It is Muslim practice to bury the dead within the day. Saddam's sons, Uday and Qusay, are buried in Awja.

 

An adviser to Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Shia prime minister, had earlier said the government wanted Saddam, 69, to be buried in a secret location in Iraq to prevent the site becoming a place of pilgrimage for rebels.
 
Taunts
 

A new video emerged showing Saddam exchanging taunts with onlookers before the gallows floor dropped away and he was hanged.

 

By several accounts, Saddam was calm but scornful of his captors, engaging in a give-and-take with the crowd gathered to watch him die and insisting he was Iraq's saviour, not its tyrant and scourge.

 

Munir Haddad, an appeals court judge who witnessed the hanging, told the BBC: "He said we are going to heaven and our enemies will rot in hell and he also called for forgiveness and love among Iraqis but also stressed that the Iraqis should fight the Americans and the Persians."

 

Saddam exchanged jibes with those
at his execution [AFP] 
Another witness, national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, told The New York Times that one of the guards shouted at Saddam: "You have destroyed us. You have killed us. You have made us live in destitution."

 

al-Rubaie told the newspaper that Saddam responded: "I have saved you from destitution and misery and destroyed your enemies, the Persians and Americans."

 

"God damn you," the guard said.

 

"God damn you," said Saddam.

 

New video, first broadcast by Al Jazeera early on Sunday, had sound of someone in the group praising Muhammad Bakr al-Sadr, the founder of the Shia Dawa party and an uncle of Muqtada al-Sadr, who was executed in 1980 along with his sister by Saddam.

 

Saddam appeared to smile at those taunting him from below the gallows. He said they were not showing manhood.

 

Then Saddam began reciting the Shahada, a Muslim prayer that says there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger, according to an unabridged copy of the same tape, apparently shot with a camera phone and posted on a website.

 

Saddam made it to midway through his second recitation of the verse. His last word was Muhammad.

 

The floor dropped out of the gallows.

 
Sectarian violence
 
The execution did little to help stem the sectarian violence tearing the country apart.
 
On Saturday, car bombs killed more than 70 people in Baghdad and near Najaf, in areas populated by Shia Muslims oppressed for decades under Saddam and now in the ascendant.
 
Al-Maliki, his fragile authority among fellow Shia significantly enhanced after he forced through Saddam's execution over Sunni and Kurdish hesitation, reached out to Saddam's Sunni followers.
 
"Saddam's execution puts an end to all the pathetic gambles on a return to dictatorship," he said in a statement as state television showed him signing the death warrant in red ink.
 
"I urge ... followers of the ousted regime to reconsider their stance as the door is still open to anyone who has no innocent blood on his hands to help in rebuilding ... Iraq."
 
Loss of influence
 
There is little prospect of peace from al-Qaeda's Sunni Islamists, but al-Maliki and George Bush, the US president, hope that more moderate Sunnis may choose negotiation over violence.
 
Unusually, the government did not even see a need for a curfew in Baghdad.
 
Protests in Saddam's home town and in the Sunni west were small.
 
Although resentful at a loss of influence, few Sunnis found much to mourn in Saddam's passing.
 
Many Kurds were disappointed that Saddam was not convicted of genocide against them in a trial yet to finish.
 
With violence killing hundreds every week, Iraqis have other worries. Celebrations in Shia cities and the Sadr City slum in Baghdad were brief and fairly restrained.
 
Mohammad Kadhem, a journalist in the Shia city of Basra, said: "It's a great joy that I can't even express. I can't believe what I'm seeing on television - Saddam led to the gallows where he hanged tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis."
 
Deadliest month
 
Meanwhile, the deaths of six soldiers pushed the US death toll to just two short of the 3,000 mark as December became the deadliest month for Americans in Iraq for more than two years. Bush has promised to unveil a new strategy in the new year.
 
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The United Nations, the Vatican and Washington's European allies all condemned the execution on moral grounds.
 
Many Muslims, especially Sunnis, making the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca were outraged by the symbolism of hanging Saddam on the holiest day of the year at the start of Eid al-Adha - some Shia also said his death was a suitable gift from God.
 
A witness in the Dujail trial said he was shown the body at al-Maliki's office: "When I saw the body in the coffin, I cried. I remembered my three brothers and my father whom he had killed."
 
After complaints of interference by Shia politicians in the trial, the speed of the execution may add to unease about the fairness of the US-sponsored process.
 
Saddam's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and former judge Awad al-Bander will be hanged for the same crimes in January.