Saddam feted a year after hanging

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-12-31 09:13

Iraqi security forces were on high alert Sunday around Baghdad and in the Sunni heartland north of the capital as the country marked the one-year anniversary of Saddam Hussein's execution.

Iraqi children gather outside the tomb of Saddam Hussein near Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2007 as mourners gathered to mark the one-year anniversary of the former dictator's execution. The sign, in Arabic, reads 'we will never forget you, Sheik of Mujaheddin.' [Agencies]

In Baghdad, Iraq army Brigadier General Qassim al-Moussawi said security forces were "ready and prepared for any emergencies that might happen".

In Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, hundreds of people and school children visited his burial site to pay homage and lay flowers.

Some gave fiery speeches while others just stood quietly by the tomb, located in a large mausoleum in the Tigris River village of Ouja - the small hamlet just outside Tikrit where Saddam was born.

Children chanted "with our blood, with our souls, we sacrifice for you Saddam", Associated Press Television News footage showed. The tomb was covered in Iraq flags and flowers and flanked by large pictures of a smiling Saddam.

Saddam is buried next to his sons Uday and Qusai, who died in a gun battle with US forces in 2003 in the northern city of Mosul.

He was hung on December 30 in Baghdad. Footage of the execution, filmed on a mobile phone and showing the former Iraqi leader being taunted just before he died, was leaked to the media and shown across the world. It provoked an outcry, particularly among many of Iraq's Sunni Arabs, and sparked a horrific day of violence that left 80 people dead from bombings and other attacks.

Iraq then plunged into its bloodiest cycle of violence since the US-led invasion in 2003, and American officials at the time feared the country was on the brink of civil war. The violence forced them to rethink their strategy and surged about 30,000 troops back into the country.

Jamal Salman, a 35-year-old Sunni in Baghdad, said that "We had wished that Saddam's death would be part of the solution but it became part of a problem."

Saddam was executed shortly after being convicted on charges of killing 148 Shiite men and boys in Dujail, north of Baghdad, after a botched assassination attempt in 1982.

Sunnis were not only outraged that Saddam was put to death on the day that they began celebrations for Eid al-Adha, a major Muslim festival, but many were also incensed by the unruly scene in the execution chamber, in which Saddam was taunted with chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada".

The chants referred to Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric who leads the Mahdi Army militia.

But a year later, al-Sadr's decision to declare a cease-fire, the influx troops of thousands of US troops and a decision by tens of thousands of predominantly Sunni tribesmen to back America instead of al-Qaida has managed to turn the tide.

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