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Saddam's trial set for October 19

Charges relate to 1982 executions

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Imprisoned former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein will stand trial beginning Oct. 19, a spokesman for the Iraqi government confirmed Sunday.

"We want this trial to be transparent and a national event," spokesman Leith Kubba said.

Along with others, Saddam is charged in connection with a series of 1982 detentions and executions following an assassination attempt against him.

On July 8, 1982, a convoy carrying Saddam traveled through the town of Dujayl, a Shia village north of Baghdad, and was attacked by a small band of residents. A series of detentions and executions in the town followed the incident.

According to Iraq's special tribunal, which filed the first charges against Saddam in July, 15 people were summarily executed and some 1,500 others spent years in prison with no charges and no trial date. Ultimately, another 143 were put on "show trials" and executed, according to the tribunal.

Saddam has been in custody since December 2003, when he was captured by U.S. troops.

The trial will be held after the Oct. 15 referendum, in which Iraqis will vote on a draft of the country's constitution, Kubba said.

The 1982 charges are the first of several Saddam is expected to face.

He appeared last year before an Iraqi tribunal to hear a list of preliminary charges against him, including the 1990 invasion of Kuwait; the 1986-88 Anfal campaign against the Kurdish minority in northern Iraq; the 1988 chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja during that campaign; and the suppression of the 1991 revolts by Iraq's Kurdish and Shia populations.

Soldiers, police killed

On Saturday, 16 Iraqi security forces died in three separate incidents in Diyala province north of Baghdad, police told CNN earlier.

Also, the U.S. military reported Friday that three more American soldiers were killed this week, two by a roadside bomb and one by small arms fire. That brought the number of U.S. troop deaths in the Iraq war to 1,885.

Of the 16 Iraqis killed Saturday, seven police officers and two soldiers died when insurgents with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades attacked a joint army and police checkpoint near Buhriz, near Baquba. Two police officers were wounded in the incident.

Four Iraqi soldiers were killed when gunmen attacked their checkpoint with small arms fire on a road between Khalis and Adhaim.

Five police officers were killed by gunmen who opened fire at a police checkpoint in Baquba. It happened on a bridge in in the al-Mu'alimin neighborhood in the center of the city and the gunmen fled.

Mourning stampede victims

Meanwhile, the nation was in its third day of mourning the 965 Muslim pilgrims who drowned or were trampled to death Wednesday in a stampede during a religious procession.

More than 800 others were injured in the crush on a bridge in northern Baghdad.

Weeping families and friends held funeral processions on the streets of Baghdad as well as in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, and at last report, relatives are still arriving at hospitals to identify the dead.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari visited the hospital where many of the victims were taken.

The government announced that relatives of victims would be paid compensation of about $2,000 for every person lost.

The chaos began when rumors of an imminent suicide bombing spread through the more than 1 million people gathering at a Shiite shrine in the capital.

Authorities said they believe such talk created panic on the al-A'imma bridge over the Tigris River. During the commotion, a railing gave way, and people fell to the river below. (See video of the bridge jammed with people after the panic.)

Three hours earlier, an insurgent mortar attack near the same Kadhimiya mosque killed seven people and wounded 36 others.

Government officials are investigating that attack and the stampede. They said they also want to explore the extent of any "technical defects" on the bridge.

"This will leave a scar in our souls and will be remembered with those who died in the result of terror acts," President Jalal Talabani said.

The scale of the tragedy shocked the nation, prompting comparisons to stampedes at other religious events, such as those in Mecca during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday's ceremony is one that annually attracts millions of Shiite pilgrims to Baghdad.

The Shiite faithful converge on the Kadhimiya mosque to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Moussa al-Khadhem, a prominent figure in Shiite history buried there.

Security had been tight at the bridge, with barricades and searches adding to the congestion.

The bridge across the Tigris leads to the shrine and is an important juncture in Baghdad -- separating Kadhimiya from Adhamiya, a longtime insurgent stronghold with a strong Sunni Arab presence.

CNN's Enes Dulami, Cal Perry, Kianne Sadeq and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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