On December 30th 2006, fallen dictator Saddam Hussein was hanged at dawn, a dramatic end for a leader who ruled Iraq by fear for three decades before a U.S. invasion toppled him. He was then convicted of crimes against humanity.
As day broke on one of the holiest days of the Muslim year and the call to prayer echoed out from minarets across a dark and bitterly cold Baghdad, officially-backed television channels flashed the news shortly after 6 am. (0300 GMT).
“It happened before my eyes,” one Iraqi official said.
“He has been executed,” said a senior U.S. official in Washington.
Saddam Hussein’s profile
Born to a poor farming family near Tikrit, a town north of Baghdad, Hussein was raised by his widowed mother and other relatives. He moved to Baghdad in 1955 and became involved in politics, joining the opposition Baath Party, an Arab nationalist movement. Hussein rose quickly within the party and in 1959 helped organise an assassination attempt on Abdul Karim Kassem, the military president of Iraq. Both Kassem and Hussein were injured in the gun battle, and Hussein fled to Cairo.
Hussein studied law in Cairo while continuing party-affiliated activities. He returned to Baghdad in 1963, married, and rose to the post of assistant secretary general of the Baath Party. The party remained in opposition to the government until 1968, when it seized power in a coup. Years of underground work gave Hussein a small core of like-minded friends, many related to him by blood or marriage and most from Tikrit. After the coup, this clique established itself as a Revolutionary Command Council with absolute authority in the country. Hussein became vice chairman of the council in 1969. He worked closely with General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, the council’s chairman and president of Iraq.
Hussein took a leading role in addressing the country’s major domestic problems. He negotiated an agreement in 1970 with separatist Kurdish leaders, giving them autonomy. The agreement later broke down, leading to brutal fighting between the regime and Kurdish groups. He also played a part in the nationalization of the oil industry, Iraq’s major source of wealth. In 1973 oil prices skyrocketed, allowing the government to pursue an ambitious economic development program that included new schools, universities, hospitals, and factories.