all the cheers!” a witness said.
Update (AP): It’s not clear yet whether Saddam’s half-brother and his former chief justice were hanged with him or whether their executions were postponed until after Eid. Iraq’s NSA says it’s the latter.
Update (AP): Iraq’s NSA is on the phone with Anderson Cooper right now and says Saddam carried a Koran, refused a hood to cover his face, and tried to look brave but was clearly “broken” by what was happening. He died “very quickly.”
Update (AP): His last words, according to one witness quoted by Fox? “Allahu Akbar,” of course.
Update (AP): Actually, not quite:
Sami al-Askari, the political adviser of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told The Associated Press that Saddam struggled when he was taken from his cell in an American military prison but was composed in his last moments…
“Saddam later was taken to the gallows and refused to have his head covered with a hood,” al-Askari said. “Before the rope was put around his neck, Saddam shouted: ‘God is great. The nation will be victorious and Palestine is Arab.’“
Update (AP): Al Jazeera English says the hanging took place at a Justice Ministry in northern Baghdad. Meawnhile, the reprisals have begun — a car bomb went off this morning in a crowd of people in the Shiite holy city of Kufa. Witnesses report “dozens” of casualties. And Fox is just now reporting at 2:35 that the Fallujah courthouse has burned down.
Update (AP): 30 dead at Kufa.
Update (AP): The LA Times has the fullest account so far of the execution scene, courtesy of Iraqi judge Munir Haddad. Cycle of life, cycle of savages:
A defiant Saddam Hussein was hanged at dawn today in a secret concrete death chamber here as the Muslim call to prayer echoed over the capital.
Hussein and 14 Iraqi government representatives were flown by helicopter to the site, according to Iraqi High Tribunal Judge Munir Haddad. Guards escorted Hussein into the room, where he denounced the West and Iran.
Hussein then climbed the high ladder to the gallows.
As his executioners placed a noose around his neck, Hussein blanched but betrayed no emotion, Haddad said.
Hussein refused to wear a hood.
The charged silence that settled over the execution chamber was broken by an exchange between Hussein and four guards, who were apparently followers of Muqtada Sadr, the militant Shiite cleric whose father was killed by Hussein.
“Muqtada Sadr!” they cried out.
Hussein scoffed in reply.
His last word was a sarcastic “Muqtada,” Haddad said. “And then he was hanged.”
Update (AP): The cameraman speaks.
Ali Al Massedy was 3 feet away from Saddam Hussein when he died. The 38 year old, normally Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s official videographer, was the man responsible for filming the late dictator’s execution at dawn on Saturday. “I saw fear, he was afraid,” Ali told NEWSWEEK minutes after returning from the execution. Wearing a rumpled green suit and holding a Sony HDTV video camera in his right hand, Ali recalled the dictator’s last moments. “He was saying things about injustice, about resistance, about how these guys are terrorists,” he says. On the way to the gallows, according to Ali, “Saddam said, ‘Iraq without me is nothing.’”
Ali says he followed Saddam up the gallows steps, escorted by two guards. He stood over the hole and filmed from close quarters as Saddam dropped through—from “me to you,” he said, crouching down to show how he shot the scene. The distance, he said, was “about one meter,” he said. “He died absolutely, he died instantly.” Ali said Saddam’s body twitched, “shaking, very shaking,” but “no blood,” he said, and “no spit.”
Update (Ian @ 4:29am): Video of Saddam being prepared for death: