updated 1/8/2007 9:32:08 AM ET 2007-01-08T14:32:08

Saddam Hussein and his cousin “Chemical Ali” discussed how chemical weapons would exterminate thousands before unleashing them on Kurds in 1988, according to tapes played on Monday in a trial of former Iraqi officials.

“I will strike them with chemical weapons and kill them all,” a voice identified by prosecutors as “Chemical Ali” Hassan al-Majeed is heard saying.

“Who is going to say anything? The international community? Curse the international community,” the voice continued.

“Yes, it’s effective, especially on those who don’t wear a mask immediately, as we understand,” a voice identified as Saddam is heard saying on another tape.

“Sir, does it exterminate thousands?” a voice asks back.

“Yes, it exterminates thousands and forces them not to eat or drink and they will have to evacuate their homes without taking anything with them, until we can finally purge them,” the voice identified as Saddam answers.

With Saddam’s chair empty, nine days after he was hanged, Majeed and five other Baath party officials were being tried for their roles in the 1988 Anfal (Spoils of War) military campaign in northern Kurdistan.

Genocide charges
Prosecutors said 180,000 people were killed, many of them gassed. Many Kurds regret the chief suspect can no longer face justice for his role in the campaign against them, but they hope others share his fate on the gallows.

Saddam was hanged on Dec. 30 after being convicted in an earlier trial for his role in killing 148 Shiites in the 1980s.

Majeed, who faces charges of genocide, is considered the main enforcer of the Anfal campaign.

Defendants have said Anfal was a legitimate military operation targeting Kurdish guerrillas who had sided with Shiite Iran during the last stages of the Iraq-Iran war.

Chief Prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon also played on Monday video showing women and children lying dead on village streets and mountain slopes after what he said was a chemical attack ordered by Saddam.

“These are the honorable battles they claimed to have launched against the enemy,” he told the court.

Saddam charges dropped
Judge Mohammed al-Ureybi, in his first order of business, formally dropped charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against Saddam. He cut off the microphones when Majeed stood up and started to read the Koran in tribute to his former chief.

“In virtue of the confirmation of the death of defendant Saddam Hussein, the court decided to finally stop legal procedures against defendant Saddam Hussein according to the Iraqi Penal Procedures Law,” Ureybi told the court.

Looking tired and sporting an uncharacteristic white stubble, Majeed refused to take his chair and insisted on reciting a prayer as he stood behind Saddam’s empty chair.

“Make him sit down, make him sit down,” Ureybi ordered the bailiffs.

Saddam’s hanging has turned him into a martyr in much of the Arab world, overshadowing memories of his often brutal rule.

Two of Saddam’s aides, his half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and former judge Awad al-Bander, are likely to be hanged any day now after being convicted along with Saddam for killing Shiites.

'Completely wrong'
British Prime Minister Tony Blair believed the manner in which Saddam was executed was “completely wrong,” his office said Sunday.

“He believes that the manner of the execution was completely wrong, but that should not lead us to forget the crimes that Saddam Hussein committed, including the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis,” a spokeswoman for Blair’s office said on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

Human Rights Watch said Saddam’s speedy execution illustrated the Iraqi government’s disregard for human rights, and urged Iraqi officials to halt two upcoming hangings.

“The tribunal repeatedly showed its disregard for the fundamental due process rights of all of the defendants,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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