Baghdad, Jan. 2 (Reuters): Thousands of Sunnis vented their anger today over Saddam Hussein’s execution as the Iraqi government promised an investigation into illicitly filmed footage of Shia officials taunting him on the gallows.
A court official said he nearly halted the hanging over the jeering, which has inflamed sectarian passions in a nation already on the brink of civil war. Data showed civilian deaths hit a new record in December and were over 12,000 in 2006.
He also challenged government claims those who filmed the event were guards, saying they were senior officials.
In the video, widely seen on the Internet, observers chant the name of Shia cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr as Saddam stands on the scaffold.
But the government adviser who announced the investigations yesterday into the taunts and filming, accused the opposition of using them to deflect attention from Saddam’s crimes: “This is an artificial uproar,” Sami al-Askari told state television.
As President George W. Bush prepares a new strategy for a war in which the 3,000th soldier died at the weekend, interior ministry data showed at least 1,930 civilians died in political violence in December, almost certainly an underestimate. Another 45 bodies were found around Baghdad today, police said.