BAGHDAD - By the time the corpses of Saddam Hussein's half brother and another top aide who had been hanged arrived in the village of Auja for burial, the word had spread among the mourners: The head of Hussein's brother had been severed from his body.

Many of the people who had gathered considered the decapitation of Barzan Ibrahim - who along with Awad Hamed al-Bandar had been hanged before dawn yesterday - to be a calculated insult, another act by the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to humiliate followers of the executed former dictator and his fellow Sunni Arabs.

A doctor inspected the remains to assess the government's explanation that the noose had inadvertently taken off the Ibrahim's head after he dropped through the trap door of the scaffold.

"We knew that he would be executed