In August of 1990, Saddam ordered the Iraqi military, the fourth largest military in the world at the time, to invade Kuwait, leading to the 1991 Gulf War. Iraqi soldiers are accused of torturing and executing hundreds of Kuwaitis, as well as taking hostages and looting. More than 700 oil wells were set on fire and pipelines opened, spilling oil into the Gulf.
After heeding President George H.W. Bush's call to rebel against Saddam, Shiites and Kurds were crushed by immense Iraqi military force. Saddam turned his military against the people as part of his widespread crackdown after the war. The rebels thought they would have the backing of the U.S. military. Thousands have been discovered in mass graves.
Ayatollah Muhammed al-Sadr, father of prominent Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and two of his sons were assassinated in 1999. Al-Sadr was a well-liked Shiite leader, and his death spawned Shiite uprisings in Baghdad. As he had previously, Saddam cracked down on the rebellion and hundreds were killed.
In a statement responding to the execution, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki said, "Let the families of Iraqi martyrs killed in mass graves, Anfal, Halabja or those executed in the cells of the dead regime be happy. The mothers, orphans and widows should celebrate the death of the buried dictator."