updated 3/9/2006 2:37:02 PM ET 2006-03-09T19:37:02

The Iraqi government said 13 insurgents were hanged Thursday in the first executions of militants since capital punishment was reinstated in Iraq after the end of the U.S. occupation.

The Cabinet announcement listed the name of only one of those hanged, Shukair Farid, a former policeman in the northern city of Mosul, who allegedly confessed that he had worked with Syrian foreign fighters to enlist fellow Iraqis to carry out assassinations against police and civilians.

“The competent authorities have today carried out the death sentences of 13 terrorists,” the Cabinet said.

It said Farid had “confessed that foreigners recruited him to spread the fear through killings and abductions.”

A judicial official said the death sentences were handed down in separate trials and were carried out in Baghdad.

“The 13 terrorists were tried in different courts and their trials began in 2005 and ended earlier this year,” an official of the Supreme Judiciary Council said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to fears of reprisal from insurgents.

Capital punishment was suspended during the formal U.S. occupation, which ended in June 2004, and the Iraqis reinstated the penalty two months later for those found guilty of murder, endangering national security and distributing drugs, saying it was necessary to help put down the persistent insurgency.

Option of executing Saddam
The authorities also wanted to have the option of executing Saddam if he is convicted of crimes committed by his regime. Under the former dictator, 114 offenses were punishable by death.

Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial for allegedly massacring more than 140 people in Dujail, north of Baghdad, after an alleged assassination attempt against him in 1982.

In October, Iraqi lawmakers also passed a tough new anti-terrorism law that called for the execution of “those who commit ... terror acts” as well as “those who provoke, plan, finance and all those who enable terrorists to commit these crimes.”

Life imprisonment was listed as the punishment for “whoever intentionally conceals terrorist activity or gives shelter to a terrorist for the purpose of hiding him.”

In September, Iraq hanged three convicted murderers, the first executions since Saddam was overthrown. They were convicted of killing three police officers, kidnapping and rape.

Death sentences must be approved by the three-member presidential council headed by President Jalal Talabani, who opposes capital punishment. In the September executions and again in the Thursday hangings, Talabani refused to sign the authorization himself but gave his two vice presidents the authority.

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