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Former secretary to Saddam is executed in Iraq

Saddam Hussein's trusted personal secretary and bodyguard was executed by hanging yesterday, the Iraqi justice ministry said.

Abed Hamid Hmoud was the latest in a series of former senior regime officials who have been executed by Iraq's new rulers since the toppling of Saddam during a US-led invasion in 2003.

Hmoud was among 15 high-profile defendants who were tried for their role in the brutal crushing of a Shi'ite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

The last execution of a former regime official took place in January 2010 when Saddam's notorious cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali", was hanged.

Hmoud, a distant cousin of Saddam, was captured by US forces in June 2003, three months after the invasion.

At the time, he was fourth on the list of wanted regime officials. He was known as the "ace of diamonds" on the US deck of cards that ranked leaders of Saddam's government.

Hmoud, in his mid-50s, was sentenced to death in 2010 for persecuting members of the Shi'ite opposition and religious parties that were banned under Saddam, a court official said.

His body is to be handed over to his family later.

As Saddam's secretary, Hmoud controlled access to the Iraqi president and was one of the few people he was said to have trusted completely. Like Saddam, who was executed in 2006, Hmoud was from the northern Iraqi town of Tikrit.

Hamoud was the fifth former Saddam official to be executed in Iraq after the dictator. Others, including former prime minister Tareq Aziz and intelligence chief Sadoun Shakir, have been sentenced to death but are still being held in prison.

Executions of former Saddam officials have been sensitive in Iraq where sectarian tensions still run high after the last US forces left the country in December last year.

The Vatican has appealed to Iraq's Shi'ite-led government not to execute Mr Aziz, saying his death would not help reconciliation efforts.

Irish Independent