Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and another former aide to the executed Iraqi president stood side by side on the scaffold today, in official film of their hanging shown to journalists by the Iraqi Government.
Moments later, as the trapdoors swung open, they dropped and the rope severed the hooded head of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam’s younger half-brother and former intelligence chief.
Government officials said they had decided not to distribute any part of the film to the public – unlike footage it showed of Saddam standing on the gallows.
The decision to give a screening for a number of Iraqi and foreign journalists may have been intended to defuse speculation among Saddam’s resentful Sunni Arab minority that the beheading was a deliberate mutilation of the body by officials of the Shiite-led Government.
The taunting of Saddam by Shiite observers at his hanging on December 30 – revealed in illicit mobile phone video on the internet – had already raised sectarian tensions in a nation on the brink of civil war.
As soon as the government spokesman, announcing the executions, revealed what he called the “rare” mishap of the decapitation, some Sunni leaders voiced suspicions that officials had mutilated the body of Barzan, a hate figure for millions of Shiites.