BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Faced with growing public discontent over soaring food prices, President Saddam Hussein was reported yesterday to have started executing merchants as part of a stepped-up drive against speculators and profiteers.
Foreign diplomats here say normally reliable Iraqis have reported that seven merchants were hanged in the capital Sunday after about 600 had been arrested.
Some of the arrested merchants were reported to have been displayed in public in various parts of the city Sunday while passersby were invited to spit at and insult them. No official confirmation of these reports was available.
But President Hussein appeared to allude to the executions Sunday in a public address denouncing profiteering merchants when he said "the law takes action over the necks of those who do not deserve to live."