Saddam supporters intent on revenge

Security forces were on alert on Sunday in the Sunni regions of Iraq, from which Saddam Hussein had drawn his most fervent support, as loyalists of the ousted dictator marked the first anniversary of his execution.

Security forces were on alert on Sunday in the Sunni regions of Iraq, from which Saddam Hussein had drawn his most fervent support, as loyalists of the ousted dictator marked the first anniversary of his execution.

Police and troops were patrolling the village of Awja, Saddam's birthplace and where he now lies buried, and in the nearby city of Tikrit in central Iraq, an AFP reporter said.

In Tikrit, where security personnel were ready to monitor any pro-Saddam gatherings, fresh slogans were painted on walls in support of the former president and Sunni leader, who was hanged for crimes against humanity.

"We will take revenge for Saddam Hussein," read one of the slogans.

Iraqi security officials said they were ready to deal with any civil unrest in the heartland areas of Sunni Iraq, north and west of Baghdad.

In northern Baghdad's strongly Sunni district of Adhamiyah, posters of Saddam were pasted on to walls to mark one year's anniversary since his execution for the killing of about 140 Shiites from the village of Dujail after an attempt on his life there in 1982.

Saddam was hanged at the age of 69 in Baghdad just minutes before the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha began on December 30 last year.

Sunni Muslims celebrated Eid al-Adha this year on December 19, when dozens of Saddam's supporters gathered in Awja at his grave to pay their respects.

During the final minutes of his life, Saddam's executioners taunted him in scenes at the gallows captured on a cellphone camera, triggering outrage throughout the world and embarrassing Iraq's Shiite-led government.

Even US President George Bush, who hailed Saddam's capture in December 2003 after the March US-led invasion toppled his regime, sharply criticised the manner of his execution.

The hanging further deepened the rift between Sunnis and Shiites that was inflamed by the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine by suspected al-Qaeda militants in February last year.

Saddam lies buried near the graves of his sons Uday and Qusay, who were key figures in his regime and were killed in a gun battle with US forces in July 2003. - Sapa

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