Wed, Jan 27, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Iraq hangs ‘Chemical Ali’, Saddam’s cousin, henchman

AFP , BAGHDAD

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s notorious cousin and henchman “Chemical Ali” was executed on Monday just days after he was sentenced to death for the 1988 gassing of thousands of Kurds, a crime that shocked the world.

Ali Hassan al-Majid was better known by his macabre nickname and as the King of Spades in the pack of cards of “most wanted” Iraqis issued by the US military in 2003, and will forever be associated with mass killings.

He was “executed by hanging until death,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said. “The execution happened without any violations, shouting or cries of joy,” in sharp contrast to Saddam’s death on the gallows, he said.

State television later aired two still photographs of Majid, showing him wearing an orange-red jumpsuit and the first of which clearly displayed his face.

The second picture showed him on a platform, with a black hood over his head and with two men wearing balaclavas standing on either side.

The execution, which was welcomed by Kurdish victims, came as three massive car bombs targeting hotels rocked central Baghdad, killing at least 36 people and ­wounding 71 in an apparently coordinated but as yet unclaimed attack.

Majid was sentenced to death on Jan. 17 for ordering the gassing of Kurds in the northeastern town of Halabja, which killed an estimated 5,000 people and was one of the worst crimes committed by Saddam’s iron-fisted regime.

“I was happy to see the news of the execution on television,” said Kamal Abdelkadir, 24, who lost his parents, five sisters and a brother in the atrocity and who continues to require medical treatment for his injuries.

Fadhel Rifat, 27, who now lives in Sulaimaniyah, the eponymous Kurdish province in which Halabja is situated, was also just a young boy at the time of the attack.

“My father and many relatives died because of Chemical Ali,” he said. “I am happy that he is dead.”

Three-quarters of the victims at Halabja, whose crumpled bodies were shown in television broadcasts to an appalled world, were women and children in what is thought to have been the deadliest ever gas attack against civilians.

His conviction for the gas attack, that came as the Iran-Iraq war drew to a close, was the fourth time that Majid, who was arrested in August 2003, had received a death sentence.

Handing down the ruling, Judge Abud Mustapha al-Hamani branded Majid’s offenses as “deliberate murder, a crime against humanity” when the verdict was delivered amid muffled applause in the courtroom.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Majid’s execution was warranted as he was “one of the worst henchmen of the former regime, who committed heinous crimes against the Iraqi people.”

“His name is associated with the mass graves that fill Iraqi land from north to south,” Maliki said. “This turns another dark page in the genocide, repression and crimes against humanity committed by Saddam and his agents.”

Majid’s execution had previously been held up by legal wrangling. It had first been scheduled to be carried out by October 2007 but was delayed so it would not coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Saddam — Majid’s close cousin — was himself hanged in December 2006 for the killing of 148 Shiite villagers after an attempt on his life in 1982.

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