BAGHDAD, Iraq - Preparations are under way to hang two of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants on Thursday but the details still have to be worked out with the American military, an Iraqi government official said Wednesday.
Saddam's half brother Barzan Ibrahim, a former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, were originally scheduled to hang with Saddam, who was put to death on Saturday.
But their execution was delayed until after Islam's Eid al-Adha holiday, which ends Wednesday for Iraq's majority Shiites.
Al-Arabiya satellite television and Al-Furat TV, run by Iraq's major Shiite Muslim political organization, both reported Wednesday that Ibrahim and al-Bandar would go to the gallows on Thursday.
Asked about the reports, a government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, told The Associated Press that a Thursday execution was the plan.
However he said final arrangements still needed to be made with U.S. officials about the time and place because the American military was expected to transport the two men from prison to the execution site.
Saddam was hanged in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Kazamiyah. During his regime, Saddam had numerous dissidents and opponents executed in the facility, located in a neighborhood that is home to the Iraqi capital's most important Shiite shrine - the Imam Kazim shrine.
The former Iraqi leader and the two co-defendants were convicted and sentenced to hang on Nov. 5 and the verdict was upheld by the appellate court on Dec. 26.
The three men were sentenced to death for the killing of 148 Shiite Muslims from the town of Dujail after a failed 1982 assassination against Saddam in the northern city.
Also Wednesday, an Iraqi prosecutor who attended Saddam's execution denied a report that he had accused the country's national security adviser of possible responsibility for the leaked video of the former dictator being hanged.
Within the country, Saddam's execution and the way it was conducted have provoked anger among Sunni Muslims, who have taken to the streets in mainly peaceful demonstrations across the country.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki on Tuesday ordered his Interior Ministry to investigate the video - who took it and how it reached television and Web sites for public viewing.
The photos showed an ugly scene in Saddam's last moments of life, with taunts and cries of "go to hell" called out before he dropped through the gallows floor and swung dead at the end of a rope.
The official video of the hanging, which never showed Saddam's actual death, was muted and gave the impression of a dignified execution.
The New York Times on Wednesday reported that Munqith al-Faroon, a prosecutor in the Dujail case, told the newspaper "one of two men he had seen holding a cell phone camera aloft to make a video of Mr. Hussein's last moments up to and past the point where he fell through the trapdoor was Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Mr. Maliki's national security adviser."
The Times said it had been unable to reach al-Rubaie for comment. AP also could not reach him Wednesday. His secretary said the security adviser, a close aide to al-Maliki, was in Najaf and would not return until later.
Al-Faroon told the AP Wednesday that there were 14 Iraqi officials, including himself and another prosecutor, as well as three hangmen present at the execution. All the officials, he said, were flown by U.S. helicopter to the execution site.
The prosecutor said he believed all cell phones had been confiscated before the flight and that some of the officials' bodyguards, who arrived by car, had smuggled the camera phones two officials he had seen taking the video pictures.
"I am not accusing Mowaffak al-Rubaie (the national security adviser), and I did not see him taking pictures," al-Faroon told the AP.
"But I saw two of the government officials who were...present during the execution taking all the video of the execution, using the lights that were there for the official taping of the execution. They used mobile phone cameras. I do not know their names, but I would remember their faces," al-Faroon said in a telephone interview.
The prosecutor said the two officials were openly taking video pictures, which are believed to be those which appeared on Al-Jazeera satellite television and a Web site within hours of Saddam's death.
Some of the last words Saddam heard, according to the leaked cell phone video, where a chant of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada," a reference to Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical anti-American Shiite cleric, whose Mahdi Army militia is believed responsible for many of this year's wave of killings that have targeted Sunnis and driven many from their homes.
Al-Sadr's father was killed by Saddam. The militant cleric is a key al-Maliki backer.
Also Wednesday, U.S. troops detained 23 people suspected of having ties to senior al-Qaida leaders in raids in western Iraq, the military said. The raids took place in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's volatile western Anbar province.
During the raids, three of the suspects detonated an improvised explosive device, then ran into a house. American troops shot one of the suspects, wounding him as he tried to flee, the military said in a statement.