WASHINGTON – A grisly videotape showing acts of torture carried out by Iraqi Republican Guard and Saddam Fedayeen militiamen has been declassified and obtained by Fox News.
After the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in April, an Iraqi in Baghdad gave the tape to the U.S. Army's 308th Civil Affairs Brigade, V Corps. He told the soldiers he had more videos and was directly involved in their taping, having been ordered to do so by the Republican Guard.
The 23-minute long tape contains several scenes of Saddam Fedayeen (search) fighters carrying out corporal punishment and at least one execution, probably of a Saddam Fedayeen member.
• Video: Saddam's Men Torturing Iraqis
Sources told Fox News that the man who handed over the current tape is cooperating with U.S. troops and will provide more tapes.
The punishments include fingers being chopped or shot off, tips of tongues being cut off, wrists being broken by sharp blows from a wooden rod, lashes by whip or cane, a bound man being tossed off a building, a beheading involving a sword and a knife and a man being humiliated by riding a donkey backwards.
Several scenes show charges being read out, ranging from disobeying an order to desertion, before punishments are inflicted.
"When you have people filming in front of crowds cheering and clapping -- you have people cutting off people's tongues and heads and chopping off their fingers and hands throwing them off three-story buildings -- you learn something about a group of people and how they lived their lives and treated their people and we are so fortunate that they are gone and those 23 million people are liberated," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters during a Pentagon briefing Thursday.
The filming locations appear to be public squares and military installations. In attendance are dozens of black-clad Fedayeen, uniformed Republican Guard (search) members, civilians and children.
The U.S. military thinks the tape was most likely recorded at a military installation near Baghdad sometime between 1998 and the fall of the regime, but could have been made as early as 1995.
Tom Malinowski, a director of Human Rights Watch (search), a New York-based advocacy group, said the tape provided a clear picture of how the former government instilled fear in the Iraqi people.
"It reminds us that Saddam's regime took sadistic pleasure in documenting the horrors it perpetrated on the Iraqi people," Malinowski said. "In fact, they wanted people to know this, because the purpose of this treatment was to terrorize the population so no one would even think of opposing Saddam."
The tape quality is poor; there is no audio in some parts and very faint sound in others.
Military intelligence sources told Fox News they believed the tape was authentic, adding that it was by far the most graphic example of the fallen regime's torture practices.
Similar tapes have been found in Iraqi prisons, military facilities and even the private video collections of Uday and Qusay, Saddam's sons, who were killed by U.S. forces in a dramatic July shootout. Copies of several tapes have become brisk sellers in Baghdad marketplaces.
Pentagon officials have been pushing to get the recovered tapes declassified, a process now starting to happen. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has requested they be released to the public.
Speaking to local television stations around the United States Wednesday, Wolfowitz suggested former regime members had become the "dead-enders" attacking U.S. and coalition troops and cooperating Iraqis since the end of major combat.
"Thousands of vicious sadists who are left over from the old regime ... think that if they terrorize Iraqis and scare away Americans, that they can bring back Saddam Hussein and his evil dictatorship," Wolfowitz said. "Small numbers of a few thousand can make a great deal of trouble until they're cleaned up."
The Saddam Fedayeen militia — the name translates as "Saddam's men of sacrifice" — was created by Uday in 1995 but later turned over to Qusay.
The Fedayeen had a total strength reportedly between 18,000 and 40,000 troops, according to GlobalSecurity.org, and was composed of young soldiers recruited from regions loyal to Saddam.
It reported directly to the Presidential Palace, rather than through the army command, was responsible for patrol and anti-smuggling duties and operated completely above and outside political and legal structures.
Though at times improperly termed an "elite" unit, the Fedayeen was a politically reliable force that could be counted on to support Saddam against domestic opponents, according to GlobalSecurity.org.
It started out as a rag-tag force of some 10,000-15,000 "bullies and country bumpkins" but later helped protect Saddam and Uday and carried out much of the regime's dirty work. A special "death squadron" was created to carry out secret executions.
Fox News' Bret Baier and Ian McCaleb contributed to this report.