Friday, November 25, 2005

Report #27 on the Era of Peace

Link to Original

From Mail & Guardian Online

Insurgents kill Iraqi Sunni leader and family

Chris Tomlinson | Baghdad, Iraq

November 23, 2005

Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms broke into the home of a senior Sunni leader on Wednesday and killed him, his three sons and his son-in-law on the outskirts of Baghdad, his brother and an interior ministry official said.

Khadim Sarhid al-Hemaiyem was the leader of the Sunni Batta tribe and the brother of a candidate in the December 15 election, Major Falah al-Mohammedawi said. One of the slain man's brothers said the family has been attacked before.

"A group of gunmen with Iraqi army uniforms and vehicles broke into my brother's house in the Hurriyah area and sprayed them with machine-gun fire, killing him along with three sons and his son-in-law," said his brother, Nima Sarhid Al-Hemaiyem. "His eldest son was assassinated one month ago in the Taji area, northern Baghdad, when unidentified men shot and killed him."

Al-Mohammedawi said government forces were not involved in the slaying and that the investigation was focused on insurgents.

"Surely, they are outlaw insurgents. As for the military uniform, they can be bought from many shops in Baghdad," he said. "Also, we have several police and army vehicles stolen and they can be used in the raids."

The Batta tribe is one of Iraq's largest Sunni tribes from the area north of Baghdad, where they are influential. Dozens of people went to al-Hemaiyem's home, where the bodies were laid out, wrapped in blankets before the funeral.

The slaying follows a big push by United States officials to encourage Sunni Muslim participation in the December 15 election, which will install the first non-transitional government in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

Some Sunni-led insurgent groups have declared a boycott of the election and have threatened politicians who choose to participate in it.

In the mostly Shi'ite neighbourhood of Sadr City in Baghdad, a group of gunmen blocked the road leading to the Communist Party's branch office on Tuesday afternoon just after the party began its election campaign, a statement said.

The unidentified men broke into the party building and killed two activists in the reception area, it added.

"This cowardly act coincides with our preparations for the upcoming election and it targets the political process," the party said. "The government should bear the responsibility of providing the necessary protection in order to ensure a safe atmosphere for the elections."

Anti-insurgent operation
US and Iraqi troops launched an operation in predominately Sunni western Iraq on Tuesday to prevent insurgents from stopping the vote in that city, a US military statement said.

The operation in Ramadi, 115km west of Baghdad, is the third in the city since November 16. The operations have resulted in 32 enemy killed, and the seizure and destruction of surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds, artillery rounds, hand grenades, small arms and bomb-making equipment, the statement said.

US marines also announced on Tuesday the end of a major operation to secure towns along the Syrian border used by al-Qaeda to smuggle foreign fighters into Iraq. Ten US marines and 139 insurgents were killed in "Operation Steel Curtain", which began on November 5 with about 2 500 US troops and 1 000 Iraqi soldiers, a military statement said.

US commanders plan to establish a long-term presence in the area to prevent al-Qaeda and its Iraqi allies from re-establishing themselves in the towns of Husaybah, Karabilah and Obeidi along the Euphrates River.

In a positive development, a senior government official said a representative of an unidentified insurgent group responded to an offer by President Jalal Talabani to talk with those willing to lay down their arms.

Presidential adviser Lieutenant General Wafiq al-Samaraei told Qatar's al-Jazeera television that he had received a call from someone "who claimed to be a senior official of the resistance".

"I informed him that I would welcome him in a meeting to hear from him, but this doesn't indicate our acceptance of their demands," he said.

Al-Samaraei, a former head of military intelligence under Saddam, did not identify the caller, and it was unclear whether the overture represented a breakthrough.

On Tuesday, a suicide bomber struck a busy commercial street in Kirkuk, leaving 22 dead and another 23 people wounded, after insurgents lured police to the scene by shooting an officer, officials said.

Half the dead were police who rushed to the scene after gunmen killed a fellow officer, according to police Brigadier General Sarhad Qader. The blast was just the latest of many in Kirkuk, a mixed Arab, Kurdish and Turkoman city in an oil-producing region 290km north of Baghdad.

More than 160 Iraqis, most of them Shi'ites, have died in a wave of spectacular suicide operations across Iraq. -- Sapa-AP


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