BAGHDAD -- He led Iraq for nearly a quarter of a century -- but was forced from power and sent into hiding in his second military confrontation with the United States. Early Saturday, Saddam Hussein was executed.
Even as he tried until the end to rally resistance to the US and its partners, Saddam lost his two sons in a firefight with US soldiers. Besides Odai and Qusai, there were few people he had trusted.
Saddam was from a peasant clan in the town of Tikrit, about 75 miles north of Baghdad. He helped engineer the coup that brought his party to power in 1968 -- and quickly became the thug behind the new leader -- General Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, as the government started purging its opponents.
By 1979, it was clear Saddam himself was in charge. He used his country's oil money to make social, educational and economic reforms. Iraq's literacy rate rose dramatically.
But he was also known for his paranoia -- and his ruthlessness. Soon after taking power, he ordered 22 high officials executed, and he took part in their firing squad. He later had the husbands of two of his daughters killed.
In 1980, Saddam invaded his country's rival, Iran. He thought there'd be a quick victory -- but the eight-year war ended with hundreds of thousands dead on both sides.
He invaded tiny neighbor Kuwait in 1991 -- but was driven out by the US and its allies after a month of aerial bombardment and 100 hours of ground fighting.
After that war, UN sanctions were supposed to stay in place until Iraq gave up all of its chemical, nuclear and biological weapons programs. More than a decade later, US officials insisted he had not yet done so -- and the war that would remove him from power began.