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Iraq Transition

Bush wishes Hussein execution 'more dignified'

Story Highlights

NEW: President says hanging could have gone better
NEW: Bush says al-Maliki promised him a full investigation
47 bullet-riddled bodies found around Baghdad; car bombs go off
• Security contractor's father says kidnapped son "looks good" on video
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- President Bush said Thursday that he wished Saddam Hussein's execution had "gone in a more dignified way."

The remark was Bush's first on-camera response to the chaotic scene captured in a cell-phone recording of the former Iraqi dictator's hanging.

"But nevertheless, he was given justice," the president added during a news conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "The thousands of people he killed were not."

Bush said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had assured him during a two-hour conversation earlier in the day that the execution and its recording would be investigated. (Watch Hussein taunted on the gallows Video)

"One thing is for certain," Bush said. "A horrific chapter in Iraqi history has been closed."

Meanwhile Thursday, four decapitated bodies were among the 47 bullet-riddled corpses found around Baghdad as car bombs and mortar attacks killed 20 more people in and around the city.

Police said the four decapitated corpses were found in the Ghazaliya area of western Baghdad and that most of the 47 bodies showed signs of torture.

Separately, two cars packed with explosives and parked behind a gas station in western Baghdad exploded Thursday morning, killing at least 13 and wounding 22 more, authorities said.

The twin car bomb blasts occurred in quick succession shortly after 10 a.m. (2 a.m. ET) as civilians waited in line to buy heating fuel in the Mansour neighborhood of western Baghdad, according to police.

A third car bomb blast, also in Mansour, killed a civilian and wounded an Iraqi soldier when it was detonated by a suicide bomber near an Iraqi army convoy, according to an Interior Ministry official. (Watch a Baghdad teen talk about growing up in a war zone Video)

In addition to the bombs, a mortar attack northwest of Baghdad, in Saba al-Bour, killed one civilian and wounded six others, an interior ministry official told CNN.

Another mortar attack on the Shiite neighborhood of Amel in western Baghdad killed five civilians and wounded four, the official said.

The violence and Bush's remarks came amid criticism of the Iraqi government's handling of Hussein's execution Saturday morning.

A second security guard was detained for questioning Thursday, suspected of recording and distributing a cell phone video of Hussein's hanging, including taunts and heated exchanges between Hussein and others present, according to Sami al-Askari, an aide to the Iraqi prime minister. (Full story)

Al-Askari admitted to "mistakes that took place during the execution" but said individuals, not the government, were to blame. Hussein was a criminal who was executed after a fair trial, he said. (Watch how the Iraqi government is reacting to footage of Hussein's execution Video)

Two co-defendants, Barzan Hassan, Hussein's half-brother, and Awad Bandar, the former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court, also face execution by hanging. Like Hussein, they were found guilty in the 1982 massacre of 148 people in Dujail, Iraq.

On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon endorsed U.N. human rights chief Louise Arbour's appeal to the Iraqi government not to carry out the men's death sentences.

No date has been set for their execution, but it will take place after the Eid al-Adha holiday, which ends Sunday.

Contractor's father reacts to video

The father of an abducted security contractor said his family was heartened by a videotape of the kidnapped man.

Jonathan Cote was kidnapped along with four other American security contractors and an Austrian co-worker during an ambush in the southern Iraqi town of Safwan on November 16.

Representatives from the State Department and Cote's Kuwait-based employer, Crescent Security Group, had contacted the family Wednesday to provide more details about the videotape released to the media on the same day. (Details)

Both verified the date of the tape, which carried the date stamp of December 21.

"We felt very good because this is evidence of a recent tape," said Cote's father, Francis Cote. "Jonathan had a month's worth of beard, and looked good with no injuries. This is good news."

The family has not held any news conferences, for fear of jeopardizing negotiations.

In the video, which lasts nearly 1 minutes, each man makes a similar plea: that U.S. military forces leave Iraq. In places, the audio quality is poor and the sound garbled.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, Brian Vitagliano, Carol Brown and Octavia Nasr contributed to this report.

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