Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Iraqi Vice President’s Brother Is Killed by Gunmen

The New York Times
Iraqi Vice President’s Brother Is Killed by Gunmen

BAGHDAD, Oct. 9 — Men wearing military police uniforms broke into the house of the brother of Iraq’s Sunni vice president on Monday, chased him onto a neighbor’s roof and shot him in the head, killing him, Iraqi authorities and witnesses said.

Amir al-Hashemi was the third sibling of Iraq’s vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, to be killed since spring. His death underscored just how deeply Baghdad has sunk into lawlessness, particularly in its religiously mixed neighborhoods, and was reminiscent of the politically motivated assassinations that have plagued Iraq since the American invasion.

A bomb in a parked car exploded in a crowded market area in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Shaab at nightfall on Monday, killing at least 13 and wounding 46, a police official said. The attack was the first large bombing in the capital in almost a month, and brought the number of Iraqis killed in violence on Monday to 18.

In addition, Iraqi authorities said they found 57 bodies in eastern and western Baghdad.

The military on Monday announced the deaths of four American troops. One was killed by small arms fire in eastern Baghdad, and three marines died from wounds on Sunday in Anbar in western Iraq. The deaths brought the toll to more than 30 so far this month.

Killings of politicians have become grimly familiar, but Monday’s still stood out: The killers wore what looked like official uniforms, enabling them to surprise and overwhelm Mr. Hashemi’s guards. They then seized at least seven neighbors who witnessed the attack, including the neighbors’ children and an elderly bakery worker. As of Monday night, their whereabouts were still unknown.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki condemned the attack, saying it was the work of “blood stained terrorist hands,” and pledged that Iraqi security forces would track down the killers. But Sunni Arab politicians put the blame squarely on Mr. Maliki’s government, saying that slowness in weeding out militias from its security forces allowed it to happen.

“The government is not working serious to find a solution to the militias,” said Ayad al-Samarrai, a Sunni member of Parliament. “He was killed because he was a Sunni.”

In a food poisoning incident unusual even by the standards of current Iraqi mayhem, about 400 Iraqi policemen, most of them Shiite, became ill after a Ramadan dinner on Sunday night in the southern city of Numaniya, Iraqi authorities said. Reuters, citing an unidentified person at the police base, reported that seven officers had died, but a spokesman for the commander of Iraq’s armed forces disputed that account, saying only a few men were hospitalized and then released.

Iraqi authorities also disputed accounts of foul play, but the contractor who had provided the food was detained, along with several other suspects, whom Reuters identified as cooks.

Political leaders tend to be vocal over abuses by other sects, so the silence among Iraqi Shiites on Monday seemed to indicate that they did not consider the poisoning to be a sectarian attack.

The killing of Mr. Hashemi occurred early Monday morning in the troubled Sunni Arab neighborhood of Slekh, where a Kurdish legislator was assassinated just last week. The area is densely settled, with houses close together and a bakery nearby.

In interviews on Monday, five of Mr. Hashemy’s neighbors, four of whom said they saw part of the attack, provided an account. From 20 to 25 men uniformed men arrived in about eight sport utility vehicles. They surprised his guards and chased him onto the roof, and then to the roof of a neighbor, Abu Amar, residents said. It was there that the attackers shot him in the head, the witnesses said.

The men then seized two neighbors, their children, one of their wives and an elderly man, a baker, all of whom witnessed the attack. The men sounded like they were speaking Arabic with a foreign accent, residents said. After they took Mr. Hashemi’s guards, one was heard shouting to another, “go, go,” in English.

The use of police uniforms by militias has been the most crippling aspect to solving the militia violence, as it has destroyed Iraqis’ confidence in government forces.

Mr. Hashemi, most recently a lieutenant general, was the commander of Iraqi ground forces in a previous government under Hazem Shaalan, a former defense minister who had been accused of embezzling. Recently, he worked as an adviser to the Minister of Defense.

His brother, Tariq, is one of the country’s most influential Sunni Arab politicians and a central Sunni figure in the patchwork of ethnicities and sects that is Iraq’s government. Another one of his brother’s, Mahmoud, and a 61-year-old sister, Maysoon, were both killed in April.

The American military said a unit of Iraqi special forces had arrested a suspected bomb maker in Sadr City, a large Shiite district in eastern Baghdad. One man was killed, and five more were detained in the raid, the military said.

Saddam Hussein’s trial for genocide against the Kurds resumed on Monday in Baghdad after a two-week recess, with a Kurdish woman telling the court that her family had been buried alive, Reuters reported.

Reporting was contributed by Sahar Nageeb, Qais Mizher and Omar al-Neami.