Vietnam carried out its second major execution of the year on Tuesday before hundreds of people, in a grim demonstration of state resolve to punish abuses of power and drugs trafficking.

Vu Xuan Truong, a former police captain with the country's powerful Interior Ministry, and six accomplices - including a woman - were shot dead shortly before daybreak at an execution site on the outskirts of the capital Hanoi.In a rare concession, the authorities had bowed to a request by Truong on Monday that the killings be carried out before first light.

Prison sources and other witnesses said the seven were awakened in their cells at around 2:30 a.m. local time.

As they were taken to be formally notified that they were to be executed, Truong shouted to his wife, held in a neighboring prison compound: "My love. I am going there."

After writing final letters to their families, they were taken to the execution field where a large crowd had gathered to witness their deaths.

They were then lined up, blind-folded, tied tightly to wooden stakes and shot dead by a 35-man firing squad - five men for each of the condemned.

Tuesday's executions bring a close to the latest chapter in a drugs scandal that has exposed the involvement of senior police officers and border officials in a crime syndicate said to have flooded Vietnam with hundreds of kilos of heroin.

The affair came to light after a convicted Laotian trafficker broke down shortly before he was to be executed in 1996 and offered to exchange information in return for his life being spared.