10-20 Dead in Failed Terrorist Prison Break
Sunni Arabs Demonstrate Against Election Results in Samarra
Prison guards killed between 4 and 16 inmates when some of them attempted a jail break from a special facility for terrorists in Kadhimiyah, northeast Baghdad, on Wednesday, according to AFP. An inmate got hold of a weapon and began shooting indiscriminately, then attracted fire from the guards. Four guards are also said dead, along with a translator. The reports of the number of dead inmates varied, with the US military estimating 4 prisoners dead. High police official Abdul Aziz Muhammad gave the number of dead inmates as 11, while anonymous Iraqi sources in the Ministry of the Interior alleged that 20 prisoners were killed. Al-Zaman/AFP accepted that the number of dead inmates was 16.
Al-Zaman/ AFP/ DPA report other violence. In Baghdad, a former officer in the Iraqi army was assassinated in Baladiyyat, east Baghdad. A roadside bomb set by guerrillas wounded three policemen near Mustansiriyah Mosque. Iraqi police discovered 5 corpses in Baghdad on Wednesday.
US troops killed one civilian and wounded two others at a checkpoint in Khalidiyah. Guerrillas killed two policemen in Tikrit, while guerrilla missiles fell on in a civilian neighborhood in Dhuluiyyah on Tuesday night, killing 3 civilians and wounding 9 others. In Baqubah to the northeast of Baghdad, guerrillas attempted to assassinate the mayor; they failed, but wounded two of his bodyguards. Guerrillas in Samarra killed 3 policemen with a car bomb, according to some reports. Others say that 4 special police died, along with 4 civilians.
The Association of Muslim Scholars condemned the Iraqi police for invading the home in Najaf of Ayatollah Ahmad al-Baghdadi, a Shiite cleric who opposes the US military presence.
Al-Zaman/ AFP: Hundreds of Sunni Arabs demonstrated in Samarra against what they viewed as electoral fraud in the December 15 elections. The demonstrations follow much bigger ones in Baghdad and some other Sunni cities on Tuesday and the previous Friday.
The Iraqi prison population held by US forces is rising toward 15,500. In the absence of a Status of Forces Agreement, and with the passage of the new constitution (which requires warrants for arrests), these prisoners are probably being held illegally.
al-Zaman/ AFP say that the US embassy in Baghdad has advised the incoming government to privatize the hundreds of companies and factories owned by the state (the Baath Party was actually the Baath Socialist Party), selling them to investors. The US administration of Iraq attempted to move toward privatization under Paul Bremer, but the issue was rendered moot by the poor security in the country, which makes investing in it at the moment unattractive.
One of the least attractive aspects of the US government is its fanaticism about privatization. I mean, is this really the time? The good Lord knows how many of those companies or factories are actually operating. And who is going to buy them? Wouldn’t it be better at this juncture for the government to use them in a way analogous to FDR public works projects, to put people to work? Al-Zaman estimates that 1/4 of Iraqis live in dire proverty, and the real unemployment rate is still probably 50 percent. Corporations are far less efficient than Washington believes (see: Enron), and some state-owned enterprises have prospered (ask Californians if privatized electricity worked out well for them; and see: Enron). It is no doubt better in the long run to move away from bloated state-owned industries in Iraq, but I just wouldn’t have made that a priority.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat says that the lawyers’ guild is protesting the decision of the ministry of justice to dissolve it and place a counsellor over it. Guild spokesman complained that the move contravened a 1965 (pre-Baath) law and damaged the independence of the organization from the government. (It is hard to tell what is going on here, but guilds and unions in Iraq were arms of the Baath Party, now dissolved and despised.