Iraq Braces for Bloodshed as Saddam Verdict Looms

Iraqi policemen frisk pedestrians at a checkpoint in central Baghdad, Nov. 4, 2006 (AFP Photo)

Iraq braced itself Saturday for a violent backlash from Saddam Hussein's remaining supporters if, as expected, the ousted leader is sentenced to death in his trial for crimes against humanity.

National Security Advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie said a curfew would be in force on Sunday in Baghdad and the flashpoint provinces of Diyala and Salaheddin, which contains the deposed dictator's hometown of Tikrit, on the verdict day.

State television said all pedestrian and road traffic would be banned indefinitely from 6:00 am (0300 GMT) Sunday and the international airport shut, before the televised trial hearing begins.

A car bomb exploded in the Sadr City suburb of mainly Shiite east Baghdad, a security official said, as violence in and around the Iraqi capital killed at least eight people in a series of gun and bomb attacks Saturday.

Five members of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's security detail were killed in a roadside bomb attack Friday in northern Iraq, a source from his party said. Talabani was out of the country and in no personal danger.

Saddam and seven former regime officials face a verdict on Sunday in their trial for ordering the killing of 148 Shiites in the early 1980s in the village of Dujail, where the deposed president escaped an assassination bid in 1982.

It is feared that the verdict, in which Saddam faces a possible death penalty, could trigger widespread violence in already war-torn Iraq between remaining supporters of the former president and his many enemies.

In addition to the curfew, more "security measures are under consideration", Rubaie told reporters on Friday.

Iraq has also cancelled all military leave and put its armed forces on alert to prevent violence before or after Sunday's ruling by the Iraqi High Tribunal.

Source: AFP

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