Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ordered five elite officers executed in a move that may reflect internal dissent, diplomats said Sunday.
The diplomats described Saddam's action as the first confirmed report of executions of Iraqi officers since Hussein ordered the invasion of Kuwait.
They said this indicated growing internal opposition to Hussein's iron-fisted rule in the secretive state, but they cautioned that he still appears in full control.
"Information we have received gives us to understand that (Hussein) ordered the executions last week of at least five members of his presidential guard on suspicion they were plotting against him," a Western diplomat in the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain said in a telephone interview.
"This seems to tie in with the Kuwait Radio report," said the diplomat, who declined to name the killed men. Kuwait Radio, broadcasting to the occupied emirate from Saudi Arabia, had reported that officers had been executed.
Arab diplomatic sources in the Persian Gulf said the executions may have been meant as a warning against rebellion within junior army officer ranks.