Saddam Hussein’s notorious henchman, “Chemical Ali”, was executed on Monday, an Iraqi government spokesperson said, a sentence carried out about a week after he received a fourth death sentence.
“The condemned, Ali Hassan al-Majid, has been executed by hanging until death today [Monday],” said spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh in a statement.
On January 17, al-Majid was sentenced to death for ordering the gassing of Kurds in the north-eastern town of Halabja — one of the worst atrocities of late dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime — that killed an estimated 5 000 people.
Three-quarters of the victims at Halabja were women and children, in what is thought to be the deadliest ever gas attack carried out against civilians.
The conviction for the gas attack that came as the Iran-Iraq war drew to a close in 1988 was the fourth time that Majid, better known by his macabre nickname, has received a death sentence.
Handing down the ruling, Judge Abud Mustapha al-Hamani branded Majid’s offences as “deliberate murder, a crime against humanity”.
“Al hamdulillah, Al hamdulillah [praise be to God],” said a stone-faced al-Majid, in a hearing broadcast on television.
Al-Majid’s execution had previously been held up by legal wrangling. The first execution was due to have been carried out by October 2007 but delayed so as not to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
A close cousin of Saddam, al-Majid earned his moniker for ordering poisonous gas attacks in a brutal scorched-earth campaign of bombings and mass deportations that killed an estimated 182 000 Kurds in the 1980s.
He had already been sentenced to hang for genocide over the Kurdish offensives when, in December 2008, he received a second death sentence for war crimes committed during the ill-fated 1991 Shi’ite uprising in southern Iraq.
Last March, the Iraqi High Tribunal handed down a third death sentence over the 1999 murders of dozens of Shi’ites in the Sadr City district of Baghdad and in the central shrine city of Najaf.
Al-Majid was the King of Spades in the pack of cards of most wanted Iraqis issued by the US military in 2003 and was arrested in August of that year.
However, he is probably best known for the Halabja attack when, in March 1988, Iraqi jets swooped over the small town and for five hours sprayed it with a deadly cocktail of mustard gas and the nerve agents Tabun, Sarin and VX.
Considered Saddam’s right-hand man and bearing a strong resemblance to the former dictator, he was a member of the decision-making Revolutionary Command Council and regularly called upon to wipe out rebellion.
In March 1987, the ruling Ba’ath party put him in charge of state agencies in the Kurdish area, including the police, army and militias.
As Iraq’s eight-year war with Iran drew to a close the following year, fighters from the rebel Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, with backing from Tehran, took over the farming community of Halabja, near the border.
As Saddam’s enforcer, he ordered the gas attack to crush the uprising. Al-Majid said he took action against the Kurds, who had sided with Iraq’s enemy in the war, for the sake of Iraqi security and has refused to express remorse. — AFP