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Iraq Report: June 4, 2004

4 June 2004, Volume 7, Number 20
Ansar Al-Islam (Supporters of Islam). This is an extremist Kurdish group purportedly linked to Al-Qaeda. It is an offshoot of Jund al-Islam (Soldiers of Islam, a.k.a. Islamic Brigade) and has been engaged in fighting with the PUK since September 2001. Led by Mullah Krekar (a.k.a. Najm al-Din Faraj Ahmad), the military commander of Ansar al-Islam who is under house arrest in Norway. Krekar is the former military commander for the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan; he trained in Afghanistan. Krekar has denied any links to Osama bin Laden (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 29 August 2003) but bin Laden sent his greeting to the group in an audiotaped message in October 2003 (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 20 October 2003).

The group has been linked to the 19 August bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad. Reports began surfacing in September 2003 that the group had split (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 4 and 15 September 2003). There were widespread reports that the leadership changed in late 2003 and is now headed by Abu Abdallah al-Shafi'i (a.k.a. Warba Holiri al-Kurdi) who reportedly said in September that the group would change its name -- but declined to announce the name, London's "Al-Hayat" reported on 5 September 2003 (see Ansar Al-Sunnah below).

Reportedly linked to the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG), led by Mullah Ali Bapir. Al-Shafi'i criticized the KIG in September 2003 for aiding U.S. forces in their attempt to crack down on Ansar militiamen. Al-Shafi'i added that other mujahedin groups inside Iraq had agreed to join up with Ansar Al-Islam. The group claimed responsibility for the 1 February 2004 simultaneous attacks on Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) offices in Irbil, and the 17 March 2004 bombing of the Mount Lebanon Hotel in Baghdad. The group also claims to have participated in the April 2004 clashes against coalition forces in Al-Fallujah. The U.S. State Department designated the group a foreign terrorist organization in March (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 26 March 2004).

Ansar Al-Sunnah Army. Group formed in autumn 2003 by members of Ansar Al-Islam and other radical elements. Described itself in a statement to London-based "Al-Quds al-Arabi" published on 4 November 2003 as: "A group of mujahedin, people with knowledge, political shrewdness, and military expertise as well as those who have long experience and history in administering the Islamic ideological conflict against the infidels, brought several groups and various jihadist factions together." In a 21 February statement published in London's "Al-Quds al-Arabi," the group claims members from the ranks of clerics, tribal sheikhs, and the former Iraqi military. It claims to have fighters throughout Iraq "implementing a practical nonimported program, based on a clear view of the arena and the instructions of the true shari'a [Islamic law]." Claimed responsibility for the February 2004 simultaneous bombings of PUK and KDP headquarters in Irbil, the 14 October 2003 bombing of the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad, the 20 November 2003 bombing of the PUK office in Kirkuk, as well as numerous mortar attacks on coalition forces. Reportedly headed by Abu Abdallah al-Hasan bin Mahmud. Posts monthly lists of its attacks on coalition forces at

Ansar Al-Sunnah purportedly posted a statement to the Global Islamic Media Center website on 22 March 2004 denying any link to the National Front for the Liberation of Iraq. The latter claimed that a number of groups had joined its umbrella organization for armed groups. Ansar Al-Sunnah said in its statement that it also doubted other Islamist groups in Iraq, namely Ansar Al-Islam and Muhammad's Army support the National Front for the Liberation of Iraq, because it has made statements that appear contradictory to Islamic law.

Other groups that fall under the Ansar Al-Sunnah umbrella include the Al-Shahid Aziz Taha Squad, Al-Tawhid Batallion, Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas Group, Asad Al-Islam Brigade, the Hanifah Al-Nu'man Brigades, the Abdallah bin al-Zubayr Squad, the Mu'ad ibn Jabal Unit, and the Yasin al-Bahr regiment.

Faylaq Badr (Badr Corps). The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)'s armed wing. Hadi al-Amiri is the Faylaq Badr's secretary-general. The corps was reportedly founded in 1983, just one year after Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim established SCIRI. The corps was organized into units that included an infantry, armored, artillery, antiaircraft, and commando units, according to the SCIRI website ( SCIRI, supported and funded by Iran, used former Iraqi military officers and commanders to train its fighters and claimed to have some 10,000 militiamen inside Iraq on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) ordered all militias, except for the Kurdish peshmerga, to disband in spring 2003, but the militia remains armed by all accounts. SCIRI head and Iraqi Governing Council member Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, who took over the leadership following al-Hakim's assassination in August 2003, said that the Faylaq Badr would disarm and change its focus (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 September 2003). However, al-Hakim insisted that Badr could play a contributing role to the security of Iraq in November (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 20 November 2003). Media reports have since indicated that the Faylaq Badr is actively working with the Iraqi Interior Ministry to "track down terrorist elements" attempting to enter the country (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 27 March 2004). Meanwhile, U.S. military and civilian leaders in Iraq continue to call for the group to disband and join the regular Iraqi army (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 March 20004).

Shahid Al-Sadr Force. The armed wing of the Al-Da'wah party, this group is highly secretive and its membership is unknown. It is not thought to be currently militarily active. The force was established in 1979. Many militiamen were based in the southern Iraqi marshes, as well as in Iraqi Kurdistan and neighboring Iran, after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein declared in March 1980 that membership in Al-Da'wah was punishable by death. Hussein led a massive crackdown on Al-Da'wah activists in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Al-Da'wah claims to have lost 77,000 members in fighting against the Hussein regime. Some 40,000 Shi'ites were deported by the Ba'athist regime beginning in the 1970s after being labeled "Iranians."

Islamic Movement of Kurdistan. Established in the mid-1980s and now led by Mullah Ali Abd al-Aziz Halabji, this group set up a governing body in the Halabja region of northern Iraq in 1998, but reportedly does not impose strict Islamic law. Abd al-Rahman Abd al-Rahim, a member of the group's consultative council, told London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in an interview published on 5 August 2003 that the movement's leader was unjustly arrested by U.S. forces in Halabjah. He claimed that Mullah Abd al-Aziz is a member of the former Iraqi opposition who has since called for "means other than weapons" to further the movement's agenda. Asked about reports of links to Ansar Al-Islam, Abd al-Rahim said, "The Ansar Al-Islam group members were not happy with our new [nonviolent] policy. They are vehemently opposed to the stand of [Abd al-Aziz] on cooperation with the provincial [Kurdistan] government and the movement's participation in municipal elections." Asked whether the movement will disarm its fighters, he said, "Every party in the world should reconsider its stands and policies every now and then, and this applies to us.... We believe that our priorities at this current stage are limited to preaching and guidance. And I assure you that we have no training or other camps. All our activities are now confined to party organizational affairs." Has received aid from Iran, the United States (after 1998), and possibly Saudi Arabia.

Kurdistan Islamic Group. Established by Ali Bapir in May 2001. Bapir is a former member of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan. The group reportedly receives funding from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. It has been linked to Ansar Al-Islam but released a statement on 11 October 2003 in "Komal" denying that any such links existed. Bapir was interviewed in "Komal" in January 2003. He said: "Our policy is that we enter into fraternity and cooperation with all Islamic groups. We seek such fraternal relations with Islamic parties and organizations, Islamist figures, and groups that follow a Salafi tradition or a Sufi or a scientific tradition. In the Islamic Group, we believe that the group must be open-minded and seek fraternity with all those who call or act for Islam. If we see a mistake, we will try to correct it through dialogue and by creating a fraternal atmosphere."

Arab Volunteers in Iraq. Reportedly led by a figure identified as Abu al-Mu'tasim in London's "Al-Majallah" on 18 April 2004. Group fought coalition forces in Al-Fallujah. Al-Mu'tasim refused to identify any other affiliation (nationalist or Islamic) to the weekly. Claimed in the interview that the resistance was holding 20-30 foreigners captive and offered to trade them for the release of Saddam Hussein and thousands of Iraqis detained in Iraq. He said that cooperation exists between Sunni and Shi'ite fighters in Iraq but not at a structured command level and says there are Arab volunteers in several Iraqi cities, numbering in the hundreds. Al-Mu'tasim describes the volunteers as "Muslims form various Arab nationalities" with the unified goal of fighting U.S. forces.

Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas. A group affiliated with Ansar Al-Sunnah. It tends to attack coalition vehicles in Baghdad.

Al-Mujahidin Brigades. It claims to have resistance fighters in Al-Fallujah, Al-Ramadi, and Al-Khalidiyah. The group has issued statements (as recently as 1 May 2004) warning Iraqis to avoid walking in markets and calling on the general population in Baghdad to avoid going to schools and universities and to close their businesses because the group intends to "bring the fire of the resistance" to the capital. Affiliated with Muqtada al-Sadr's Imam Al-Mahdi Army.

Al-Taff Martyrs Brigades. Al-Taff is a reference to the battle in which Imam al-Husayn was killed. The group reportedly sent a videotape to Al-Jazeera television, broadcast on 10 May 2004, claiming that all those working for Arab and foreign companies in Al-Basrah, and specifically for Kuwaiti companies, would be targeted for kidnappings and killings.

Hizballah (Party of God). Shi'ite group not related to Lebanese Hizbollah. Appears to have only a few hundred followers.

Imam Al-Mahdi Army. Armed group of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Jama'ah al-Sadr al-Thani (Al-Sadr Group II). The size of his "army" is estimated to range between 6,000 and 10,000 men, and the cleric claims that both Sunnis and Shi'a have joined his movement from all over Iraq. Most are young, disenfranchised Shi'ites who have no previous experience and are simply attracted by the cleric's charisma and firebrand style of preaching. Al-Sadr is the son of the late Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who was gunned down, presumably by Saddam Hussein's men, along with Muqtada's two brothers, in 1999. It was recently reported in the Arab press that criminal elements and pro-regime fighters have joined al-Sadr's militia. The "army" is named after the 12th Shi'ite imam, Mahdi. Shi'ites await his return on judgment day.

Usbat Al-Huda (The League of Guidance). It claims to be part of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Imam Al-Mahdi Army. The group has claimed responsibility for attacks on coalition forces and has threatened in a videotape broadcast by Al-Manar television on 11 May 2004 to "chop off the head of any agent we lay our hands on."

Bint Al-Huda (The daughter of Guidance). This group also issued a statement in the above-mentioned Usbat Al-Huda videotape. The group of women fighters pledges loyalty to Muqtada al-Sadr and threatens suicide attacks against the U.S. forces in Iraq.

Resistance Front. This group is opposed to the U.S.-led occupation and all laws, agreements, decisions, treaties, flags, and slogans resulting from it, according to a 9 May 2004 statement read on the Voice of Mujahedin Radio. The group also reportedly objects to the role of UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, but does not object to a role by the United Nations in preparing for general nationwide elections in Iraq. Claims the U.S. killed hundreds of Iraqis detained in the country.

Iraqi Organization of Liberation. London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 4 May 2004 that this is a phony group. The report says the group had offered $2 million to whoever kills or arrests an Iraqi Governing Council member or a member of the interim government. The group also reportedly offered $5 million to anyone who kills high-profile Iraqi leaders Mas'ud Barzani, Ahmad Chalabi, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, Jalal Talabani, or Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum. The group also reportedly promised to send the perpetrator of the above-mentioned acts abroad with his family.

Kata'ib Al-Zilzal Al-Mujahidah (Jihadist Earthquake Brigades). No information available.

Kata'ib Salah Al-Din (Salah Al-Din Brigades). This group has claimed responsibility for attacks on at least seven Iraqi policemen in late January and early February 2004. Operates in the Al-Ramadi area.

Kata'ib Al-Mujahidin (Mujahidin Brigades). Operating in Kirkuk, this group held its first conference in late February. Threatened Iraqi police, Iraqi Civil Defense Forces, the Iraqi Army, and Kurdish parties of the dire consequences of hunting down the mujahedin and impeding their actions. Group has also threatened to target security checkpoints and to kill collaborators.

Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad (Unification and Jihad Group). Reportedly led by fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. Often posts statements by al-Zarqawi on jihadist websites.

Jaysh Al-Mahdi (Imam Al-Mahdi Army). Armed wing of anti-U.S. Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's "Al-Sadr II Group." Estimated to have at least 6,000 members.

Jund Al-Sham. London's "Al-Hayat" claimed on 15 February 2004 that this group is led by fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. The newspaper cites a Kurdish security source as saying that al-Zarqawi ordered the group to take up positions in northern Iraqi cities prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tha'r Allah (God's Wrath). An anticoalition Shi'ite group based in Al-Basrah. Fought British troops in late March 2004.

Mafariz Al-Intiqam (Vengeance Detachments). An armed group operating in Baghdad and Tikrit. Claimed in a 1 November 2003 statement that it was hunting down and killing supporters of the Saddam Hussein regime, specifically those who worked in the security and intelligence services "who are still free and who are doing as they like in all areas of Iraq." Membership reportedly comes from "all the factions" of Iraqi people and the "sons of the mass graves." Criticized the coalition and Iraqi Governing Council for not bringing former regime members to justice. "Everybody was busy with the spoils and forgot that there are thousands of criminals and killers who were behind the assassination of Ayatollah al-Hakim...and Aqilah al-Hashimi, member of the Governing Council."

Saraya Al-Istishhadiyin fi Harakat Hamas (Martyrs Brigades of the Hamas Movement). Reportedly not active in Iraq, though at least one leaflet attributed to the group circulated in the Iraqi capital in April and May 2004. The leaflet sent greetings to the Iraqis from "your faithful mujahedin brothers" in Palestine, London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 1 May. The leaflet said in part: "Be informed that our martyrdom-seeking brigades will return the favors [unspecified] to the sons of this dear country and that, God willing, victory is our ally."

Sarkhi Hassani. A Shi'ite cleric who claims to have an armed group. The number of members is unknown.

Mujahedin Allahu Akbar (God is Great Fighters). This group distributed leaflets in Al-Fallujah in early March 2004 claiming that suspected Al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi was killed in the northern Iraqi mountains near Al-Sulaymaniyah during a U.S. raid in the area last year, AP reported on 4 March. While the leaflet did not provide the specific date for the alleged U.S. raid or for al-Zarqawi's purported death, it is presumably referring to the March bombings of an Ansar Al-Islam stronghold in northern Iraq just days into Operation Iraqi Freedom (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 25 March 2003). The leaflets further claimed that a letter held by coalition officials in Iraq and purportedly written by al-Zarqawi (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 February 2004) is a fake.

Muqawamah Islamiyah Al-Wataniyah Katibat Al-Mujahid Ahmad Yasin (National Islamic Resistance -- the Brigade of Mujahid Ahmad Yasin). This group is reportedly affiliated with Ansar Al-Sunnah Army. Group claimed attack on U.S. base at Al-Muthanna Airport in late March 2004 in retaliation for the Israeli assassination of Yasin on 22 March 2004. The group also reportedly claimed responsibility for the killing and mutilation of four American contractors in Iraq on 31 April 2004.

Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party. This group supports former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The Political and Publishing Information Organ of the party Issued a statement published in Amman's "Al-Majd" on 3 May 2004 warning the coalition against adopting regional and tribal security formulas based on assimilating and employing military commanders from the "disbanded" Iraqi Army to lead segments of the "new army." The statement warns that any former Iraqi officer that works with the coalition places himself on the list of legitimate targets for the Iraqi resistance. Also claims to have issued a death sentence on Iraqi Governing Council members to be carried out even if they resign after 30 June 2004 for being "traitors of the nation and the people."

Fedayeen Saddam (Saddam's Martyrs). A paramilitary group founded by Saddam Hussein's son Uday in 1995. Uday briefly lost control of the organization to his younger brother, Qusay, after he transferred vast amounts of weapons to the Fedayeen without the knowledge of their father. The punishment did not last long, however, and control was soon passed back to Uday. The Fedayeen operated completely outside the law under Hussein's regime. A prewar estimate by set its membership at 18,000-40,000 troops, including a notorious death squad known to have publicly beheaded female family members of those opposed to the regime. The Fedayeen vowed to avenge the deaths of Uday and Qusay at the hands of coalition forces and are suspected of joining up with a number of Iraqi militant groups to launch attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces in recent months. French journalist Alexandre Jordanov said that he was taken hostage by Fedayeen Saddam militiamen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2004).

Al-Qiyadah Al-Amah li Jaysh Al-Iraq (General Command of the Iraqi Army). This group is led by Major General "Qaysar Jasim Hamid Ajjaj al-Qaysi," who hails from Al-Miqdadiyah and is a 1963 graduate of the Military College. He is also reportedly a leader in the National Salvation Movement.

London-based "Al-Zaman" reported on 16 February 2004 that the group has declared itself the nucleus of an Iraqi army. The group claims to have reorganized the Iraqi army that served under Saddam Hussein and works to defend the Iraqi peoples' rights and the country's unity. It supports human rights, democracy, and free elections, and calls for strong relations with the Arab states.

Islamic Jihad Brigades of Muhammad's Army. An apparent umbrella organization for the following groups: The Abdallah bin Iyad Brigade; the Al-Husayn Brigade; the Al-Abbas Brigade, the Bani-Hashim Moon; the Abdallah bin Jahsh bin Rikab Al-Asadi Brigade; the Al-Walid bin Al-Mughirah Brigade; the Umar Al-Faruq Brigade; the Al-Mahdi Al-Muntazar Brigade; and the Ja'far Al-Tayyar Brigade.

This group claimed responsibility for the 19 August bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad and for shelling coalition positions, including the Republican Palace compound where the CPA is headquartered. Wants the coalition to withdraw from Iraq and leave the fate of the country to Iraqis. Has accused the coalition of trying to drive a wedge between Sunnis and Shi'a.

It also issued a videotaped message in late August to Beirut's LBC satellite television warning all Islamic and neighboring countries against interfering in Iraq's internal affairs. "The Islamic Jihad Brigades of Muhammad's Army has decided to send you a warning through the destruction of your embassies in Iraq [if] you send any military or civilian forces to loot the resources of our great country," the speaker in the videotape said. The group also vowed to avenge for the 29 August 2003 assassination of Shi'ite Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim. The speaker in the videotape also outlined "instructions" of the group's higher command, led by a person identified only as Abu Islam (father of Islam). The instructions assigned responsibilities to two Islamic militant groups: The Al-Husayn Brigade was assigned the task of protecting the Al-Hawzah Shi'ite seminary in Al-Najaf as well as the holy shrines in that city and in Karbala. The Al-Walid bin Mughirah Brigade was assigned "the honor" of destroying embassies of coalition forces in Iraq. The statement refers to the U.S. as the "Disunited States of America" and the "enemy of God and humanity."

It also claimed in a February 2004 leaflet that it will set up governing councils and hold elections once the coalition withdraws from Iraq. Also threatened to kill any looters in Al-Fallujah and said Iraqis cooperating with the coalition should leave Iraq or face arrest by the group.

Eighteen resistance groups signed a joint statement published in London's "Quds Press" on 2 May 2004 calling on U.S. forces to withdraw from Al-Fallujah within 48 hours or face attack by force. The statement claimed to have killed 3,000 occupation forces in April and to have destroyed 30 planes, dozens of tanks, and other military vehicles. The statement also claimed that the coalition is attempting to hide its losses from the media, contending that some 25,000 coalition troops have been killed since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The statement also criticized the Iraqi Governing Council and threatened to punish its members, singling out Ahmad Chalabi and Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i. The signatories to the statement were: The Patriotic Army for the Liberation of Iraq; The God is Great Forces; The forces of Muhammad, Messenger of God (Sunni Arab fighters); the Asad Allah Forces; the Iraqi Islamic Resistance Battalions; The Salafi Mujahedin Group Battalions; the Battalions of the Clans of the Iraqi People; the Iraqi Islamic Army; the Ajnad Al-Islam Group Battalions; the Victorious Sect Army; the Ansar Al-Sunnah Army; Al-Qari'ah Organization Battalions; the Free Men of Iraq Army; the Abd Al-Qadir Al-Kilani Army; the Victor Salah Al-Din Battalions; the Black Banners Army; the Ababil Army; and the Martyr Ahmad Yasin Brigades.

On 28 February 2004, London's "Al-Hayat" reported that the Salah Al-Din Brigades and the Jihadist Earthquake Brigades had issued leaflets in Al-Ramadi and pasted the leaflets to the city's mosque claiming responsibility for killing two Iraqi informers and threatening to kill anyone who provided U.S. forces with information on resistance groups. (By Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-YAWIR APPOINTED AS IRAQ'S INTERIM PRESIDENT... Sheikh Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir was named on 1 June to serve as Iraq's interim president, international media reported. Al-Yawir will serve in the interim Iraqi government that will take power from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) on 30 June. "We, the Iraqis, look forward to being granted full sovereignty through a Security Council resolution to enable us to rebuild a free, independent, democratic and federal unified homeland," Reuters quoted al-Yawir as telling a news conference alongside UN special adviser Lakhdar Brahimi, who was entrusted with the nomination process. Al-Yawir, 46, is a Sunni tribal leader from Mosul who returned to Iraq in June 2003 after spending 15 years in Saudi Arabia, according to dpa. He has served as president of the Governing Council since his predecessor, Abd al-Zahra Uthman Muhammad, was killed in a car-bomb attack in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2004). Al-Yawir was reportedly chosen by the Governing Council for the position on 31 May. However, the decision was not announced because of reservations expressed by the CPA and the United Nations, which reportedly favored former Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi (a Sunni Muslim), according to Al-Arabiyah television.

...AFTER PACHACHI REPORTEDLY TURNS POSITION DOWN. Pachachi said during a 1 June news conference in Baghdad that United Nations special adviser Brahimi called him and "offered me this post" and "begged me to accept it," but that after thinking it over he "decided to apologize and not to accept this post," Al-Jazeera reported. The same day, Al-Arabiyah television cited Pachachi's office as saying he rejected the post "because of the media campaign against him." Brahimi said in a 1 June press release that "Pachachi, who enjoys wide respect and support in Iraq, was offered the presidential position with the support of Sheikh Ghazi, but declined for personal reasons." Ibrahim Jaffari of the Islamic Shi'ite Da'wah party and Roj Nuri Shawis of the Kurdistan Democratic Party were named interim vice presidents, AFP reported.

NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT HOLDS FIRST SESSION. The newly formed interim Iraqi cabinet held its first session on 3 June, Al-Arabiyah television reported. Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi chaired the session of 27 ministers held in the former chambers of the Governing Council, according to a 2 June Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) press release. The session discussed security issues, the revised U.S.-U.K. UN Security Council draft resolution, and the relationship of multinational forces with the Iraqi authorities, Al-Arabiyah reported. "I suggest you send a note to all the ministers asking for our input about the draft [U.S.-U.K. resolution]," interim Public Works Minister Nasreen Mustafa Siddek Barwari told Allawi, according to the CPA. "It's important for us to participate, to give our opinion." When asked by interim Provincial Affairs Minister Wa'il Abd al-Latif when the cabinet will begin its work, Allawi said the governance of Iraq "is our responsibility now."

TOP SHI'ITE CLERIC GIVES TACIT SUPPORT TO NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT... Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shi'ite cleric in Iraq, issued a statement on 3 June in which he gave his tacit support to the new interim Iraqi government, international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 June 2004). However, al-Sistani said the process used to choose the government "resulted in the formation of a new government without electoral legitimacy" and that "not all segments of Iraqi society and its political forces are represented in an appropriate manner," Reuters quoted the statement as saying. Al-Sistani added that "it is hoped that this government will prove its efficiency and integrity and show resolve to carry out the enormous tasks that rest on its shoulders," AP reported. He listed those tasks as security, basic services for all, a new UN resolution granting Iraq complete sovereignty, and organizing elections to be held next year. "The new government will not have popular acceptance unless it proves through practical and clear steps that it seeks diligently and seriously to achieve these tasks," al-Sistani said, according to Reuters.

...AS IRAQI MINISTER COUNTERS CRITICISM OF NEW GOVERNMENT. In a live interview with Al-Jazeera on 3 June, newly appointed Industry Minister Hazim al-Hassani dismissed early doubts cast on the new government named on 1 June. In response to Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani's implicit criticisms of the new government, al-Hassani said: "The approval we need for this government comes not from outside Iraq, but from the Iraqi people themselves.... As for the views of others outside the government, I don't know what these views are based on." He added, "We should wait until we can judge the performance of the government." Addressing reported criticism from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, al-Hassani said: "How can they who are ignorant of the facts say that this government receives orders from America? We are not receiving any orders from anyone right now; we are taking over the work of all ministries. On 1 July, all the decisions we make will be purely Iraqi." He added, "We said from the outset that this government would enjoy full sovereignty and that the expected UN Security Council resolution would give Iraq full sovereignty. We would not accept anything less."

IRAQ REACTS TO NEW INTERIM GOVERNMENT... The appointment of Sheikh Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir as Iraq's interim president on 1 June and interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's subsequent naming of his cabinet was met with mixed reviews. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, one of the newly named interim vice presidents and spokesman for the Shi'ite Al-Da'wah party, told Al-Jazeera television on 1 June that while he recently expressed reservations about the transparency of the selection process, he is "now looking toward the future and how to...take more advanced steps than those made by the Governing Council." Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani said that despite the naming of seven Kurds to top positions, including one vice presidency (Rowsch Shaways, Kurdish Democratic Party), "the rights of Kurds are not completely met," reported. "We have to struggle to establish our [Kurdish] rights clearly in the next Iraqi constitution." Meanwhile, an Al-Jazeera broadcast said "the citizens of the south did not hide the hopes that they are hanging on the new president" and were reacting positively to his tribal background. Al-Arabiyah aired footage of Mosul residents celebrating the appointment of al-Yawir, who was born in the northern city.

...AS IT RECEIVES U.S., UN ENDORSEMENTS. U.S. President George W. Bush said during a 1 June press briefing that the naming of the interim government "brings us one step closer" to establishing a "fully sovereign nation with a representative government." However, he added that "I believe there will be more violence, because there are still violent people who want to stop progress" (for full text, see UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the same day in New York that the announcement marks "a new beginning," the UN News Center reported. While noting that the process of choosing the government "wasn't perfect," he said that "now that the new government is installed, we all need to look forward and work for the handover of sovereignty and power to the Iraqis on 30 June." UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who oversaw the establishment of the government, said in Baghdad that "I very much hope that [the Iraqi people] will see that even though this government may not reflect everything they had hoped for, it was the best outcome that was possible at this time."

IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL DISSOLVES... The Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) decided on 1 June to dissolve itself and will hand over its duties to interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's government, international news agencies reported. Council member Younadam Kana said that 20 of the council's members were in favor of dissolving the body and two were opposed; the IGC was originally expected to remain in office until the 30 June handover of power, AP reported. According to Kana, the two dissenting council members opposed the decision on the grounds that the interim constitution requires that the council remain in power until the handover. The U.S.-backed Allawi, a 58-year-old Shi'ite Muslim, was nominated prime minister-designate by the Governing Council on 28 May. "After 35 years of tyrannical regime...we are starting now our march toward sovereignty and democracy," Allawi said at the 1 June press conference with al-Yawir and Brahimi.

...AS INTERIM GOVERNMENT TAKES SHAPE. Alawi announced the members of his cabinet on 1 June, international media reported. He said Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, will remain foreign minister and Shi'ite politician Adil Abd al-Mahdi will serve as finance minister, Reuters reported. Hazim al-Sha'lan was named defense minister and Falah al-Naqib interior minister. Other key appointments, according to Al-Jazeera, include: Malik Duhan al-Hassan, justice minister; Alladin Abd al-Sahib al-Alwan, health minister; Sawsan al-Sharifi, agriculture minister; Thamir al-Ghadban, oil minister; Muhammad Ali al-Hakim, communications minister; Umar al-Damluji, housing minister; Mufid al-Jaza'iri, culture minister; and Mushkat Mu'min, environment minister.

SUNNI POLITICIAN GUNNED DOWN IN IRAQ. Four gunmen opened fire on the vehicle of Iraqi Islamic Party deputy head Qahdan Kazim al-Rubay'i as he was driving home late on 30 May, killing al-Rubay'i in the latest attack seemingly targeting Iraqi parties and individuals participating in the Iraqi Governing Council, Al-Arabiyah television and international agencies reported the next day. Al-Rubay'i was responsible for media relations for the party, which is one of the largest Sunni Muslim parties in Iraq and is represented on the Governing Council, Reuters reported. The attack occurred in Mahmudiyah, about 30 kilometers south of Baghdad. Locals reportedly captured one suspect and turned him over to the Iraqi Islamic Party's headquarters, according to Reuters, while three others suspects escaped. Iraqi Governing Council President for the month of May Abd al-Zahra Uthman Muhammad was killed in a 17 May car bombing in Baghdad.

IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER SURVIVES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Iraqi Governing Council member Salamah al-Khafaji survived an assassination attempt on 27 May, Al-Jazeera reported the same day. One of her bodyguards was killed and two wounded in the ambush, which occurred in Al-Yusufiyah south of Baghdad. The entourage was returning from a Governing Council tour of Al-Najaf when the attack occurred, Al-Jazeera reported. Al-Khafaji's son drowned in the incident, when his vehicle careered off a bridge into a canal. The Governing Council member was reportedly unhurt in the attack. Al-Khafaji is just one of many Iraqi officials to be targeted in recent weeks. Her colleague on the Governing Council Abd al-Zahra Uthman Muhammad was killed in a 17 May car bombing in Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 May 2004). Al-Khafaji joined the Governing Council following the assassination of Aqilah al-Hashimi last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2003).

TWO JAPANESE JOURNALISTS, IRAQI TRANSLATOR KILLED IN ROCKET ATTACK. Militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade into a vehicle carrying two Japanese journalists and their Iraqi translator south of Baghdad on 27 May, killing all three men, international media reported on 28 May. A fourth man, reportedly an Iraqi driver, survived the attack. Al-Jazeera reported that the men were traveling in a taxi when the attack occurred, but that claim has not been substantiated by other news agencies. The Japanese Foreign Ministry has said it knows the identities of the victims, who were burnt beyond recognition, according to media reports. The men were reportedly traveling to the southeastern Iraqi city of Samawah when the attack occurred. Meanwhile, Reuters reported on 28 May that four journalists working for U.S.-based NBC television were released from captivity in Al-Fallujah on 28 May after being taken hostage earlier in the week. According to Reuters, a U.S. military statement said: "The [television] crew's decision to enter the city was irresponsible; luckily it did not cost them or anyone else their lives."

U.S. PATROLS SUSPENDED IN AL-NAJAF, AL-KUFAH. A representative for Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmad al-Barak said on 31 May that U.S. forces have agreed to suspend patrols in the cities of Al-Najaf and Al-Kufah for 48 hours to allow militiamen loyal to Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to withdraw, Al-Arabiyah television reported the same day. The announcement came after a meeting among Coalition Provisional Authority representatives, Shi'a political leaders, and Al-Najaf Governor Adnan al-Zarfi. There was no immediate confirmation from either the CPA or representatives of al-Sadr. Fighting was reportedly continuing between U.S. and insurgent forces through the day on 31 May, further straining the cease-fire declared last week.

BOMBERS STRIKE, KILLING AT LEAST 11 IN IRAQ. A car bomb exploded on 1 June near an entrance to the "green zone" in which the U.S.-led administration in Iraq is housed, ripping through the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan near Iraq's Foreign Ministry and causing extensive injuries and damage, international news agencies reported. Early reports suggested at least some fatalities, with an Iraqi policeman quoted by Reuters saying he saw at least 25 casualties at the scene. The party headquarters was hosting an anniversary celebration and was full of people at the time of the blast, the same agency reported. Elsewhere, at least 11 Iraqis were killed and 22 others injured, including two U.S. soldiers, when a suicide bomber detonated his car at the entrance to a U.S. military base near the oil-refining town of Baiji on 1 June, Reuters reported. Baiji is about 180 kilometers north of Baghdad.

CAR BOMB KILLS FOUR, WOUNDS DOZENS IN IRAQI CAPITAL. A car bomb detonated near the U.S.-led coalition's headquarters in Baghdad on 31 May, killing four and wounding 25 others, AP reported. Four U.S. soldiers reportedly died in other attacks during the weekend, the agency added, including two in the Shi'a holy city of Al-Kufah. The target was unclear, but AP reported that the 72-year-old sister of former Iraqi Presidents Abdel-Salam Aref and Abdel-Rahman Aref was killed in the blast. Shi'a leaders have urged U.S. forces to end their "aggressive patrolling" and stay clear of holy sites in Al-Najaf and Al-Kufah, AP reported, in exchange for having militiamen from outside of those cities return to their homes and local militiamen remaining off the streets. Clashes intensified in recent days, however, amid what U.S. officials called an absence of signs that al-Sadr forces were complying with the agreement.

U.S. MILITARY HINTS AL-FALLUJAH BRIGADE COULD PROVE START OF NEW IRAQI ARMY. The so-called Al-Fallujah Brigade, which has been given the task by coalition forces of maintaining peace in that flashpoint city, could form the core of a new Iraqi army after the U.S.-led occupation forces transfer sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government on 30 June, Reuters quoted U.S. military officials as saying on 30 May. The brigade emerged under an agreement to end clashes between U.S. and insurgent forces, and comprises roughly 2,000 men, many of them Ba'athists who served in ousted President Saddam Hussein's army, the agency added. Asked whether the force might form "a nucleus for an army integrated into the [U.S.-backed Iraqi Civil Defense Force]," U.S. Marine Colonel John Toolan said, "Those are questions that have to be answered by the Iraqi government. There has been some discussion along those lines with high leadership...about where they go." The brigade is commanded by Muhammad Latif, a former general and intelligence officer who eventually opposed Hussein.

AUSTRALIAN LEADER VOWS TO STAY COURSE IN IRAQ. Prime Minister John Howard said on 1 June that the recent prison-abuse scandal in Iraq is "a setback, a real negative," but he pledged to maintain his stance on Iraq, Reuters reported. Howard conceded that the publicity was damaging for his conservative government ahead of this year's elections.

RUSSIAN COMPANIES PULL OUT OF THE COUNTRY. All 59 remaining Russian specialists working in Iraq for Interenergoservis will leave the country this week, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May, citing company personnel director Andrei Balukov. Balukov said that the Iraqi provisional government had asked the company to continue working in order to forestall "an energy disaster," but the company will nonetheless proceed with its planned pullout. The same day, Avialinii-400, the only Russian commercial air carrier currently serving Iraq, announced that it has suspended its flights because of the security situation in the country, the news agency reported. The company's two flights scheduled for the first half of June have been canceled.

MORE PRISONERS RELEASED FROM ABU GHURAYB. The U.S. military released 500 Iraqi detainees from the Abu Ghurayb prison in Baghdad on 28 May, Dubai's Al-Arabiyah television reported. Hundreds of Iraqis waited outside the prison gates as some 13 buses transported the detainees to unknown locations, AP reported. The U.S. military has dropped prisoners off in areas close to their towns or villages in earlier releases. Meanwhile, interviews conducted by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and obtained by AP reveal new allegations that other coalition forces were involved in prisoner abuse, the news agency reported on 28 May. Army interrogator Sergeant Antonio Monserrate told investigators that detainees had been "injured by the Polish Army." The detainees also accused Iraqi forces of abuse, AP reported. Another 500-600 detainees were released on 28 May, Reuters reported the same day.

NEWSPAPER REPORTS THAT CPA HEAD ASKS KURDISH LEADERS NOT TO SEEK POSTS. Iraqi Kurdish weekly "Hawlati" reported on 26 May that Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer has asked Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Mas'ud Barzani and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) head Jalal Talabani not to demand the posts of president or prime minister in the interim Iraqi government. Citing a Baghdad source, the weekly reported that Bremer has appealed to the leaders twice this week. The source speculated that if neither position is offered to the Kurds, they would likely be offered the position of head of the advisory council, due to be set up in July. Few details have emerged on the role of that council. The United Nations has maintained that UN special adviser Lakhdar Brahimi has yet to finalize his recommendations for the top slots in the interim Iraqi government, which will take power on 30 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2004).

IRAQ'S INTERIM FOREIGN MINISTER HEADS TO UN FOR TALKS ON RESOLUTION. Hoshyar al-Zebari was scheduled to meet with the UN Security Council on 3 June to discuss a revised draft resolution on Iraq proposed by the United States and Britain, international media reported. "This is a very important resolution for us and definitely, we need to have our own input into this," he said. An original draft U.S.-U.K. resolution was criticized for not providing enough authority to Iraqis in managing their own affairs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004), and some Security Council members have cited flaws in the revised draft as well. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov said on 3 June that "we still have many reservations," adding that the "new resolution must spell out a transition to a new...stage of regulating the Iraqi crisis," Interfax reported. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists in Oslo on 2 June that it is "too soon" to vote on the revised resolution, ITAR-TASS reported. However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said on 3 June that "China welcomes the new modifications.... [The revised draft] reflects the voices and concerns of China and some other countries," AFP reported.

U.S., BRITAIN SUBMIT NEW UN RESOLUTION ON IRAQ. A revised resolution submitted to the UN Security Council by the United States and Britain on 1 June opens with a statement that looks forward to the "end of the occupation and the assumption of authority by a fully sovereign interim government of Iraq by 30 June 2004," according to AP, which obtained a copy of the proposed resolution. It states the Security Council's willingness to terminate the mandate of the multinational force in Iraq "if requested by the elected transitional government," which is slated to be elected by 31 January 2005. In addition, the mandate "shall expire upon the completion of the political process," a reference to the election of a new government under a new constitution that is expected in late December 2005 or early 2006. A previous U.S.-U.K. resolution proposal was criticized by some Security Council members for not granting enough authority to Iraqis. The revised version "welcomes efforts by the incoming interim government of Iraq to develop Iraqi security forces," adding that those forces will operate under the authority of that government and its successors and will "ultimately assume responsibility for the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq."

U.S., GERMAN LEADERS DISCUSS UN RESOLUTION ON IRAQ. U.S. President George W. Bush urged German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to back a U.S.-U.K. proposed resolution on Iraq in a telephone conversation on 31 May, Reuters reported the next day, quoting a German government spokesman. The spokesman called it "a substantial and constructive conversation," but provided no details. Four permanent members of the UN Security Council who wield veto power -- China, France, Germany, and Russia -- have called for changes in the proposed resolution, which would address the international community's approach to Iraq and the handover of authority to Iraqis following the 30 June deadline.

RUSSIA LAUDS PROGRESS IN TALKS ON NEW UN RESOLUTION ON IRAQ. Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov told reporters in New York on 1 June that progress is being made in consultations on a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq and that the new document will "herald the beginning of a principally new stage in the Iraqi settlement," Russian media reported. He also expressed support for an international conference on Iraq, saying that it could even be held before the scheduled 30 June handover of sovereignty in Iraq, ITAR-TASS reported. The same news agency reported on 31 May that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed Iraq by telephone, including the draft Security Council resolution. At a joint news conference in Moscow with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on 28 May, President Vladimir Putin declined to comment on Iraq, merely noting that "Recently, [U.S. President] George Bush has been taking vigorous steps toward finding a way out of the current situation," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 May.

DAILY SAYS IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS HEAD TOLD IRAN OF U.S. CODE SUCCESS. "The New York Times" reported on 1 June that U.S. support for the activities of the Iraqi National Congress and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi, collapsed following intelligence suggesting that Chalabi informed an Iranian official that Washington had broken a sophisticated Iranian spy-service code. The daily reported that "several senior American officials...said the leak contributed to the White House decision to break with [Chalabi]." The report noted that "Chalabi and his aides have said he knew of no secret information related to Iran and therefore could not have communicated any intelligence to Tehran."