Three Leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq Killed

By Bobby Rajabi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On April 19 Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that tow leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq were killed in a joint effort between Iraqi and United States forces. The Iraqi Prime Minister announced on Iraqi television that Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who led the organization, were both dead. The following day, the Iraqi government announced that another al Qaeda in Iraq leader, Ahmed al-Obeidi, was killed in the northern prvoince of Nineveh.

The deaths of Masri and Baghdadi were confirmed by pictures of both men before and after their deaths. Prime Minister Maliki explained that, “the attack was carried out by ground forces which surrounded the house, and also through the use of missiles.” The Prime Minister explained that a house in Thar-Thar was destroyed and two bodies were found inside. The bodies were found in a hole in which the two men were hiding. “Security forces surrounded the hole, and when they got them out they were dead,” said Maliki.

General Ray Odierno, the top American military commander in Iraq, explained the significance of the operation. Odierno explained that, “the death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to al Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency. The US military explained that Masri had replaced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and was “directly responsible for high profile bombings and attacks against the people of Iraq.”

On April 20 Iraqi military spokesman Major General Qassim al-Moussawi announced that Ahmed al-Obeidi was killed in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh. General Moussawi said that Obeidi, also known as Abu Suhaib, was in charge of al Qaeda in Iraq’s operations in the northern provinces of Kirkuk, Salahuddin and Nineveh. General Odierno explained that Obeidi was the “the military emir” of the northern region of Iraq.

The BBC’s Jim Muir confirmed that the Iraqi government is now convinced that al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run. However, in the past when leaders were killed, the organization ensures that other men step in to fill their post. Muir explains that this ensures that decapitation of the organization does not lead to paralysis.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Third Iraqi Al-Qaeda Leader Killed: Iraqi Military – 20 April 2010

Al Jazeera – Al-Qaeda in Iraq Leaders “Killed” – 19 April 2010

BBC – Senior Iraqi Al-Qaeda Leaders ‘Killed’ – 19 April 2010

New York Times – Top Qaeda Leaders in Iraq Reported Killed in Raid – 19 April 2010

Iraq Commission Rejects Calls for Recount

By Bobby Rajabi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On March 21, the Iraqi election commission rejected calls from the country’s prime minister and president for a recount of the votes cast in the March 7 general election. The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced that for a full manual recount to take place, there must be evidence of serious electoral fraud. Supporters of current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are threatening to loosen ties with Baghdad if their demands for a recount are not met.

Faraj al-Haidari, the chief of the IHEC, explained the commission’s decision. He said that “they are asking for a manual recount, that is like asking for a re-run of the entire election. If they don’t accept that we are running the best election software in the world then how are they going to believe pen and paper.”

Haidari also explained that if Maliki and his supporters believe that there were some errors or have doubts, they are able to ask for recounts of particular regions. The commission, however, is unwilling to recount all of Iraq.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is pushing strongly for a recount of all votes cast in the election. Maliki claims that a recount is necessary to “preserve political stability and to avoid a deterioration of security and a return of violence which has quelled after much effort and loss of blood.” The Iraqi Prime Minister contends that a manual recount will help ensure the legitimacy of the country’s government.

The Iraqi Prime Minister has a supporter in the country’s president. Iraqi President Jalal Talbani has endorsed Maliki’s call for a recount. Talbani released a statement on his website saying that it was his duty “to preserve the constitution and to ensure justice and absolute transparency.” Talbani then demanded that the IHEC recount the ballots from the general election in order to “preclude any doubt and misunderstanding” in the results.

IHEC is reporting that with over ninety percent of the vote counted, Maliki’s State of Law alliance trails former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya political bloc. Maliki’s alliance does stand to gain more representation in a future parliament as seats are allocated based on the outcome of the votes in each province.

For more information, please see:

Los Angeles Times – Bid for Iraq Vote Recount Intensifies – 23 March 2010

Al Jazeera – Poll Body Reject Iraq Recount Call – 22 March 2010

BBC – Iraq Election Commission Rejects Calls for Vote Recount – 21 March 2010

Despite Attacks, Over Sixty Percent Vote in Iraqi Election

By Bobby Rajabi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On March 8, officials from the Independent High Electoral Commission announced that the turnout for the March 7 Iraqi election was sixty two percent. The level of turnout was over sixty percent despite attacks throughout the country that killed over thirty five individuals. It is widely expected that Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition will win the most seats of another other Iraqi political party. The final officials results for the election will not be declared until the end of March

Maliki’s coalition reportedly did quite well in areas such as Baghdad and the Shi’ite south of Iraq. Anonymous Iraqi Officials told the Associated Foreign Press (AFP) that the Iraqi President was leading in nine of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. He was facing competition from the Iraq National Alliance, a Shi’ite dominated group, and the secular coalition led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Allawi’s group reportedly did well in Iraq’s northern and western provinces.

Despite the strong showing by Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, it is highly unlikely that an party received the number of votes needed to form a government alone. It is possible that months of negotiations will precede any coalition forming a governing on its own.

Voter turnout varied throughout Iraq. In Anbar, the province composed mainly of Sunnis, reported a voter turnout of sixty one percent. Over five hundred candidates, mostly Sunni, were banned from running because of alleged connections to the Ba’ath party, the party of former President Saddam Hussein

The reported voter turnout number was even higher in Duhok. The AFP reported that Duhok, the northern Kurdish controlled autonomous area reported a voter turnout of eighty percent.

Attacks on election day took place in Baghdad, Mosul, Fallujah, and Baquba. Despite insurgents threatening to disrupt the election, there were no large suicide bombings as feared by many Iraqi officials. The worst attack took place on an apartment block in Baghdad which collapsed and killed twenty five people.

President Obama commented on the election, saying that it showed that “the future of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq.”

For more information, please see:

AP – Iraq Elections Head Says Turnout at 55-60 percent – 8 March 2010

Al Jazeera – Iraq Awaits Election Results – 9 March 2010

BBC – Iraq Elections Turnout 62%, Officials Say – 9 March 2010

New Bombings in Two Major Iraqi Cities

By Bobby Rajabi
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A series of bombings killed nine people in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Mosul on December 15. The bombings come only one week after suicide bombings in the Iraqi capital killed one hundred twenty seven people. The new blasts have increased pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to improve security.

In Baghdad, three cars were packed with bombs and were parked near different entrances to the Green Zone. One was located near the Foreign Ministry while two were located near the Immigration Ministry. At 7:30am, when Iraqis were entering the area to come to work, the three vehicles exploded within minutes of each other. Five people were killed by the bombings in the Iraqi capital and at least sixteen were wounded.

The bombings in Baghdad were the fourth in recent months to target government buildings and hit near the Green Zone, Baghdad’s most protected neighborhood. The Green Zone contains the parliament, ministries and the United States Embassy. An Iraqi woman, Um Ali, questioned how it was possible for the three vehicles to enter and explode when “there were two military checkpoints using detectors at the beginning of the street.”

The bombing in Mosul, a city two hundred twenty five miles away from the Iraqi capital, took place approximately four hours later. Two car bombs and a roadside mine went off and killed for people. The bombings took place near a church in a busy neighborhood and wounded up to forty people. Mosul is the third largest city in Iraqi and has been a lingering urban foothold for al Qaeda despite an overall drop in violence across the country.

The recent rash in bombings in Iraq has caused Iraqi civilians the ability of the Iraqi government to provide security leading up the country’s much anticipated elections next year. The government has stepped up its efforts to catch those responsible for attacks and prevent future attacks by giving a cash reward for information. The Iraqi cabinet has approved plans to give as much at eighty five thousand dollars to informants who give-up bomb makers. The plan was announced by the Iraqi Prime Minister, who is running for re-election in March.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Iraq Offers Reward For Information On Bomb Factories – 16 December 2009

Los Angeles Times – In Baghdad, More Blasts Near Iraq Government Center – 16 December 2009

Al Jazeera – Iraq Bombings Leave Several Dead – 15 December 2009

AP – Explosions in 2 Major Iraq Cities Kill 9 People – 15 December 2009

Ankara Talks Stall Between Iraqi and Syrian Officials

By Ahmad Shihadah

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey – Talks have come to a stand still after officials from Iraq and Syria met in Ankara to discuss Iraqi allegations that Syria is harboring militants allegedly involved in deadly bombings on August 19 which killed more than 100 people and wounded more than 600. Turkey has been acting as a peace broker throughout the crisis between the two nations, especially since the recall of envoys from each nation respectively last month.

Among those present at the high-level talks were Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

The Iraqi government spokesmen Ali al-Dabbagh claims that the Iraqi delegation has evidence to back their allegations including communications, financing and logistic support by people living in Syria and who have relations with al Qaeda. The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki alleges that 90 percent of foreign fighters in Iraq have entered through Syria, a claim the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denies. Further, Iraq claims that Syria is harboring two Baathist leaders who plotted the devastating bombings in August.  Iraq has demanded that Syria hand them over to Iraqi officials; a demand Syria has refused.

This diplomatic feud has strained already tarnished relations between the two countries, which saw a slight resurgence since the removal of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The talks collapsed after Syria refused acquiesce to Iraq’s demands that it extradite a list of people suspected to be involved in the bombings. Syria claims that the Iraqi government has not provided sufficient proof of involvement in the bombings to warrant extradition. The Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, speaking for the delegation, stated, “We consider this security meeting as the final one.  Such a meeting won’t happen in the future unless Syria positively responds to the unchallenged evidence and proof presented by Iraq. This is the final meeting.”

Moreover, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appealed to the U.N. Security Council to set up an international tribunal to investigate the bombings. The Iraqi government hopes to ease tension by discussing the matter with United States Vice President Joe Biden during his visit.

For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera – Iraq and Syria to hold Ankara Talks – 13 September 2009

Yahoo News Agency – Iraqi Official: Talks with Syria over attacks fail – 16 September 2009

Reuters – Iraq says Syria must show will to stop militants – 11 September 2009

Iraq Mourns Death of Assassinated Sunni Leader

By Nykoel Dinardo
Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On June 13, Iraq held a state funeral for Sunni Leader Harith al-Obeidi after his assassination on June 12.  Al-Obeidi was the leader of the largest Sunni bloc in the Iraqi Parliament.  He was known for his strong stance on human rights issues.  He argued for the rights of many Sunni detainees in Iraq, a controversial issue between the Sunni minority and the largely-Shi’ite government. 

Al-Obeidi’s assassination took place outside a mosque in Baghdad, where he had just finished giving the sermon at the Friday afternoon services.  A teenaged gunman shot al-Obeidi twice in the head, and then opened fire on al-Obeidi’s guards.   He then ran down the street, and detonated a grenade on his own body, killing himself and several bystanders. 

The Interior Ministry of Iraq released a report stating that they believe that the assassination was orchestrated by al Qaida.  Ministry officials refuse to elaborate, saying that there would not be more information until a more thorough investigation had been completed.  However, there is speculation that al-Obeidi’s assassination was planned to aggravate tensions between Sunni and Shi’ite communities. 

Al-Obeidi was known for his attempts to unify the factions within the Iraqi parliament.  According to Shatha al-Abousi, another Sunni lawmaker, al-Obeidi wanted national unity.  Al-Abousi also explained that al-Obeidi, an avid human rights supporter, disclosed information about the torture and mistreatment that had taken place in Iraqi prisons.  Both Sunni and Shi’ite government officials from all over the country came to show their respect for al-Obeidi at his funeral. 

The assassination comes just one day after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned that there may be an increase in violence in the coming months.  U.S. troops are scheduled to withdraw from urban areas by June 30, and there is concern that violence will increase without the extra military assistance.  Furthermore, elections are scheduled for January of next year, and there is concern that there will be an increase in assassination attempts before the election.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Iraq Blames al-Qaida for Sunni Killing – 13 June 2009

Los Angeles Times – Leader of Iraq Parliament’s Arab Bloc Assassinated – 13 June 2009

Reuters – Iraq Holds State Funeral for Murdered Lawmaker – 13 June 2009

Voice of America – Iraqi Leaders Mourn Slain Sunni Lawmaker – 13 June 2009

Associated Press – Iraq: Senior Sunni Lawmaker Killed Outside Mosque – 12 June 2009

Former Saddam Hussein Loyalists on Trial for Persecution of Political Opposition

By Lauren Mellinger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On December 27, the Iraqi High Tribunal commenced a new trial against several former Baathist officials, including former Iraqi Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as ‘Chemical Ali’, on charges that they were involved in the persecution of political opponents while Saddam Hussein was in power.  20 other high-ranking members of Saddam Hussein’s government were also indicted.

The current charges allege that both Aziz and Al-Majid’s perpetrated crimes against humanity, including the arrest of nearly 250,000 members of Dawa and other political parties.  Between 1981 and the 2003 US-led invasion, many of those arrested were either imprisoned or executed.  In 1980, the Iraqi government banned the Dawa party and threatened to execute any members.

One incident included in the indictment, is the massacre in Balad in 1981, where the government arrested 1,135 Dawa members and their families and held them captive at a camp in the desert near the Saudi border.  All men ages 15 years and older were executed, resulting in a death toll of 379.  When the women and children were released in 1984, the government had confiscated their homes and property.

Prosecutor Mahdi al-Haddo cited other instances of the Hussein government’s persecution of Dawa members in his opening remarks to the court including, accounts of Dawa members being fatally poisoned, tied to dynamite, or thrown into vats of acid.  Other allegations include the rape of the wives and daughters of Dawa party members.

According to al-Haddo, “We want to give a true depiction of crimes committed by the Saddamists against sons of Iraq in Balad.  We must show people across the nation, especially those characterizing Saddam as an Arab nationalist and his government as a democracy.”

The Dawa Party is currently led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  While many Iraqis, including relatives of the victims, welcome the new charges, critics claim that the timing of the trial is a political move by the Maliki government to increase their support among its core constituency – Iraq’s Shia population – before the upcoming provincial elections in January.  These critics argue that the fact that several of the current defendants have previously been tried, convicted and sentenced suggests that the timing of the current trial is politically motivated.

Al-Majid has previously received two death sentences by the Iraqi court for his role in the gassing of Kurds in northern Iraq, which killed nearly 5,000 people, and for his role in suppressing a Shia uprising in 1991.  Aziz was previously tried for his involvement in the execution of Iraqi businessmen for allegedly raising prices during the first Gulf War.  Several of the other defendants are currently facing charges in other trials involving atrocities committed while serving in the Hussein government.

For more information, please see:

Alsumaria – New Charges Against Former Regime Officials – 29 December 2008

Azeri Press Agency –  Former Saddam Hussein’s Associate’s Tariq Aziz and “Chemical Ali” Go on New Trial – 29 December 2008

BBC – Saddam Loyalists Face New Charges – 28 December 2008

NY Times – Ex-Hussein Officials and Others Go on Trial  – 28 December 2008

Reuters – Iraq Tries Saddam Officials for Crushing Opponents – 28 December 2008

Iraqi Shoe Thrower Beaten by Iraqi Security Forces

By Lauren Mellinger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On December 14, Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, a correspondent for the Cairo based Al-Baghdadiya satellite channel, threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush during a press conference.  President Bush and Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki had met to discuss the Status of Forces Agreement signed in recent weeks between the US and Iraq.

It is unclear whether the injuries al-Zaidi sustained occurred immediately after he threw his shoes at President Bush or subsequently during his detention.  Security guards who travel with Prime Minister al-Maliki were seen beating al-Zaidi immediately after the incident occurred, and witnesses reported hearing al-Zaidi screaming in pain.

Immediately after the incident at the press conference, al-Zaidi was detained by Iraqi authorities, on the orders of Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffeq al-Rubaie.  Al-Rubaie issued a statement claiming that al-Zaidi will be tried under Iraqi law.  According to his brother Dargham, Al-Zaidi has a broken hand and ribs, and is suffering from internal bleeding and from an eye injury he sustained after being hit with the butt of a rifle.  In addition, Dargham claims that his brother has not had access to legal counsel since his arrest.

The head of the Iraqi journalists’ union Mouyyad al-Lami, asked the Iraqi government for clemency towards al-Zaidi, who currently remains in custody.

Al-Zaidi reportedly threw his shoes at US President Bush to insult him.  Al-Zaidi holds President Bush responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqis since the US-led invasion in March 2003.  Demonstrations in both Sunni and Shia areas of Iraq and throughout the Arab world have urged the Iraqi government to release al-Zaidi from custody.  He has been regarded as a hero for standing up to the Bush administration.

According to a spokesman for the US State Department, the US does not know whether al-Zaidi was beaten when he was taken into custody.  However the spokesman maintains that the US government will not condone any unnecessary use of force against al-Zaidi.

Al-Zaidi is facing a possible two year jail sentence for insulting the head of a foreign state as well as the Iraqi Prime Minister, who was standing with President Bush at the time of the incident.  However, prosecutors may charge him for violating a law passed by the Baath Party in 1969, which calls for a seven year prison sentence for anyone who “insults the president or his representative.”

For more information, please see:

The Independent – Iraqi Shoe Thrower ‘Beaten in Custody’ – 17 December 2008

Al Jazeera – Iraqi Reporter al-Zaidi’s Arms, Ribs Broken – 16 December 2008

BBC – Shoe Thrower ‘Beaten in Custody’ – 16 December 2008

Guardian – Iraqi Shoe Thrower Badly Beaten in Custody, Claims Brother  – 16 December 200

Voice of America – Iraqi Shoe-Thrower in Judicial Hands – 16 December 2008

Iraqi Prime Minister Vows to Find Culprits Behind Parliament Member Assassination

By Nykoel Dinardo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki vowed, in a statement on October 9, that the perpetrators of the bomb attack that killed Parliament Member Saleh al-Ogaili would be brought to justice.  Al-Ogaili was killed Thursday in a bombing that also killed two of Al-Ogaili’s bodyguards and injured three others.

Iraqi police state that the bomb that killed Al-Ogaili was attached to a motorcycle and went off when the MP’s motorcade drove past.  Al-Ogaili died in the hospital soon after the attack due to severe head wounds.  He was buried on October 10 in the city of Al-Najaf.  The MP is known for being radically anti-American, and a member of the Sadrist party.   Following his assassination, several anti-American protests have been held.

It has also drawn a response from both the Iraqi and the American governments.   The US military has denied any involvement in the attack.  The commander of US forces in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno, , and US ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, have both condemned the attack.

The Iraqi government has taken a very strong stance in response to this attack.  Prime Minister Al-Maliki traveled to Al-Najaf where he made a public statement vowing to find those involved in this attack.   Al-Maliki said in his statement that the government “reaffirm[s their] determination to get at the hotbeds of terrorism and crime, and arrest and prosecute the killers and bring them to justice.”

Iraqi president Jalal Talabani also made a statement on October 10, condemning those responsible and calling on the people of Iraq to come together against such crimes.  He declared,”All Iraqis, including its political powers, are called on to be unified to ward off all the attempts of planting fight and alienation among Iraqis’ components.”  He also called Al-Ogaili a martyr, and said that those who committed the crime are enemies of the Iraqis.  

For more information, please see:

The Australian – Bomb Kills Anti-US politician Saleh Al-Ogayly In Iraq – 11 October 2008

AFP – Anger Against US Mount As Iraq Shiites Bury Slain MP – 10 October 2008

Xinhua – Iraqi President Condemns Assassination of Shiite Lawmaker – 10 October 2008

BBC – Iraqi MP Killed By Roadside Bomb – 9 October 2008

BBC – Iraq PM Vows to Find MP’s Killers – 9 October 2008

The New York Times – Roadside Bomb in Baghdad Kills Shiite Legislator – 9 October 2008