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Iraq Report: September 24, 2004


24 September 2004, Volume 7, Number 35
INSIDE IRAQ
MILITANT GROUP KILLS THREE KDP MEMBERS IN IRAQ. The militant group Ansar Al-Sunnah Army posted a video on its website (http://www.ansar-alsunnah.8k.com) on 19 September purportedly depicting the beheadings of three hostages from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The men were abducted while transporting military vehicles from Kurdistan to a camp in Al-Taji.

Two of the victims identified themselves in the videotape, both as being from the KDP branch in Zakho, located north of Dahuk on the Iraqi border with Turkey. The third man did not identify himself. Kurdistan Satellite Television reported that the men were on a personal visit to Baghdad when they were abducted. KDP head Mas'ud Barzani offered his condolences to the families of the victims in a statement read on Kurdistan Satellite television on 20 September. "We are confident that terrorists can never threaten the Kurds and criminals will be brought to justice and will get their just punishment," Barzani said in the statement. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-ZARQAWI'S GROUP KILLS U.S. HOSTAGES. The Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad militant group affiliated with fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi beheaded two Americans it abducted in Iraq last week along with a U.K. national, international media reported. The group had threatened to kill the men by 20 September unless multinational forces released all Iraqi female detainees in the Abu Ghurayb and Um Qasr prisons, Reuters reported on 20 September.

The killing of the first hostage, Eugene Armstrong, was videotaped and shown on the group's website (http://www.qal3ah.net/vb). The videotape depicts Armstrong dressed in an orange jumpsuit, similar to attire given to other hostages held by Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad. He was seated on the floor and surrounded by five masked men armed with rifles. One militant read a statement before Armstrong was beheaded. The message said, in part: "Nation of Islam, we are bringing you good news. Your sons are still a thorn in the throat of God's enemies, not allowing them to sleep at night nor to have comfort in daytime." The statement addresses the group's demands, saying: "Nation of Islam, how can you find rest while our virgin sisters are being humiliated by a mean infidel? How can you sleep tight while your daughters in your enemy's prisons are suffering the pain of humiliation and groaning from the violence of the soldiers of infidelity?"

The statement also accused U.S. President George W. Bush of scheming to "pave the way for establishing the Greater Israel to reach the borders of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers." The statement contested claims by Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi that there are only two females detained in U.S.-controlled prisons in Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials say those women -- who were officials in Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program -- are high-value detainees.

Armstrong's body was recovered and identified on 20 September, Reuters reported. The news agency said that details were not immediately available about where and when the body was found.

The militant group said that it would kill the remaining hostages if its demands were not met, and issued a statement on 21 September claiming to have killed the second American hostage, Jack Hensley. The group said in a statement on the Internet that it would release a videotape of the beheading "soon," international media reported on 22 September. There is no word on the fate of the third hostage, U.K. national Kenneth Bigley.

The families of the hostages had appealed to the U.S. and U.K. governments to intercede. The U.S. traditionally does not negotiate with terrorists. "You cannot negotiate with these people," Reuters quoted Bush as saying on 20 September. "We will stay on the offensive against them," he added. British officials said that they had no way to contact the captors. The U.S. has offered a $25 million reward for information leading to the killing or capture of al-Zarqawi. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SUNNI CLERICS ASSASSINATED IN BAGHDAD. Two members of the Sunni group the Muslim Scholars Association, were assassinated in Baghdad on 20 September, Al-Jazeera television reported the same day.

The body of Sheikh Hazim al-Zaydi was found in front of the Al-Sajjad Mosque in the capital's Al-Sadr City neighborhood, the satellite news channel reported. Al-Zaydi was reportedly kidnapped and killed before his body was dumped, KUNA reported on 21 September. He was the rapporteur for the association's Follow-up and Coordination Department. Meanwhile, gunmen assassinated Sheikh Muhammad Jaddu as he exited the Al-Kawthar Mosque in the Al-Bayya area of western Baghdad following noon prayers, Al-Jazeera reported.

A member of the association told Al-Arabiyah television on 20 September that: "A few days ago, the Pentagon announces that there will be civil war, an idea which has not occurred to anybody before," Sheikh Ahmad al-Samarra'i said. "Afterwards, what happened [the assassinations] has happened as if it was planned. Iraqis know the occupation forces. We do not put the ball in the court of any of the Iraqi brothers, however, we blame the occupation forces and the agents, whom the occupation forces helped to break up our ranks…The occupation forces want Iraqis to become preoccupied with sectarian conflicts, religious disputes, political wars, and personal rancor," he contended. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MUSLIM CLERIC INTERVIEWED ON KILLING OF HOSTAGES. Sheikh Abd al-Jabbar Abd al-Sattar, a member of the Muslim Scholars Association, told Al-Jazeera television in a 21 September interview that he did not understand why the world pays so much attention to the killing of two American hostages when Iraqis are dying every day.

When asked whether the killing of the hostages was justified given the suffering of the Iraqi people under the occupation, Abd al-Sattar claimed: "I am not justifying. I want the world to pay attention to our issue and our justice. I want to hear the world denounce what the occupiers are doing in our country. What makes those people carry out such actions is the crimes they see in the Iraqi arena," he contended.

Regarding the kidnappers' demands that all female prisoners be released from Iraqi prisons, and the U.S. contention that only two women -- former regime members -- were in custody, Abd al-Sattar said: "The U.S. government considers the Iraqi women prisoners to be nonprisoners. It gives them the same status of the prisoners in Guantanamo.... This is why, according to [U.S.] understanding, it is telling the truth and there are no Iraqi women prisoners. However, there are dozens and perhaps hundreds of Iraqi women prisoners in the occupation prisons."

Asked what the difference was between the case of American and British hostages versus the case of the French journalists and Italian aide workers, whom the association claims to be working on their behalf for a release, the cleric said: "The French are innocent and the two Italian women are innocent. As for the [two] Americans, they have admitted that they are rebuilding military bases for the U.S. army." He also cited a fatwa, or religious edict that claims: "the one who helps the occupiers...is considered like the occupier himself and should be fought and confronted." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

15 IRAQI NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIERS KIDNAPPED AND RELEASED. A militant group identifying itself as the Muhammad bin Abdallah Brigades kidnapped 15 Iraqi National Guard soldiers on 19 September and released them the following day, Al-Jazeera television reported the same day. The group said in a statement that it would kill the soldiers unless multinational forces release cleric Hazim al-A'raji, who is an associate of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Some media reports said that as many as 18 National Guard soldiers were kidnapped. Calls by al-Sadr were the reason for the national guard soldiers to be released.

Al-A'raji was arrested by U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces in a 18 September raid. Al-Sadr aide Hasan al-Zarqani told Al-Jazeera from Beirut on 20 September that al-Sadr had nothing to do with the kidnapping. "Kidnapping is not our style, let alone killing. The time has not yet come for us to follow this method," al-Zarqani said.

The group threatened however, to target all those who cooperate with multinational forces in Iraq, Al-Jazeera reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MILITANT GROUP HOLDING 10 TURKISH WORKERS REISSUES DEMAND. A group identifying itself as the Abu Bakr al-Sidiq Salafist Brigades said on 18 September that it will kill 10 Turkish workers in Iraq within three days unless their employer withdraws from Iraq, international media reported.

The group kidnapped the men some 10 days ago. It first issued its ultimatum last week, and reiterated its demand on 18 September, Istanbul's NTV reported on the following day. The men's employer has said that the firm has no ties to multinational forces in Iraq and is involved in reconstruction projects. Iraqi police reportedly said that another 10 Turkish workers -- all truck drivers -- were killed or abducted north of Baghdad on 19 September, when their convoy of four trucks was attacked, NTV reported. One eyewitness told NTV that five of the drivers were abducted, while the other five were killed. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FATE OF OTHER HOSTAGES UNKNOWN. Baghdad's Al-Sharqiyah television cited Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Hamid al-Bayati as saying on 19 September that he believes a criminal gang kidnapped two Italian aid workers and their two Iraqi colleagues and sold them to the Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad militant group loyal to al-Zarqawi. Al-Bayati said the kidnappers in both cases issued the same demands, namely the release of Iraqi detainees. Meanwhile, there were reports on 19 September that two French hostages have been released from captivity after agreeing to cover the news from their captors' point of view. French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin cautioned the media, however, saying that there is no evidence that the men have been released, Europe 1 Radio reported on 19 September. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KURDS DEMAND PASSPORTS IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE. Unnamed Kurdish officials told the Baghdad daily "Al-Bayan" issued by the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party that they would demand that Baghdad allow passports to be issued in Kurdish for the residents of the northern Kurdish-dominated governorates. New Iraqi passports are being issued in Arabic only. The Transitional Administrative Law for Iraq calls for both Arabic and Kurdish to serve as the two official languages of the state; all official documents are to be issued in both languages under the law. Sources told the daily that Kurdish officials would raise the issue at an upcoming conference to be attended by government representatives and border security officials, and representatives of the Kurdistan government. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI NATIONAL GUARD COLONEL ARRESTED FOR AIDING INSURGENTS. The U.S. Army reportedly arrested an Iraqi National Guard colonel on 19 September on charges that the man had established relations with militants in Iraq, "Al-Mashriq" reported on 20 September. Colonel Idham Khalil al-Juburi was arrested along with one of his guards, Al-Jubur tribal chief Sheikh Na'if al-Muhari said. "The Americans explained that they had information about a relation between the colonel al-Juburi and the insurgents, and accuse him of not doing anything against the attackers," al-Muhari said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-ZARQAWI AIDE KILLED IN IRAQ. The relatives of a Jordanian militant affiliated with Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi told Al-Jazeera in Amman that Umar Yusuf Jum'ah was killed when U.S. forces attacked his vehicle on 17 September, the satellite news channel reported on 22 September. The attack took place near the Abu Ghurayb Prison in Baghdad. Jum'ah is also known by an alias, Abu Anas al-Shami. He served as head of the religious committee of Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad and had reportedly been in Iraq for one year. Al-Jazeera describes Jum'ah as one of the most prominent Salafi preachers in Jordan, adding that his audio fatwas and messages were widely distributed on the Internet. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-SADR AIDE ARRESTED IN AL-NAJAF. An aide to radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was arrested in Al-Najaf on 21 September, Al-Jazeera reported. Ahmad al-Shaybani, who serves as a spokesman for al-Sadr, and an unidentified security aide, were arrested during a search operation by Iraqi police at al-Sadr's office in the holy city. As'ad al-Basri, who heads the al-Sadr office in Al-Najaf told Al-Jazeera that the police entered the office "in cooperation with Muqtada al-Sadr" and confiscated "some weapons" before arresting al-Shaybani.

Meanwhile, U.K. forces spokesman Captain Hisham Halawi told LBC satellite television on 20 September that U.K. forces confiscated a large amount of weapons during a search of al-Sadr's office in Al-Basrah. The 18 September search came after al-Sadr loyalists opened fire on a British patrol. Halawi said that explosives were also confiscated during the raid. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REGIONAL NEWS
IRAN RAMPS UP SUPPORT FOR IRAQI INSURGENCY. Personnel from British military intelligence and MI6 have determined that a cell within Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) is the main source of money and training for insurgents in southern Iraq, "The Sunday Times" reported on 19 September. The IRGC cell reportedly has flooded Al-Basrah with thousands of U.S. dollars and is providing Shi'a militiamen with weapons -- including a type of rocket-propelled grenade with a special warhead -- and tactical training.

Officials from the U.S. State and Defense departments, as well as military officials, also assert that money, arms, and even personnel are getting to radical Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr from Iran, "The Washington Post" reported on 20 September. Al-Sadr reportedly has the backing of many poor Iraqi youths but has alienated, among others, the moderate Shi'ite business class, the daily reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the extent of Iranian support for the insurgency is unclear. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said on 14 September there is "no doubt" that money comes from Iran and Syria. He mentioned a shoulder-launched antiaircraft missile being smuggled in from Iran. In a possible effort to recreate Hizballah's success in Lebanon, Iran is funding hospitals, clinics, and social services in parts of Iraq not reached by the central government, U.S. administration officials told "The Washington Post."

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told London's "Al-Hayat" in an interview published on 20 September that he does not think the Iranian government is involved in terrorist activities in Iraq. "Iranian interference in some Iraqi affairs does not mean that the Iranian government condones this but it is originating from some circles that back certain religious tendencies, as was the case with Muqtada al-Sadr's issue. We dealt with it not as a religious tendency...but as the violation of the sovereignty of the law, which is something that we cannot be lax about," Allawi said. (Bill Samii, Kathleen Ridolfo)

TURKISH PRIME MINISTER CALLS ON U.S. TO SPEED UP DEMOCRATIC PROCESS IN IRAQ. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Ankara on 21 September that the United States "should work to speed up the democratic process" in Iraq "as soon as possible," Anatolia news agency reported.

Asked about the continued abductions of foreign workers in Iraq, Erdogan said that Turkish businessmen would continue to invest in infrastructure projects, adding, "If investments stop there, Iraqi people, our neighbors and friends, would face more serious problems." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

WEBSITE DISCUSSES RECRUITMENT OF FOREIGN FIGHTERS. The website of a Beirut-based newspaper "Al-Nahar" (http://www.annahar.com.lb) reported on 21 September that al-Zarqawi's assistant, identified only as Abu Muhammad al-Libnani, was killed by U.S. forces on 17 September. Al-Libnani was described as a Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship. The report states that al-Libnani trained with "Arab Afghans" in Afghanistan and also received training in Chechnya.

The website also reported that Lebanese-based groups continue to recruit Lebanese and Palestinian volunteers in Akkar and Tripoli, as well as in Palestinian refugee camps to join the resistance in Iraq. "These groups are overseen by individuals experienced in 'Islamic and jihadist action.' Several of them have had past experience in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya, and they face no difficulty in mobilizing volunteers. Instead, they facilitate the volunteers' arrival in the country of Al-Rafidayn and in 'gaining martyrdom,'" the website reported. The volunteers include Salafis and Lebanese Ba'athists. The Palestinian volunteers are identified only as Islamists.

The report contends that Palestinian factions based in refugee camps in Lebanon do not object to volunteers going to Iraq, but said there is no central decision that advocates volunteerism -- the decision is left to the individual. The report contends that one faction dismissed a member after he became "too preoccupied" with recruiting volunteers for Iraq.

Meanwhile, Hamas Political Bureau leader Khalid Mash'al called on Iraqi 'resistance' fighters to stop kidnapping foreigners and focus on other activities, AP reported on 21 September.

"We are against kidnappings and we wish the Iraqi resistance would stay away from this behavior and concentrate on its natural right in defending its land and people, by resisting the occupation forces, foremost the American occupation," Mash'al said. "With the standing that Hamas has with the Arab and Iraqi masses, we wish that our word will resonate effectively. We don't like the suffering of the hostages to continue," he said. Hamas does not advocate the kidnapping of people, "especially civilians and journalists," he contended. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

THE UN AND IRAQ
UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY OPENS SESSION. The United Nations General Assembly opened its annual session on 21 September, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. The issues of global terrorism and Iraq dominated speeches by U.S. President George W. Bush and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Annan said that there is a disregard for the rule of law around the world. "Again and again, we see laws shamelessly disregarded -- those that ordain respect for innocent life, for civilians, for the vulnerable, especially children. In Iraq, we see civilians massacred in cold blood while relief workers, journalists, and other noncombatants are taken hostage and put to death in the most barbarous fashion. At the same time we have seen Iraqi prisoners disgracefully abused," he added, referring to the scandal involving U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

President Bush told the 95 heads of state and government attending the session, "We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace. We know that oppressive governments support terror, while free governments fight the terrorists in their midst. We know that free peoples embrace progress and life instead of becoming the recruits for murderous ideologies." Bush said the world needs to devise a new definition of security. "Our security is not merely found in spheres of influence or some balance of power. The security of our world is found in the advancing rights of mankind. These rights are advancing across the world and, across the world, the enemies of human rights are responding with violence."

Bush also called for the establishment of a Democracy Fund within the UN, according to the UN News Center. "This is a great calling for this great organization," he said, adding that the U.S. would pledge the initial funds for the project. He called on other member states to donate to the fund, which would help lay the foundations of democracy by helping to institute the rule of law and independent courts, a free press, political pluralism, and trade unions in emerging democracies. "Each of us alone can only do so much. Together, we can accomplish so much more," Bush said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FOREIGN MINISTER HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR UN ASSISTANCE. Hoshyar al-Zebari told BBC television on 19 September that the international community is not doing enough to help Iraq prepare for elections. "The Iraqi people want elections and we will ask for more international aid and assistance from the United Nations, especially under the new Security Council Resolution 1446, they [the UN] are the ones who are supposed to help us organize and prepare these elections, but unfortunately they are not doing enough to help us," al-Zebari said. "Up to now, they have only about 30 international staff in Baghdad...really this number is insufficient to organize an election for 10 million people."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a 14 September report to the Security Council that security remains an obstacle for UN staff in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 September 2004). Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on 19 September that the interim government plans to stick to the January election timetable, the BBC reported on 19 September. Allawi went to London ahead of his trip to the United States. He met with U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair on 19 September and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on 20 September. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI DIPLOMAT SUBMITS HIS CREDENTIALS TO UN. Iraq's new permanent representative to the United Nations, Samir Shakir Mahmud al-Sumaydi'i, submitted his credentials to the United Nations on 17 September, "Al-Adalah" reported on 19 September. Al-Sumaydi'i is a former member of the Iraqi Governing Council and most recently served as interior minister. He is a Sunni.

Al-Sumaydi'i left Iraq in 1973 and remained as an outspoken opponent to the Hussein regime during his exile in London, according to a brief biography posted on the UN website (http://www.un.org/news/press/docs/2004/bio3615.doc.htm). An active member of the Iraqi Governing Council, al-Sumaydi'i chaired the Media Committee that established the Iraqi Telecommunications and Media Commission and the Public Service Broadcasting Institution. He also chaired the Committee on Provinces and acted as deputy chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He also sat on the Security, Finance, and Public Services committees. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQ
IRAQI PRESIDENT RETURNS FROM EU TOUR. Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir wrapped up a European tour this week by saying that he felt most European countries were extremely hesitant with regard to offering Iraq political support, due to the ongoing insurgency there, Al-Diyar television reported on 19 September.

Al-Yawir told Al-Sharqiyah television in a 20 September interview that he nonetheless felt positive about his meetings with European officials. Al-Yawir met with leaders from the U.K., Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands during his trip. The president said that the aim of the tour was to seek more European cooperation and to address the issue of Iraq's outstanding debts to Paris Club creditors (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 September 2004). Regarding Germany's stance on Iraqi debt, al-Yawir said: "Germany did not back down on its position. Germany promised a substantial reduction in debts. We can say that this reduction will range between 70 to 80 percent of the debts."

Asked about Iraqi-French relations, he said that relations were good, but noted that the French were concerned that the meeting might somehow jeopardize their efforts to secure the release of two French journalists held captive in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI PRIME MINISTER DISCOUNTS U.K. COUNTERPART'S ASSERTIONS ON VIOLENCE. Iyad Allawi told reporters in London on 20 September that he did not agree with U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair's assertions that Iraq was now fighting a "second war" against militants, London's "The Guardian" reported on 21 September.

"It's not a second war, as such. It's a big conflict, with people coming to Iraq from various parts -- including the European Union, the Middle East and Pakistan -- to fight," Allawi said. Regarding some assertions that Iraq is on the verge of civil war, Allawi told reporters: "I'm surprised at people who call it a civil war. If that was going to happen it would have happened six months ago. Yes, there is tension between Shi'a and Sunni, and between Arab and Kurd, but it doesn't amount to even a precursor to civil war."

"The insurgents are a small minority, and the media are feeding on this. I rule out entirely this notion that Iraq is slipping into civil war. There are ongoing attacks, of course, and they are becoming deadlier, but they are decreasing," Allawi contended. More than 300 people were killed in fighting and terrorist attacks across Iraq last week. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

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