Saddam Hussein's personal secretary executed, according to Iraqi official

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Saddam Hussein's trusted personal secretary, once No. 4 on the U.S. most-wanted list in Iraq, was executed by hanging on Thursday, the Iraqi Justice Ministry said.

Abed Hamid Hmoud was the latest in a series of former senior regime officials who have been executed by Iraq's new rulers since the toppling of Saddam during a U.S.-led invasion nine years ago. His body was to be handed over to his family later Thursday, officials said.

Hmoud, a distant cousin of Saddam, was captured by U.S. forces in June 2003, three months after the invasion. At the time, he was No. 4 on the list of wanted regime officials, after only Saddam and sons Qusai and Odai. He was known as the ace of diamonds on the U.S. deck of cards that ranked leaders of Saddam's government.

Hmoud, in his mid-50s, was executed for persecuting members of the Shiite opposition and religious parties that were banned under Saddam, a court official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case with the media. Hmoud had also been among 15 high-profile defendants tried for their role in the brutal crushing of a Shiite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

As Saddam's presidential secretary, Hmoud controlled access to the Iraqi president and was one of the few people he is said to have trusted completely, U.S. officials said in 2003. Like Saddam, who was executed in 2006, Hmoud was from the northern Iraqi town of Tikrit.

The last previous execution of a former regime official took place in January 2010 when Saddam's notorious cousin, known as "Chemical Ali," was put to death by hanging. Saddam's long-term foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, was sentenced to death in 2010 and awaits execution.