Wave of Assassinations Against Baathists in Wake of Saddam’s Capture
Even before Saddam was captured on Dec. 13, a wave of assassinations of former Baathist officials had begun in Baghdad (following on a similar campaign in summer and fall in Basra). The assassinations appear to have accelerated now that the former Baathist leader is in US custody and Baathist command and control is deeply compromised. It may be that some Shiites eager for revenge had been given pause by the possibility that Saddam or other high Baathists would retaliate, using the still-active Fedayee Saddam.
Saturday morning gunmen on a motorcycle in the crowded Hadiqat al-Malik Ghazi quarter of Najaf opened fire on Lamiya’ Abbas al-Shil, a former official in the Baath party, who was taking her son to elementary school on foot. Her son was killed, and she was hospitalized with several gunshot wounds in the chest and head. Al-Shil had been an assistant to Ali al-Zalimi, a Najaf Baath official who helped crush the 1991 uprising against Saddam, and who was killed on Wednesday in Kufa. Friday night, Ali Qasim al-Tamimi, 40, was killed in Najaf while shopping in the downtown retail area. Al-Tamimi had been the Ward Boss of the Furat quarter of the city in the time of Saddam, and was seen as a collaborator by the Shiite Najafis. He was with a companion, Muhammad Ammar Khudair, who one witness said was also killed in the attack. (ash-Sharq al-Awsat).
Known former Baath officials throughout Iraq have been receiving death threats or notes saying ‘you are under surveillance,’ some of them signed “Lajnat al-Tha’r” or “Revenge Committee.” Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reveals that the Baghdad coroners’ office reports a significant rise in assassinations in the past two weeks in the capital. The police in the capital say about 50 former Baath officials and military men have been assassinated recently.
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat says some Iraqis think the spike in assassinations reflects a gradual loss of hope that the Coalition Provisional Authority or the new Iraqi government will quickly bring the Baathists to justice, and a fear that they may be regrouping to reestablish some political momentum in the new system.
In the slums of East Baghdad (Sadr City), police say that the wave of assassinations began 3 weeks ago and that every day one or two former Baathists are killed. Some families do not admit that the deceased had been a Baathist.
Alan Sipress reported in the Washington Post recently, ‘ “This is absolutely organized, but we don’t know precisely who’s behind it,” said Capt. Awad Nima, who heads police administration in Sadr City. “These killings are a vendetta for the killings by the Baath Party. . . . Would you expect those people who lost their sons not to take any action?” Nima said the assassinations have centered on Hussein followers implicated in violence, not all former party members . . . With few leads, detectives have made little progress in figuring out who is killing the Baathists, but Nima said this does not trouble him. “There’s only a limited number of them. Once they’re all dead, this will have to end,” he said. ‘
Well, the killings might end at that point. Or the killers might start in on the second tier Baathists with a bit less blood on their hands, and then the third tier, etc.