With Ali al-Fadhily
BAGHDAD - Death squads from the Ministry of Interior posing as Iraqi police
are killing more people than ever in the capital, emerging evidence shows.
The death toll is high – in all 1,536 bodies were brought to the Baghdad
morgue in September. The Health Ministry announced last month that it will build
two new morgues in Baghdad to take their capacity to 250 bodies a day.
Many fear a government hand in more killings to come. The U.S. military has
revealed that the 8th Iraqi Police Unit was responsible for the Oct. 1 kidnapping
of 26 Sunni food factory workers in the Amil quarter in southwest Baghdad. The
bodies of 10 of them were later found in Abu Chir neighborhood in the capital.
Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani announced he is suspending the police unit
from official duties and confining it to base until an investigation is completed.
But sections of the ministry appear responsible for the abductions and killing.
Ministry of Interior vehicles were used for the kidnapping in this case, and
most men conducting the raid wore Iraqi police uniforms, except for a few who
wore black death squad "uniforms," witnesses told IPS.
The leader of the police unit is under house arrest and faces interrogation
for this and other crimes, according to an official announcement.
"It is for sure that they did it," one of the victim's neighbors
told IPS on condition of anonymity. "The tortured bodies were found the
second day. They came in their official police cars; it is not the first time
that they did something like this. They do it all over Baghdad, and we hope
they will get proper punishment this time."
Men of the police unit, meanwhile, do not face imminent punishment. "They
are going to be rehabilitated and brought back to service," director-general
of the Iraqi police Adnan Thabit told IPS.
The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni party, blamed militias with ties
to the government and the U.S. military.
"The Iraqi Islamic Party asks how could 26 people, women among them, have
been transported from Amil to Abu Chir through all those Iraqi and U.S. Army
checkpoints and patrols," it said in a statement.
The U.S. military has denied any involvement in the killings.
Gen. Yassin al-Dulaimi, deputy minister for the interior, has said on Iraqi
television several times that death squads are composed mainly of Iraqi police
and army units. His comments reflect differing allegiance and agendas even within
the Shia bloc.
Dulaimi has been trying for long to expose the organized criminal gangs that
have been controlling the ministry since its formation – a formation that
was overseen by U.S. authorities.
Dulaimi says he does not believe that the Shia Badr organization, a large,
well-armed and -funded militia, has complete control over his ministry. But
most residents of Baghdad believe that Badr has complete control over the Baghdad
Order Maintenance police force, and use this force to carry out sectarian murders.
This force is one of several official security teams in Baghdad.
The force is led by Mehdi al-Gharrawi, who also led similar security units
during the U.S.- led attack on Fallujah in November 2004.
"All criminals who survived the Fallujah crisis after committing genocide
and other war crimes were granted higher ranks," Maj. Amir Jassim from
the Ministry of Defense told IPS. "I and many of my colleagues were not
rewarded because we disobeyed orders to set fire to people's houses [in Fallujah]
after others looted them."
Jassim said the looting and burning of homes in Fallujah during the November
siege was ordered from the Ministries of Interior and Defense.
"Now they want to do the same things they did in Fallujah in all Sunni
areas so that they ignite a civil war in Iraq," said Jassim, referring
to the Shia-dominated ministries. "A civil war is the only guarantee for
them to stay in power, looting such incredible amounts of money."
Another official with the Ministry of Defense, Muntather al-Samarraii, told
IPS that both Iran and "collaborators" within the Ministry of Interior
are to blame for the widespread sectarian killings.
"I have lists of thousands of corruption cases from within my ministry,
and other files to expose to the world," he said, "but the world is
not listening. When it does, I am afraid it is going to be too late."
A police officer in Samarraii's office, speaking on condition of anonymity,
told IPS that he believed that murderers would not be punished for their crimes.
"They will reward them, believe me, and give them higher ranks,"
he said. "This is a country that will never stand back on its feet as long
as these killers are in power. And the Americans are supporting them by allowing
their convoys to move during curfew hours."
While there is little evidence of direct U.S. involvement, questions have arisen
over what the U.S. forces have done – or not done – to encourage such killings.
A UN human rights report released September last year held Interior Ministry
forces responsible for an organized campaign of detentions, torture, and killings.
It reported that special police commando units accused of carrying out the killings
were recruited from Shia Badr and Mahdi militias and trained by U.S. forces.
Retired Col. James Steele, who served as adviser on Iraqi security forces to
then-U.S. ambassador John Negroponte, supervised the training of these forces.
Steele was commander of the U.S. military advisory group in El Salvador 1984-86,
while Negroponte was U.S. ambassador to nearby Honduras 1981-85. Negroponte
was accused of widespread human rights violations by the Honduras Commission
on Human Rights in 1994. The Commission reported the torture and disappearance
of at least 184 political workers.
The violations Negroponte oversaw in Honduras were carried out by operatives
trained by the CIA, according to a CIA working group set up in 1996 to look
into the U.S. role in Honduras.
The CIA records document that his "special intelligence units," better
known as "death squads," comprised CIA-trained Honduran armed units
that kidnapped, tortured, and killed thousands of people suspected of supporting
(Inter Press Service)