BAGHDAD, Iraq - Three years after he was hauled from a hole in the ground by pursuing U.S. forces, Saddam Hussein was hanged Saturday under a sentence imposed by an Iraqi court, an Iraqi official told NBC News.
The deposed president was found guilty over the killing of 148 members of the Shiite population of the town of Dujail after militants tried to assassinate him there in 1982, during Iraq’s war with Shiite Iran.
Asked if Saddam were dead, the official in the Iraqi prime minister's office said, “Yes, the body of Saddam Hussein is in front of me.”
"Criminal Saddam was hanged to death," state-run Iraqiya television said. The station played patriotic music and showed images of national monuments and other landmarks.
Witnesses to the execution told NBC News’ Richard Engel that they were cheering around the body of Saddam after the execution.
NBC could hear cheers and celebrations in the background while talking to an official in the prime minister’s office.
“This son of a bitch is lying under my feet.… I can't talk now because of all the cheers!" a witness said.
NBC News reported that gunfire, presumably celebratory, could be heard in Baghdad after the executions.