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'Chemical Ali' Executed In Iraq

PTI 25 Jan 2010, 20:48:29 PM IST
PTI

Saddam Hussein's notorious henchman "Chemical Ali" was executed on Monday, an Iraqi government spokesman said, a sentence carried out  around a week after he received a fourth death sentence. "The condemned Ali Hassan al-Majid has been executed by hanging until death today," said spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh in a statement. 

Ali Hassan al-Majid, hanged on Monday after being convicted of the brutal Halabja chemical attack that killed around 5,000 Kurds, was executed dictator Saddam Hussein's most notorious henchman. 

The execution of the man better known by the macabre nickname "Chemical Ali" came just a week after he was sentenced to death on January 17 over the Halabja massacres -- the fourth death sentence against him handed down by Iraqi courts. Majid had been found guilty of the attack in the northeastern Kurdish town of Halabja as the Iran-Iraq war drew to a close in 1988. 

A close cousin of Saddam, Majid earned his moniker for ordering poisonous gas attacks in a brutal scorched-earth campaign of bombings and mass deportations that killed an estimated 182,000 Kurds in the 1980s. 

He had already been condemned to hang for genocide over the Kurdish offensives when he received a second death sentence in December 2008 for war crimes committed during the ill-fated 1991 Shiite uprising in southern Iraq. 

And in March last year, the Iraqi High Tribunal handed down a third death sentence over the the 1999 murders of dozens of Shiites in the Sadr City district of Baghdad and in the central shrine city of Najaf. Majid had also been accused of displacing and killing about 2,000 clansmen of Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani. 

Like Saddam, Majid hailed from the northern town of Tikrit, where he was born in 1941, according to court documents, although he told a tribunal last year that he was born in 1944. 

Majid was the "King of Spades" in the pack of cards of "most wanted Iraqis" issued by the US military at the time of the 2003 invasion that culminated in Saddam's ouster. Majid was arrested in August that year. 

Considered Saddam's right-hand man, and bearing a strong resemblance to the former dictator, he was a member of the decision-making Revolutionary Command Council and regularly called upon to crush rebellion. 

The henchman was most infamous for his role in northern Iraq. In March 1987, the ruling Baath party put him in charge of state agencies in the Kurdish area, including the police, army and militias. 

As Iraq's eight-year war with Iran was drawing to a close, fighters from the rebel Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, with backing from Tehran, took over the farming community of Halabja near the border. In March 1988, Iraqi swooped over Halabja, and for five hours they sprayed it with a deadly cocktail of mustard gas and the nerve agents Tabun, Sarin and VX. 

An estimated 75 percent of those killed were women and children, in what is now believed to have been the worst gas attack ever carried out against civilians. 

New York-based Human Rights Watch has said Majid was responsible for the deaths or disappearances of around 100,000 non-combatant Kurds when he put down the revolt across the Kurdish region. But Majid said he ordered the attacks against the Kurds, who had sided with Iran in the war, for the sake of Iraqi security. He refused to express remorse for the killings. 

Majid was condemned in June 2007 to hang for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes over the so-called Anfal campaign against Kurds. 

After Iraqi troops swept into Kuwait in August 1990, Majid was named governor of the occupied emirate, which the regime considered Iraq's 19th province. As in the north, he swiftly and viciously annihilated resistance. 

Tens of thousands of people died when Saddam's forces, driven out of Kuwait by a US-led coalition after their 1990 invasion, put down the Shiite uprising in a bloodbath that saw heavy shelling of southern Iraqi towns. 

In the 1999 case, Majid was convicted of crimes against humanity after troops were ordered into Shiite areas to stop protests after the assassination of revered Shiite cleric Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, after whom Sadr City is now named. 

Amid gathering war clouds in January 2003, Ali left the country for the first time since 1988, visiting Syria and Lebanon in a bid to whip up regional support for Iraq. 

He was thought to have been killed by coalition bombing of his villa in the southern city of Basra in 2003, but US officials were later forced to admit that he was still alive. AFP