Wave of Assassinations Continues Sunday
Car Bomb at Military Academy kills 12, wounds 13
Guerrillas used a car bomb Sunday to target an Iraqi military academy in southeast Baghdad. There are many US military personnel at the college. It was intercepted by Iraqi police cars, and then detonated, killing 12 Iraqis and wounding 13.
Al-Hayat and AFP: Guerrillas attempting to destabilize the caretaker government have carried out two successful assassinations of high officials and two other failed attempts this weekend.
On Sunday, assassins killed Kamal Jarrah, director of cultural relations for the Iraqi ministry of education. He was shot in front of his home as he was leaving for work.
On Saturday, assassins killed the assistant foreign minister, Bassam Kubbah when he emerged from his home in al-Azamiyah, Baghdad, on Saturday morning. He had just returned from London after having accompanied a foreign ministry delegation to New York. Kubbah had served in the Baath foreign ministry, but appears to have been thought relatively clean, since he was given this high post in the caretaker government. He refused to have guards or take security precautions.
Also on Saturday, the automobile of the assistant secretary of health was sprayed with gunfire, but he and others in the car escaped unscathed. Likewise, the commander of the border guards, General Hussein Mustafa Abdul Karim, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt.
Last weekend a high official of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq was killed.
The Arab nationalist insurgents appear to be concentrating on killing second-tier officials who don’t have as good security as the ministers themselves.
Three civilians employed by foreign companies were found with their throats cut Saturday, on the road between Baghdad and Jordan. They had been kidnapped on Thursday. Two were Iraqi and one was Lebanese.
In contrast, 7 Turkish hostages were released.
On Saturday, two US troops and two Iraqi soldiers were wounded by roadside bombs in central Iraq. Another bombing of a US convoy was reported by eyewitnesses near Fallujah.
In Najaf, US troops closed the northern gate of the city and for two hours surrounded the shrine of Imam Ali after there was gunfire and at least one mortar round was fired in Najaf early Saturday morning. Eyewitnesses said that Mahdi Army militiament had taken up positions at checkpoints around the shrine of Imam Ali. Nervous shopkeepers closed their stores, then later reopened them. -ash-Sharq al-Awsat. Al-Hayat reports that Muqtada al-Sadr may be in East Baghad, having fled Najaf because of an assassination attempt against him.
A Sadr spokesman announced Sunday that Muqtada would form a political party to contest parliamentary elections in January, 2005, though he would not run for office himself. It comes as no surprise to my readers; I have been predicting the morphing of the Sadrists into a political party for some time. I also have compared them to AMAL and Hizbullah, the two Shiite parties in Lebanon. For the moment they are more like Hizbullah, but that could change if the right circumstances arise.
Meanwhile, the Coalition Provisional Authority on Saturday had welcomed indications in the text of Muqtada’s Friday sermon that he might be willing to give up the militia business and try to become a force in parliamentary politics. The CPA’s concern for democracy is touching, but isn’t this the guy they said they intended to “kill or capture,” where by “capture” they meant “kill”? And didn’t Bremer just try to ensure that Muqtada was not eligible to play the game of parliamentary politics for three years? Was that just a bargaining ploy? If so, wouldn’t it have been better to say that Muqtada and his lieutenants would be excluded from political offense unless they did X by such and such date? Why issue a blanket statement as a bargaining ploy? Isn’t there a danger it would be misunderstood as unchangeable policy?
Mahmud Uthman, the independent Kurdish member of the Interim Governing Council gave an interview in ash-Sharq al-Awsat on Saturday in which he said it was extremely frustrating to work with the Americans because their policy emphases seemed to change on almost a daily basis–and then they would blame the Iraqis for being slow to implement policy!