Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Allawi Places Some Blame for Executions on U.S.-Led Forces

The New York Times
October 26, 2004

Allawi Places Some Blame for Executions on U.S.-Led Forces

BAGHDAD, Iraq, , Oct. 26 - Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said today that "major neglect" by some of the American-led forces in Iraq led to a weekend ambush by infiltrators that left 49 Iraqi National Guard trainees dead.

Mr. Allawi, speaking to the national assembly, did not go into detail. The attack happened on Saturday night in the face of growing indications that insurgents are being given inside information about the movements of Iraqi security forces. Iraqi officials have opened an investigation into the role played by infiltrators in the weekend ambush.

A group led by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi took responsibility for the killings in Diyala. American officials say Mr. Zarqawi has been behind many of the car-bombings and beheadings that have taken place in Iraq.

Early this morning, the United States military said in a statement that a strike on a safe house in Falluja had killed an "associate" of Mr. Zarqawi. It did not name the person.

United States military officials have long been skeptical of the loyalty of the Iraqi security forces, having seen some American-trained Iraqi soldiers take up arms against occupation forces during fighting in April. But on Monday, even senior Iraqi government officials conceded that it was very possible that insurgents staged the attack with help from members of the Iraqi security forces. One adviser to Mr. Allawi said that as many as 5 percent of the Iraqi government's troops are insurgents who have infiltrated the ranks or their sympathizers.

"It's quite possible they were involved in this and other incidents," said Aqil al-Saffar, an Iraqi national security aide. Suspicions of infiltration have arisen in part because the victims were unarmed and did not have armed escorts even though they were traveling in an area where insurgent attacks are frequent. That issue will be examined in the inquiry, an Iraqi official said.

Defense Ministry officials said Monday that the attack happened at 8 p.m. Saturday, and that 3 civilian drivers were killed in addition to the 49 guardsmen, who were "on leave heading to their families." The ministry promised "to make the criminal terrorists get the fair punishment for their crimes against our people" and vowed that "these cowardly and treacherous actions will not stop our fighters of the courageous army from carrying on to purify the soil of Iraq from the criminal and terrorism groups."

Evidence of infiltration has been steadily growing. One month ago, an Iraqi National Guard commander who was one of five candidates nominated to become the provincial commander in Diyala - the region where the ambush occurred Saturday - was arrested by American officials for "having associations with known insurgents." The commander, Brig. Gen. Talib Abid Ghayib al-Lahibi, was in charge of Iraqi guardsmen providing security in the region and had been a senior commander under Saddam Hussein's government.

The deputy governor of Diyala Province, Aqil Hamid al-Adili, who said he believed that the travel plans of the slain National Guard troops had probably been leaked to insurgents, told Agence France-Presse on Monday that the government investigation "will explore whether elements of the police or the National Guard had any contact with terrorists."

Pentagon officials also point to another very demoralizing attack on Iraqi forces one week ago, when insurgents fired mortar shells, perfectly timed and well aimed, at an Iraqi National Guard outpost north of Baghdad. The attack, which killed 4 and wounded 80, came just as the guardsmen were gathering for a ceremony, leading some in the Pentagon to suggest that insurgents had inside information about the event.

"Iraqi security forces have been infiltrated," a Pentagon official said on Monday. "The goal of attacks on them is to break morale and effectiveness."

Insurgents have increasingly sought to defeat the occupation by killing members of the Iraqi security forces; American officials are hoping that those forces will soon be capable of playing a far larger role in stabilizing the country. Insurgents have targeted the police, National Guardsmen and others they deem "collaborators" by exploding car bombs at recruiting stations and cafes patronized by the Iraqi police and killing translators who work with American forces. By some accounts, almost 800 members of the Iraqi police have been slain this year.