Monday, August 13, 2007


Governor and police chief of Qadisiya killed

(Al Jazeera) - Hundreds of mourners turned out to bury an assassinated provincial governor and chief of police on Sunday as the Iraqi prime minister ordered an investigation into their killings, which he called "a seditious act", and appealed for talks to end an ongoing cabinet crisis. Khalil Jalil Hamza, the governor, and Khalid Hassan, the police chief, of the southern province of Qadisiya were killed by a roadside bomb on Saturday as they headed back to Diwaniya, the provincial capital, from the funeral of a tribal sheikh. Both men were Shi’a.
Iraqi police and soldiers tightly surrounded the centre of the Shia city of Najaf, where the bodies were brought on Sunday for burial. Carrying Iraqi flags and posters of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's Shia cleric, the mourners set out from the Shia Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) offices joined by a number of officials. Police said on Sunday they had arrested two men, a commander of a force that protects infrastructure in Diwaniya, and his deputy, who were believed to have been near the site of the attack.
In Baghdad, the office of Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, mourned the passing of Hamza and Hassan and announced that an investigation into their deaths was under way. Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, had described the attack as a "cowardly terrorist act" by Sunnis fighters who had been displaced by the current security crackdown by Iraqi and US forces. Talabani's office said: "They have committed a crime in a secure part of our country after they were besieged and kicked out of Anbar, Diyala and Samarra."
General David Petraeus, the US military commander, and Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador, issued a joint statement condemning the killings. But Diwaniya residents said on Sunday they feared all-out war among rival Shia factions after Saturday's assassinations. The SIIC and supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American Shia leader, are said by local residents to be targeting each other in an armed conflict mainly through assassinations. SIIC's armed wing, the Badr Organisation, controls the police who fight al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army militia. The Shia-dominated south has become increasingly restless as factions vie for control of the oil-rich region, often pitting police loyal to one bloc against militiamen of others.
COMMENT: Jalil was a former top operative in the Badr Brigade, a former paramilitary group based in Iran that has since changed its name to the Badr Organization. The Badr Organization issued a statement calling Jalil a “holy fighter” and seemed to implicate elements of the Imam Al-Mahdi Army, which is loyal to Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, in his killing. An al-Sadr spokesman denied his organization’s involvement in the deaths of the governor and his police chief. COMMENT ENDS.

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