Video: U.S. responds to Saddam hanging

updated 1/3/2007 6:26:12 AM ET 2007-01-03T11:26:12

A senior U.S. general said on Wednesday U.S. forces left all security measures at Saddam Hussein’s execution, including searching witnesses for mobile phones, to Iraqi authorities.

An unofficial video of the hanging, apparently filmed on a mobile phone, showed Shiite officials taunting Saddam just before he was hanged, sparking outrage among his fellow Sunni Arabs as well as concern among moderate Shiites and Kurds.

Asked at a news conference in Baghdad on Wednesday about criticism of the hanging, U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell said: “It was not our decision as to what occurred but we would have done it differently.”

“We had absolutely nothing to do with the facility where the execution took place,” Caldwell said, adding that U.S. forces flew Saddam to the prison where the execution took place at dawn and then withdrew from the building.

After ousting Saddam, American troops had kept physical custody of the former president in a high-security prison near Baghdad airport.

Uproar into jeers, filming of execution
The Iraqi government has promised an investigation into how the hanging was filmed on a mobile phone. The government also said it had set up a special committee to investigate the abusive behavior of the witnesses.

Caldwell said U.S. forces were not responsible for searching the witnesses for phones.

A court official said he nearly halted the hanging over the jeering.

In the video observers chant the name of Shiite cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr as Saddam stands on the scaffold, appearing dignified in contrast to the uproar below him.

Prosecutor Munkith al-Faroon, heard appealing for order on the video, told Reuters on Tuesday he had threatened to leave the room if the jeering did not stop. That would have halted the execution as a prosecution observer must be present by law.

He also challenged government claims those who filmed the event were guards, saying they were senior officials.

On Wednesday, Faroon denied having identified one of the officials who filmed the execution as National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie.

“I know the officials who were filming the hanging only by sight. I don’t know their names but it was not Rubaie.”

Contacted by Reuters, Rubaie denied filming the hanging.

“I had no camera and no mobile phone with me. I handed my mobile over to my assistant before getting on the American helicopter that took us to the scene,” he said.

Escape fears
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was concerned that if Saddam was not hanged quickly he would somehow avoid the gallows, a senior U.S. official in Baghdad was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

The official told The New York Times that Maliki, who rushed to execute Saddam four days after an appeal on his death sentence on crimes against humanity failed, was worried insurgents would stage a mass kidnapping and use it as a bargaining chip to secure the release of the former president.

“His concern was security, and that ... maybe there would be a mass kidnapping to bargain for Saddam Hussein’s release,” the official said.

“He was concerned that he might somehow get free.”

A U.S. embassy official declined to comment.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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