Sunday, March 06, 2005

War News for Sunday, March 6, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Armed group kidnaps foreigners working at army base near Mosul. Bring ‘em on: Kurdish official killed in Mosul. Bring ‘em on: A Shiite imam associated with the rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was shot and killed by gunmen on Friday night as he drove to a mosque in the Baghdad. Analysis Life on Haifa Street That incident appears to have prompted the crackdown that drove Jameel underground and resulted in the arrests of two others who he said had close ties to the Haifa Street insurgency. The first was Syed Hashim, an alleged cell leader who was picked up in a brothel in a neighboring district, said Col. Adnan Abdulrahman, an Iraqi police spokesman. The second was Sabah al Baldawi, who police say is an organized-crime boss accused of funneling money and weapons to Haifa Street fighters. Al Baldawi's attorney, who said his client was transferred recently from Iraqi to U.S. custody for interrogation, complained that the crackdown was overzealous and would only inflame a street that had been calming down. "The only thing my client has to do with Haifa Street is that he happens to live there," said the attorney, who asked that his name not be published for security reasons. Jameel admitted that the arrests were a setback, but said he hadn't given up the fight. "The Americans have been here two years now, and what did they do for us?" he asked. "Haifa Street was quiet before they came. We're quiet again for now, but we will continue to fight as long as the Americans stay. We are patient, and there's no escape for them." Freedom Fighter or Mercenary? On April 9, 2003, Mohammed Faik Raouf aimed his surface-to-air missile launcher at a US Apache helicopter and pulled the trigger. The weapon failed and the chopper was unharmed. The day marked the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime, but only a temporary end to Raouf's military career. Now he's back in action as a general in the new US-trained Iraqi army. Election News Iraq is expected to hold the first meeting of its newly elected National Assembly on March 16 and hopes to choose a government before then, the deputy prime minister said on Sunday. "The meeting will be on March 16 and we agreed to continue meetings (on a government) and hope to reach an agreement by then," Barham Salih told Reuters. "If we don't reach an agreement then the National Assembly will begin its work and discussions will continue inside the assembly." Iraqi politicians have been struggling to form a government following landmark elections for a national assembly on Jan. 30, which were narrowly won by a Shi'ite alliance. The wrangling over top government posts has delayed the first meeting of the National Assembly for five weeks so far. The Islamist Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance has named Ibrahim al-Jaafari as its candidate for prime minister but he needs the backing of a Kurdish coalition, which has emerged as potential kingmakers after finishing second in the elections. Unanswered questions How many people were wounded? The Americans said two civilians: Sgrena and an intelligence agent. Italian authorities said two agents were wounded besides Sgrena. Italian military officials declined to clear up the discrepancy and Berlusconi's office did not respond to a request for information. Were the Americans told by the Italians of Sgrena's imminent release or that she would be taken straight to the Baghdad airport? Italians will likely be expecting answers early next week when Italian authorities, including Berlusconi, are to brief parliament on the abduction, release and shooting. Was a ransom paid? An Iraqi lawmaker told Belgian state TV Saturday night that he had "nonofficial" information there was a $1 million payment. Speculation that ransom was paid and confusion about how hostages gained their freedom also surrounded the end of two other abductions of Italians last year. A key Italian lawmaker said in September he believed the Italian government paid $1 million for the release of two women aid workers who were held captive for three weeks, although Italy's foreign minister denied that. In the other case, the three security workers and the businessman were freed in a raid in June. Berlusconi described their liberators as "coalition forces" but Polish authorities said it was the Americans who carried out the operation. Terror Alerts Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens says more than 200 Al-Qaeda "terrorists" are operating in UK and the threat of attacks is real. He has backed proposed anti-terror laws, saying critics were naive about the "brutal" threat posed by fanatics. Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "While Sir John is right to highlight the serious threat that we face we believe that strong principles of justice will not undermine national security. "Of more concern are his comments that the current Belmarsh detainees pose a serious threat. "This conflicts with the home secretary's opinion that they will not need to be placed under house arrest when they leave Belmarsh. "These mixed messages are unhelpful in an already complicated situation." Silence is Golden Soldier who reported abuse was sent to Psychiatrist. An Army intelligence sergeant who accused fellow soldiers in Samarra, Iraq, of abusing detainees in 2003 was in turn accused by his commander of being delusional and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation in Germany, despite a military psychiatrist's initial judgment that the man was stable, according to internal Army records released yesterday. The soldier had angered his commander by urging the unit's redeployment from the military base to prevent what the soldier feared would be the death of one or more detainees under interrogation, according to the documents. He told his commander three members of the counterintelligence team had hit detainees, pulled their hair, tried to asphyxiate them and staged mock executions with pistols pointed at the detainees' heads.


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