Saddam buried in home town compound

Executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was buried shortly before sunrise today inside a compound for religious ceremonies in the town of his birth.

Executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was buried shortly before sunrise today inside a compound for religious ceremonies in the town of his birth.

Saddam was buried shortly before dawn inside the compound in the centre of Ouja, a small town outside Tikrit, Saddam's power base 80 miles north of Baghdad.

The former Iraqi leader's burial place is about two miles from the graves of his sons Uday and Qusai in the main town cemetery. The sons and a grandson were killed in a gun battle with the American forces in Mosul in July 2003.

Few were present for the burial, according the Salahuddin Province governor.

Saddam was captured in an underground hide-out near Ouja on December 13, 2003, eight months after he fled Baghdad ahead of advancing American troops.

Iraqi government officials initially wanted to bury Saddam in secret in an unmarked grave to prevent the burial site from becoming a place of pilgrimage.

But the Tikrit burial was arranged after negotiations in Baghdad between the government and US officials and a delegation that included the governor of Salahuddin province and the head of Saddam Hussein's Albu-Nassir clan, Al-Arabiya satellite television reported.

Salahuddin provincial governor Hamad Hamoud Shagtti and Sheikh Ali al-Nidawi, leader of Saddam's clan in Ouja, organised the return of Saddam's body, which arrived in Ouja at about 4am local time (1am Irish time).

In Baghdad's Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City, victims of his three decades of autocratic rule took to the streets on to celebrate, dancing, beating drums and hanging Saddam in effigy. Celebratory gunfire erupted across other Shiite neighbourhoods in Baghdad and other predominantly Shiite regions of the country.

There was no sign of a feared Sunni uprising in retaliation for the execution and the bloodshed from civil warfare was not far off the daily average - 92 from bombings and death squads.

Outside the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, west of the capital, loyalists marched with Saddam pictures and waved Iraqi flags. Defying curfews, hundreds took to the streets vowing revenge in Samarra, north of Baghdad, and gunmen paraded and fired into the air in support of Saddam in Tikrit, his home town.

Still, authorities imposed curfews sparingly in contrast to the several-day lockdown put in place after Saddam was sentenced to death on November 5.

By several accounts, Saddam was calm but scornful of his captors, engaging in a give-and-take with the crowd gathered to watch him die and insisting he was Iraq's saviour, not its tyrant and scourge.

"He said we are going to heaven and our enemies will rot in hell and he also called for forgiveness and love among Iraqis but also stressed that the Iraqis should fight the Americans and the Persians," Munir Haddad, an appeals court judge who witnessed the hanging, told the BBC.

Another witness, national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, told The New York Times that one of the guards shouted at Saddam: "You have destroyed us. You have killed us. You have made us live in destitution."

"I have saved you from destitution and misery and destroyed your enemies, the Persian and Americans," Saddam responded, al-Rubaie told the Times.

"God damn you," the guard said.

"God damn you," responded Saddam.

New video, first broadcast by Al-Jazeera satellite television, had the sound of someone in the group praising the founder of the Shiite Dawa Party, who was executed in 1980 along with his sister by Saddam.

Saddam appeared to smile at those taunting him from below the gallows. He said they were not showing manhood.

Then Saddam began reciting the "Shahada", a Muslim prayer that says there is no god but God and Mohammed is his messenger, according to an unabridged copy of the same tape, apparently shot with a camera phone and posted on a website.

Saddam made it to midway through his second recitation of the verse. His last word was Mohammed.

The floor dropped out of the gallows.

"The tyrant has fallen," someone in the group of onlookers shouted. The video showed a close-up of Saddam's face as he swung from the rope.

Then came another voice: "Let him swing for three minutes."

The responses within Iraq to Saddam's death echoed the larger reaction across the Middle East, with his enemies rejoicing and his defenders proclaiming him a martyr.

While Iranians and Kuwaitis welcomed the death of the leader who led wars against each of their countries, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the execution prevented exposure of the secrets and crimes the former dictator committed during his brutal rule.

Some Arab governments denounced the timing the 69-year-old former president's hanging just before the start of the most important holiday of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha. Libya announced a three-day official mourning period and cancelled all celebrations for Eid.

Within Iraq and across the world, the airwaves were alive with pictures of Saddam in death, a bruise on his cheek, his neck elongated and twisted impossibly to the right - grisly proof that the man who had tormented and killed so many during a bloody quarter-century rule was truly dead.

At least 80 Iraqis died in bombings and other attacks yesterday and police said 12 more tortured bodies were found dumped in Baghdad. The US military announced six more service-members - three soldiers and three Marines - were killed.

The execution took place on the penultimate day of the year's deadliest month for US troops, with the toll reaching 109. At least 2,998 members of the US military have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Um Abdullah, a Sunni and teacher in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, said she would wear black to mourn the city's favourite son.

"Saddam will be a hero in our eyes," she said. "I have five kids and I will teach them to take revenge on Americans."

Police blocked the entrances to Tikrit and said nobody was allowed to leave or enter the city for four days. Despite the security precaution, gunmen took into the streets, carrying pictures of Saddam, shooting into the air and calling for vengeance.

Security forces also set up roadblocks at the entrance to another Sunni stronghold, Samarra, and a curfew was imposed after about 500 went into the streets to protest the execution.

Hours after Saddam's burial, thousands of Iraqis flocked to Ouja.

Police blocked the entrances to Tikrit and said nobody was allowed to leave or enter the city for four days. Despite the security precaution, gunmen took to the streets, carrying pictures of Saddam, shooting into the air and calling for vengeance.

Security forces also set up roadblocks at the entrance to another Sunni stronghold, Samarra, and a curfew was imposed after about 500 went into the streets to protest the execution.

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