Trump praises former dictator Saddam Hussein for 'killing terrorists'
Speaking in North Carolina, Trump praised Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein - who was overthrown in the 2003 US-led invasion of the country - and said his downfall was counterproductive for the region.
"He was a bad guy - really bad guy. But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good," Trump told supporters in North Carolina.
"They didn't read them the rights. They didn't talk. They were terrorists. It was over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism," he said.
Since the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraq has descended into chaos as the country's Sunni minority - which Hussein belonged to - Shia majority, and Kurdish communities have engaged in a bloody civil war.
At least tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting, with millions made homeless.
Most of the violence has come from suicide bomb attacks on civilian areas, and abductions.
Shia militias and al-Qaeda militants have been responsible for most of the killing. The latter's success in harnessing the unhappiness of Iraq's disenfranchised Sunni minority led to the formation of the Islamic State group, which still occupies large parts of northern Iraq and recently launched a wave of bombings in the capital.
One set of attacks in Baghdad this week killed at least 250 Iraqis with IS claiming responsibility.
However, critics say Saddam Hussein's regime was also guilty of horrific human rights groups, and the dictator kept his hold over the country by unleashing a wave of terror against civilians during his time in power.
Trump's praise has led to anger among the US political establishement, many feeling it is insulting the families of the more than 4,500 US troops killed in the conflict.
"Tonight, Trump yet again lauded Saddam Hussein as a great killer of terrorists, noting with approval that he never bothered to read anyone their rights. In reality, Hussein's regime was a sponsor of terrorism," Clinton senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
"Trump's cavalier compliments for brutal dictators, and the twisted lessons he seems to have learned from their history, again demonstrate how dangerous he would be as commander-in-chief and how unworthy he is of the office he seeks."Last year, Trump said the world would be "100 percent" better off if Saddam Hussein and former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi were still in power, adding that "worse than they ever were" in Iraq and Libya.