U.S. President George W. Bush calledthehanging ofSaddam Hussein "the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime," but acknowledged his execution will not stop the daily killings engulfing Iraq.
"Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself," Bush said late Friday in a statement from his Texas ranch.
Saddam, who ruledIraq with an iron grip foralmost 25 years,washanged in Baghdad around 6 a.m. local time Saturday (10 p.m. ET Friday) in Baghdad's Green Zone, according to state-run Iraqiya television.
"Criminal Saddam was hanged to death,"the report said. The station played patriotic music and showed images of national monuments and other landmarks.
The station also quoted Iraqi security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaieas saying Saddam "totally surrendered" and did not resist before being led to the gallows.
He said a judge read the sentence to Saddam, who was taken in handcuffs to the execution room, where he stood whilephotographs and video footage were taken.
"He did not ask for anything; he was carrying a Qur'an and said: 'I want this Qur'an to be given to this person,' a man he called Bander," al-Rubaiesaid, adding he did not know who Bander was.
Later Saturday, Saddam's body was flown onboard a U.S. plane to his family hometown of Tikrit, where it was handed over to tribal leaders for burial, a defence lawyer told Reuters.
Official word of Saddam's death did not come out immediately, but Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed Abawi toldthe BBC early Saturday the execution had been carried out.
Arab media showed images of jubilant Iraqis waving flags and dancing in thepre-dawn streets of Baghdad.
Also hanged were Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, according to the reports. However, three officials said only Saddam was executed.
Saddam, who was capturedin December 2003following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq,was convicted in early November of committing crimes against humanity in the slaughter of 148 Shia Muslims in the northern city of Dujail in 1982.
During his trial,the 69-year-oldSaddamrequested he be executed by firing squad "as a military man" and not byhanging, which he said would be a fatebefitting "a common criminal."
His lawyersfiled documentsin a U.S. court Fridayafternoonasking for an emergency restraining order aimed at stopping the U.S. government from relinquishing custodyof Husseinto Iraqi officials.
But the appeal was denied late Friday.
The attorneys argued that because Saddamalso faced a civil lawsuit in Washington, he had rights as a civil defendant that would be violated if he were executed.
The Pentagonsaid U.S. forces in Iraq were on high alert in anticipation of any violence following theexecution ofSaddam, whose brutal rule of the country spanned 24 years.
Execution comes amid bloody month
The execution comes as the U.S. military announced the deaths of three more soldiers in Iraq, raising this month's death toll to 106, which is the highest this year.
Thoseattending the execution included a Muslim cleric, lawmakers, senior officials and relatives of victims of Saddam's rule, an Iraqi government official told the Associated Press.
During a meeting Friday with families of people who died during Saddam's rule, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said opposing or delayingSaddam's execution would bean insult to his victims.
There was also speculation that the execution would be delayed by the religious holiday of Eid, which starts on Sunday for Sunni Muslims in Iraq. The Iraqi constitution states that people cannot be executed on state-recognized religious holidays.
The 69-year-old son of peasant farmers began his reign over Iraq in 1979 and soon plunged his country into a devastating eight-year war with neighbouring Iran, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths on both sides.
The ruthless and flamboyant Saddam developed his mythology into a cult of personality and used his secret police to crush any opposition through torture and executions. He ordered the use of chemical weapons to crush a rebellion by minority Kurds in the north of the country.
He ordered the construction of dozens of lavish palaces around the country and the erection of countless statues and murals glorifying his visage.
In August 1990, Saddam and his army invaded Kuwait as a result of a long-standing territorial dispute, proclaiming it Iraq's 19th province. He defied UN orders to retreat from the tiny country, which resulted in the Persian Gulf War with U.S.-led troops launching a relentless air offensive on Baghdad in January 1991.
The six-week war proved disastrous for Iraq. UN terms imposed strict conditions on the country, including the destruction of all stockpiles of weapons.
His sparring with UN weapons inspectors and three U.S. presidents frustrated the world community for more than a decade until his ouster.