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Hanging severs head

Baghdad, Jan. 15 (Agencies): In death, the Saddam clan is proving a public relations disaster for Iraq’s new masters.

Saddam Hussein’s half-brother died a grisly death in the gallows today, the noose ripping the head as a cancer-stricken Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti plunged through the trap door.

The macabre end triggered a wave of condemnation — as vocal as the outrage over taunts at Saddam minutes before he was hanged — from those opposed to the death penalty.

But the Iraqi government said it had stuck to regular hanging procedures. The US rushed to distance itself from the execution, saying: “It was an Iraqi process. It was an Iraqi decision, an Iraqi execution.”

Along with Barzan — the once-feared intelligence chief who ate grapes as he watched torture and reportedly kept a meat grinder for humans — a former judge, Awad Hamed al-Bander, was also executed this morning.

Officials showed journalists footage of the two men standing side by side in orange jumpsuits on the scaffold, looking fearful before they were hooded. Barzan, 55, appeared to tremble quietly.

As the bodies plunged through the traps, Barzan’s hooded head flew off and came to rest beside his body in a pool of blood below the empty noose. A government adviser said the damage to the body was “an act of God”.

Hangmen gauge the length of rope needed to snap the neck of the condemned but not to create enough force to sever the head. A Sunni Arab lawmaker said Barzan may have been weakened by the cancer he was suffering from.

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