From the BBC:
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been executed by hanging at an unspecified location, reports say.
Iraqi TV said the execution took place just before 0600 local time (0300GMT). It was witnessed by a doctor, lawyer and officials. It was also filmed.
US troops and Iraqi security forces are on high alert for any violent backlash.
Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by an Iraqi court on 5 November after a year-long trial over the 1982 killings of 148 Shias in the town Dujail.
LATEST IRAQ NEWS
Friday, December 29, 2006
From the BBC:
Thursday, December 28, 2006
NBC News and news services
Updated: 6:47 p.m. ET Dec 28, 2006
Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, sentenced to death for his role in 148 killings in 1982, will have his sentence carried out by Sunday, NBC News reported Thursday. According to a U.S. military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, Saddam will be hanged before the start of the Eid religious holiday, which begins this Sunday.
Saddam’s sentence, handed down last month, ordered that he be hanged within 30 days.
Earlier Thursday, Saddam’s chief lawyer implored world leaders to prevent the United States from handing over the ousted leader to Iraqi authorities for execution, saying the former dictator should enjoy protection from his enemies as a "prisoner of war."
“According to the international conventions it is forbidden to hand a prisoner of war to his adversary,” Saddam’s lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said in Amman, Jordan.
“I urge all the international and legal organizations, the United Nations secretary-general, the Arab League and all the leaders of the world to rapidly prevent the American administration from handing the president to the Iraqi authorities,” he told The Associated Press.
Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI’s top prelate for justice issues and a former Vatican envoy to the U.N., condemned the death sentence in a newspaper interview published Thursday, saying capital punishment goes against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
After his sentence was given, Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, urged Iraq to ensure a fair appeals process and to refrain from executing Saddam even if the sentence is upheld.
Some international legal observers and human rights groups have also called Saddam’s trial unfair because of alleged interference by the Shiite-dominated government.
Meets with half-brothers
Saddam met with two of his half-brothers on Thursday and passed on personal messages to his family, a lawyer said.
Badie Aref, one of Saddam's lawyers, said the rare meeting with maternal half-brothers Sabawi and Watban Ibrahim Hassanal-Tikriti, who are in U.S. custody, was at the request of the ousted Iraqi leader and took place inside his heavily guarded prison cell in Baghdad.
Aref said Saddam was in very high spirits and had sensed "something was happening relating to the sentence" when prison guards took away a small radio he had been given several months ago.
"He met Sabawi and Watban and gave them letters to his family in anticipation.... He is clearly unaware of the details of what is happening around him and prepared to give his life as a martyr to his country," Aref told Reuters by telephone.
Aref said prison sources who told him of the family meeting said Saddam was aware of an appeals court decision to uphold his death sentence for crimes against humanity during his 24-year rule.
"He was in very high spirits and clearly readying himself," Aref said during a visit to Dubai.
"He told them that he was happy he would meet his death at the hands of his enemies and be a martyr and not just languish in prison in oblivion."
Aref said he was unsure if Saddam's third half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti, who was sentenced to death along with the ousted leader, saw Saddam.
Fears that handover may spark violence
An official close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that Saddam would remain in a U.S. military prison until he is handed over to Iraqi authorities on the day of his execution. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address the media.
A top government official disputed the court’s ruling that Saddam must be hanged within 30 days, saying the execution should be held after that time period. The comment comes amid debate over other legal procedures such as whether the presidency is required to approve the execution.
This breaking news story will be updated.
© 2006 MSNBC InteractiveNBC News, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 12/28/2006 07:10:00 PM
Monday, December 25, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
By Sgt. Jordan E. Werme
130th PAD, Connecticut National Guard
WEST HAVEN, Conn. , Dec. 5, 2006 — When Sgt. Kristi J. Artigue joined the Connecticut Army National Guard the summer before her senior year of high school, it was a chance to broaden her experiences.
“I’ve always been a risk taker,” said Artigue, 23, now a medic with the 141st Medical Company.
On Nov. 10, Artigue called upon the skills learned during her six years of National Guard service -- including a recent deployment to Iraq -- to help save the life of a man who may have drowned.
“I was passing by (Supersonic Car Wash, West Haven) after work when I saw my boyfriend’s car,” said Artigue. “I called him to say ‘Hi’, and he told me someone had had a seizure and fallen into the water.”
Her first reaction: call 911. Artigue told her boyfriend that he should call for emergency services, but because of the urgent tone of his voice, she pulled out of rush-hour traffic in New Haven and rushed to the scene.
When Artigue arrived, she found a group of people hanging onto the shore and forming a “chain,” trying to keep a man above the fast-moving water.
“Tom,” a middle-aged man, had suffered a seizure and fallen into a section of the West River. Unable to swim, he struggled to remain above the surface with the help of several civilians and two West Haven police officers. The chain was trying to hang on until the local fire department rescue crew could arrive, but everything seemed to Artigue to be well under control.
Then the life-defining event happened.
“He let loose,” said Artigue, “and went under for one or two seconds. Long enough to know he wasn’t going to be coming up again. And he was moving out farther from the shore toward the center of the river.”
At that point, Artigue let her training take over. The nursing student and Iraq War veteran jumped into the freezing water and swam out about 10 feet to where Tom was struggling for air.
“It was too cold to talk,” said Artigue, “but I grabbed his vest and tried to keep him above the water. He grabbed a hold of me and started to pull me down with him, but I was able to drag him by his vest to shore.”
The human chain helped to pull both Artigue and Tom out of the water. On a cold November day, coming out of cold, moving water, communication was difficult, but Artigue was able to keep Tom talking and conscious until emergency crews arrived.
“(The man) suffered a seizure and fell from a bridge,” said William E. Ciccosanti, who was the first officer at the scene of the incident. “(Artigue) risked her own safety to save a stranger. She definitely did a good job and should be commended for that.”
Tom was fishing from a bridge when he suffered the seizure, tumbled over the railing and fell more than seven feet into the water, just a few feet from the spot where the river is dammed. Had Artigue not jumped into the water when she did, there was a good chance that the victim would have been pulled under and into the dam, said Ciccosanti.
“This was the first time I’ve had to take it upon myself to take action,” said Artigue. “In the military there’s always someone there to help, but this time I wasn’t sure anyone else there could have helped the way I could. Being in the military has given me the confidence to do things I wouldn’t have as a civilian. It puts me a step above those without military training.”
A future trauma nurse, Artigue plans to use her experiences in the Guard and in Iraq to save as many lives as possible.
“Since Iraq,” she said, “I’ve learned to adapt and overcome. I saw what was happening and I had no option but to get involved because of not only my medical training, but also because of my personal responsibility. “I will always appreciate my military experience. It’s something I would never give up,” said Artigue.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 12/19/2006 08:47:00 PM
Friday, December 15, 2006
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - The U.S. military is planning to move a brigade of troops into Kuwait in what could be the first step of a short-term surge of American forces into Iraq to stabilize the violence.
The 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division is expected in Kuwait shortly after the new year, a senior Defense Department official told The Associated Press on Friday. The official requested anonymity because the plans had not yet been announced.
The 2nd Brigade, made up of roughly 3,500 troops, is based at Fort Bragg, N.C., and would be deployed in Iraq early next year if needed, the official said. The move would be part of an effort to boost the number of U.S. troops in Iraq for a short time, the official said. The plan was first reported by CBS News.
In a half-hour video conference with President Bush on Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki outlined plans for the national reconciliation conference taking place in Baghdad on Saturday. Al-Maliki cited the desire of many people in Iraq for a larger core of Iraqi political leaders to come together for the common objective of stabilizing the country and promoting the rule of law, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in describing the conversation.
Al-Maliki also talked with Bush about providing greater security, in particular in Baghdad, by going after all sources of violence, including insurgents and militias, Johndroe said. Bush reiterated his support for al-Maliki and said he was encouraged by the meetings he had recently with Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, and with the leader of the largest Shiite bloc in Iraq's parliament, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim.
In assessing the state of the war in Iraq, Bush has been meeting this week with top generals and other advisers. The military options being considered include an increased effort to train and equip Iraqi forces.
Meanwhile, the commander of U.S. forces in the strife-ridden Iraqi province of Diyala said Friday that tribal leaders and some political groups in the province are turning to terrorists and insurgents for protection rather than trust Iraqi soldiers and police.
"This sort of unity only worsens the sectarian divide and encourages further violence," said Col. David Sutherland, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. He spoke to reporters at the Pentagon by a satellite video connection from his headquarters near the city of Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad.
"Public perceptions of corruption, inequity and fear are the driving force behind support to terrorist organizations," Sutherland added. "These are not new problems in Iraq but problems that developed out of a desire for personal and financial gain."
Sutherland said he is trying to turn that around by putting Iraqi police through more rigorous training, placing more U.S. advisers in the Iraqi army and police units and through Iraqi efforts to recruit a police and army force that better reflects the sectarian makeup of Diyala, which is about 55 percent Sunni, 30 percent Shiite and 15 percent Kurd.
Currently, the Iraqi security forces in Diyala are predominantly Shiite, he said.
Sutherland said he is working out arrangements to expand the use of U.S. adviser teams with Iraqi security forces, reflecting the view of senior U.S. commanders that such an expansion can speed the development of competent Iraqi forces.
The Army is considering ways it can speed up the creation of two additional combat brigades — a move intended to expand the pool of active-duty combat brigades in order to relieve some of the strain on the Army from large-scale deployments to Iraq.
Under the plan being developed, the new brigades could be formed next year and be ready to be sent to Iraq in 2008, defense officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans were not final.
The Army's chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, told a commission Thursday that he wants to increase the half-million-member force beyond the 30,000 troops authorized in recent years. And he warned that the Army "will break" without thousands more active duty troops and greater use of the reserves.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 12/15/2006 09:49:00 PM