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Iraq Report: November 5, 2004


5 November 2004, Volume 7, Number 41
INSIDE IRAQ
MOSUL: THE NEXT AL-FALLUJAH? Recent reports out of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul leave little doubt that militants have marked the city as their next base for fighting U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq. The city has been the scene of sporadic fighting and attacks for several months, and recent reports indicate that the security situation is deteriorating.

Militants launched several attacks in the city on 4 November. According to RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports, Mosul airport was attacked overnight on 3-4 November, and three mortars were fired on a U.S. camp in the city. RFI said gunfire and blasts could be heard throughout Mosul into the morning hours. An elderly Kurdish man, Fahmi Sayyid Sulayman, was gunned down by militants as he returned home from morning prayers at a mosque. The killing prompted Kurdistan Democratic Party official Yunis Ruzbayani to warn armed groups in the city to keep their distance from Kurds in Mosul.

Clashes broke out later in the day between militants and an Iraqi National Guard unit in the Al-Hadba' district of the city, causing large-scale damage to buildings in the area. One woman and two guardsmen were injured in the fighting. Additional National Guard units backed by U.S. forces were called to help quell the violence. Meanwhile, police in the Al-Barid district found an explosive-laden vehicle. Police cordoned off the area and used loudspeakers to call on residents to turn over their weapons to the government.

RFI reported on 28 October that fliers could be seen pasted to walls throughout the city promoting various militant groups. The fliers are also distributed to drivers in the city center warning businessmen and citizens not to cooperate with the multinational forces. The groups issuing the fliers include: The Mujahedin Shura Council; Ansar Al-Sunnah Army; Islamic Army of Iraq; the Secret Islamic Army; Salafis Group; Ansar Al-Islam; the Army of the Prophet's Grandsons (Jaysh Al-Ahfad Al-Rasul); the Green Brigade of Islamic Resistance; Abu Dhar Al-Ghafari Brigade; Al-Hajaj bin Yusif Al-Thaqafi Brigade; Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi Brigades; and Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad, the group affiliated with fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. RFI reported that many of the victims targeted by these groups are Kurds and Christians who had no contact with multinational forces.

Militant groups are using the city's mosques as their unofficial headquarters, RFI reported. The mosques are equipped with computers and Internet access, and stacked with weapons and related documents issued by the groups. Local imams are reportedly sympathetic to the militants. Their supposed sympathy prompted Ninawa Governor Durayd Kashmula to call on clerics to unite against the militants, RFI reported.

"Al-Zaman" reported on 2 November that citizens from minority communities have been leaving the city "in droves." Christians in the city have complained for months that they were under threat after several attacks. A bomb exploded outside a Mosul church on 1 August, killing one person (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2004). Christian parties issued a statement late last month that said armed groups in the city were attempting to impose Islamic traditions on their members, including forcing women in the city to wear veils, Al-Diyar television reported on 29 October. They also accused militants of forcing real-estate offices in the city not to deal with Christians. The statement said that panic was spreading throughout the Christian community in Mosul.

Kurdish residents have also been targeted in a number of attacks, and militants last month threatened Kurdish restaurant owners along the Mosul highway to close during the Ramadan fasting, even though travelers are exempt from fasting during Ramadan. The local head of the Kurdistan Women's Union was kidnapped outside her Mosul home on 1 November by armed men in four vehicles. Two tribal leaders, one of them Kurdish, were assassinated in the city last month (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 29 and 8 October). Usama Yusif Kashmula, the previous governor of the province that encompasses Mosul, was assassinated on 14 July.

Numerous attacks have also been launched against Iraqi security forces in the city in recent months. Militants detonated five car bombs and launched Katyusha rockets at the city's police academy on 24 June in one of the deadliest attacks on the city that killed dozens of policemen and civilians and injured scores. Municipalities and Public Works Minister Nasreen Barwari escaped an assassination attempt in the city on 28 March. Two contract workers, a Canadian and an American, were killed there on 29 March.

The 2 November "Al-Zaman" report also said that a new "secret police" service has been established in the city to hunt down the militants. Lieutenant General Rashid Qaid, who heads the force, said the service intends to track down the militants terrorizing the city's 1.8 million inhabitants. "We are disappointed to see the security situation deteriorating so rapidly in a city like Mosul," he said. Qaid and his forces have been in the city for one week and have already arrested a number of militants. "I can assure you that those arrested so far are not part of Mosul's mainstream. They do not belong to the city's major tribes. They are merely lowly elements recruited by forces whose main target is to destabilize the country," he said.

Governor Kashmula announced on 3 November -- in a move reminiscent of Al-Fallujah -- that a division of soldiers comprised of former Iraqi Army troops will soon be on duty in Al-Kasak, outside Mosul. Kashmula said that the unit will be operational by 14 December and will work to restore security to the governorate. The Al-Fallujah Brigades was established and led by former Iraqi Army officers to help quell the violence in that city in April. It was dismantled in September after it was suspected of aiding insurgents in that volatile city (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 September 2004).

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have launched a number of operations targeting militants holed up in mosques in recent days. One such operation was carried out on 22 October at the Dhu Al-Nurayn Mosque during Friday prayers. Al-Arabiyah television reported that day that the operation targeted armed militants, while Al-Jazeera interviewed local leader Sheikh Rayyan Tawfiq, who claimed that the operation aimed to locate would-be suicide bombers. Tawfiq contended that the true targets of the operation were the mosque, Ramadan, and Friday prayers, adding, "The aim is to cause humiliation." Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 30 October that some 1,500 Iraqis, including imams and preachers, demonstrated after Friday prayers in the city, calling on U.S. forces to stop raiding the city's mosques. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CAR BOMB APPEARS TO TARGET IRAQI NATIONAL GUARD. A car bomb detonated south of the Iraqi capital in Al-Iskandariyah on 4 November in what appears to be another targeting of Iraqi National Guardsmen, international media reported. Al-Jazeera reported that the booby-trapped car detonated near two National Guard vehicles. At least 10 people were wounded in the attack but no National Guardsmen were reported injured. The satellite news channel also reported that militants killed two guardsmen in an attack near Al-Musayyib, south of Baghdad on 4 November. Six others were injured. Al-Jazeera did not provide further details on the incident. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. WARPLANES CONTINUE TO STRIKE AL-FALLUJAH... U.S. planes attacked the restive city of Al-Fallujah overnight on 3-4 November, in two air raids that destroyed "fighting barricades" set up by militants in the northeast and southeast sectors of the city, Reuters reported on 4 November. Planes and tanks also struck the eastern and northwestern sections of the city, witnesses said. The bombing reportedly killed five people, including a woman and child, Dr. Ahmad Muhammad said, Reuters reported. The five were killed when their vehicle was struck as they tried to leave the city. Iraqi media cited National Assembly members on 3 November as saying that the negotiations between the interim government and representatives of Al-Fallujah had failed. Defense Minister Hazim al-Sha'lan was cited on Dar Al-Salam Radio as saying that the Al-Fallujah negotiating team was pushing the government towards a showdown. He added that the city's negotiating delegation set what he termed illogical conditions in their talks with the government. The team sought to determine the size and location of military forces should they enter the city and the duration of their stay there. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AS U.S. MILITARY SAYS MILITANTS FORCING ARAB JOURNALISTS TO LEAVE CITY. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) issued a press statement on 3 November (http://www.centcom.mil) citing a report that appeared in the London-based "Al-Quds al-Arabi" reporting that militants have forced four Arabic-language media outlets out of Al-Fallujah in recent days. The press release states that Al-Arabiyah television, the Lebanese Broadcasting Company (LBC), Al-Iraqiyah television, and Middle East Broadcasting Company were forced to leave Al-Fallujah by militants who claimed the media outlets' coverage was biased in favor of multinational forces. The news outlets had reportedly refused to air stock footage provided by the militants who depicted alleged civilian casualties. Reporters from Al-Arabiyah and MBC told coalition officials that correspondents in the city were threatened and said some correspondents had left the city for safety reasons. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JOURNALISTS REMAIN TARGET OF MILITANTS IN IRAQ. The killing of foreign journalists in Iraq has received much coverage in the Western media in recent months, but militants have also increasingly targeted Iraqi and Arab journalists working in the country. No less than 10 Iraqi and Arab journalists working in Iraq were killed in October in the latest string of attacks.

Iraqi Kurdish journalist Nasrallah al-Dawudi was found dead in Baghdad on 31 October. He was the editor of an Arabic-language newspaper, "Al-Iraq," under the Hussein regime. Al-Dawudi disappeared on 27 October after being invited to a Ramadan evening meal, Reuters reported on 1 November. His kidnappers contacted the family demanding a high ransom for his safe return. The family reportedly could not meet the demand, and al-Dawudi's bullet-ridden body was found days later in the Iraqi capital.

Last week, unknown militants gunned down Iraqi broadcaster Liqa Abd al-Razzaq and three of her companions in a Baghdad taxi, according to media reports. Abd al-Razzaq was well-known to Iraqis as the broadcaster for Al-Sharqiyah television's "Sahafah" (Press) program and as a newsreader, Al-Sharqiyah reported. She previously worked for the Iraqi state-run media under the Hussein regime as a broadcaster with domestic Iraqi television and with the Iraqi Satellite Channel. Abd al-Razzaq was reportedly also under contract with U.S.-supported Al-Iraqiyah television. Militants gunned down Abd al-Razzaq's husband two months ago for reportedly working with the U.S. military. Abd al-Razzaq left behind a newborn daughter and six-year-old son.

On 15 October, Iraqi photographer Karam Husayn, who worked for the European Pressphoto Agency, was assassinated by militants outside his Mosul home. One day earlier, Dina Muhammad Hassan, a correspondent for Al-Hurriyah television, which is owned by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was gunned down in front of her home in the Iraqi capital. The International Federation of Journalists (http://www.ifj.org) reported on 18 October that Hassan had received unspecified threats to stop working for Al-Hurriyah and was warned to wear a hijab, or Islamic head scarf.

One of the boldest attacks on journalists in recent months was the 30 October car bombing of the Baghdad office of Dubai-based Al-Arabiyah television. A group identifying itself as the Jihadist Martyrs Brigade in Iraq claimed responsibility for the bombing, which killed seven staff members, and injured at least a dozen employees. In a statement posted on the Internet, the group said that the channel was targeted "after much hesitation" due to its excessive praise of the interim government led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, Beirut's Al-Manar television reported on 31 October. The group called the bombing an "ultimatum," adding that it's next attack would be a "quality operation." The group also threatened to attack media agencies and television channels based outside Iraq should they fail to meet what it called "balanced" reporting -- meaning the media should present the militants' view in their reporting. The statement added that the militants intended to kidnap journalists and slaughter them like sheep if they continued to reflect the view of the U.S. "occupiers" in their reporting.

The organization Reporters Without Borders listed Iraq as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists in its "Third Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index" issued on 26 October (http://www.rsf.org). The organization's website keeps a detailed list of Iraqi and foreign journalists killed in Iraq, that includes documentation on the killing of more than 40 Western reporters targeted over the past 19 months. While some of the deaths were the result of ongoing hostilities in the country, other deaths were the result of targeted killings. Italian freelance journalist Enzo Baldoni was kidnapped and killed by his captors on 26 August after seven days in captivity. The militant group Islamic Army in Iraq had demanded that Italy withdraw its troops from Iraq, a request that the Italian government refused to meet.

Meanwhile, two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq in late August remain unaccounted for. French Ambassador to Iraq Bernard Bajolet said on 1 November that the journalists are alive and reportedly in good health, Al-Jazeera television reported. Bajolet based his comments on information received from a Sunni organization, the Muslim Scholars Association, which reportedly has contacts with the kidnappers, who have demanded that France reverse its law banning Muslim girls from wearing head scarves in school.

The targeting of journalists working in Iraq appears to be part of a concerted effort by militants to effect control over the media and how it reports the events taking place there. The Al-Arabiyah bombing provides the clearest view on the agenda of militants. The journalists targeted by and large represent news organizations that are to varying degrees critical of the terrorism taking place in Iraq today -- or conversely, supportive, to varying degrees, of the U.S.-backed Allawi government.

The possibility cannot be discounted that others are perhaps victims of the continuous bloodletting of Iraqi professionals -- doctors, lawyers, professors, and businessmen -- that have routinely been the targets of assassins in recent months. Whichever the case may be, the effect will be the same. Much of the country already remains closed to journalists, who reportedly don't venture far from their bases inside the Iraqi capital because of the security risks. The continued targeting of journalists will only further inhibit the media's ability to cover Iraq and threatens to reverse the development of the burgeoning Iraqi media since the fall of the Hussein regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KIDNAPPED JORDANIANS SEEN ON NEW VIDEOTAPE. Three Jordanian nationals kidnapped in Iraq this week were seen in a videotaped message obtained by Reuters on 4 November begging the Jordanian government to warn its nationals about working for multinational forces in Iraq. The men are seen in the videotape sitting in front of militants under a banner that reads "Army of Islam Counterattack Brigades," the news agency reported. "We will not have mercy on anyone. We will strike with an iron fist whoever deals with the occupation," one of the militants claimed in the video. One of the hostages, who identified himself as Muhammad Zaitun, spoke in the video, saying: "God grant victory to the mujahedin." The Jordanian government has not issued a statement regarding the videotape. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-SADR ESTABLISHES NEW ORGANIZATION. Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has reportedly formed a grouping called the National Front for the Liberation of Iraq, Voice of the Mujahedin Radio reported on 3 November. The grouping was announced by al-Sadr spokesman Ali Sumaysim, who said that the front will comprise all forces and parties opposed to the occupation. It will also seek to form a national government that represents various political trends in Iraq. Sumaysim added that the front will work to encourage all al-Sadr supporters to vote for its candidates in the January election. He did not say whether the front will form alliances with other political parties ahead of the election. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, CHRISTIAN DELEGATION MEET WITH SHI'A LEADER. Recently reinstated National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i led a delegation of Iraqi Christian leaders in a meeting with Ayatollah Husayn Isma'il al-Sadr in Baghdad on 3 November, Elaph.com reported. The meeting focused on recent attempts by militant groups to drive Christians from Iraq through terrorism and intimidation. Al-Rubay'i outlined a number of initiatives taken by the interim government in cooperation with the Christian community to prevent the departure of Christians from Iraq, Elaph.com reported. Iraqi leaders estimate that as many as 40,000 Christians may have fled Iraq in recent months, seeking asylum in Syria and Jordan. The UN says that figure is too high, but concedes it is difficult to know exactly how many have left, according to aina.org. A delegation of Christian leaders met with Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Al-Najaf last week. Al-Sistani voiced his support for Christians in Iraq in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks targeting the Christian community. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ANSAR AL-SUNNAH ARMY DECAPITATES IRAQI OFFICER. The militant group Ansar Al-Sunnah Army posted a statement on its website (http://www.ansaralsunnah.i8.com) on 3 November claiming to have killed an Iraqi National Guard officer. The statement was accompanied by two photographs of the victim, Major Husayn Shanun, before and after the beheading. The group claims in the statement that militant operations in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul have "caused the Crusaders to lose sleep." "We can see that the power of the soldiers of God has increased and that the remnants of the Crusaders and their supporters have decreased," the statement adds. The statement claims Shanun took part in operations alongside multinational forces in Mosul, and was later captured by the Al-Dhil (Shadow) Brigade of Ansar Al-Sunnah. It says Shanun confessed during interrogation to his actions, and was killed by the group. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported last week that large numbers of militants have moved into Mosul and many groups are hiring children to hand out fliers on the streets that threaten citizens and promote the militants' message. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. CONTRACTOR KIDNAPPED IN IRAQ. An American contractor of Lebanese descent was kidnapped overnight from his home in the upscale Mansur neighborhood of Baghdad, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 3 November. An Iraqi police source told the news channel that the man works in Baghdad's green zone. The contractor is the second American to be kidnapped in the Iraqi capital in two days. Four Jordanian truck drivers were also kidnapped in Iraq yesterday, Al-Arabiyah cited Jordanian government spokesperson Asma Khadr as saying. A Filipino civilian working as an accountant in Baghdad has also been kidnapped. Militants holding hostage Margaret Hassan threatened in a videotaped message sent to Al-Jazeera on 2 November that they will hand Hassan over to Al-Qaeda-affiliated leader Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi if British troops fail to withdraw from Iraq within 48 hours. Al-Jazeera only aired a brief clip of the video, saying it would not broadcast the entire tape because of "humanitarian reasons" related to Hassan's condition in the video. Meanwhile, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) posted a statement on its website (http://www.centcom.mil) on 2 November denying reports that a U.S. soldier had been kidnapped in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2004). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MILITANTS ASSASSINATE IRAQI OIL OFFICIAL. A senior official from the Oil Ministry was gunned down in the Iraqi capital on 3 November, Al-Jazeera reported. Husayn al-Fattal, director-general of the state-owned Refined Oil Products company, was shot and killed as he left his home in the Al-Qadisiyah District. Militants bombed a northern pipeline near Kirkuk on 2 November, forcing officials to close down exports to Turkey, nytimes.com cited Iraqi officials as saying on 3 November. The pipeline normally carries 400,000 barrels of crude oil a day to the export terminal in Turkey. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KURDISTAN WOMEN'S UNION OFFICIAL KIDNAPPED. Muna Muhammad Jaff, the local head of the Kurdistan Women's Union, was kidnapped outside her Mosul home on 1 November, "Khabat" reported on 2 November. Eyewitnesses said that armed men traveling in four vehicles abducted Jaff. There has been no word on her fate. Union representatives confirmed the abduction to "Khabat." The Kurdistan Women's Union is an organization established in 1952 affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The organization works to advance women's issues within the party and in society at large, according to the KDP website (http://www.kdp.pp.se/women.html). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. MILITARY ASKS BAGHDAD RESIDENTS TO USE TIP LINE. The U.S. military has set up an anonymous tip line and has urged residents in the Iraqi capital to call in any information related to the insurgency, AP reported on 2 November. The agency reported that Brigadier General Jeffrey Hammond gave interviews to Arabic television networks on 1 November, asking Iraqis to provide information on planned attacks. "When you see this terrible insurgent about to do something, pick up your phone and call me. I'll do something about it," Hammond said. "We can fight this war together. You can help me fight -- in secret," he added. The First Cavalry Division, which Hammond commands, has received up to 30 calls per day since the line was set up two weeks ago, but has yet to yield any significant results. Division spokesman Lieutenant Colonel James Hutton said that it has been helpful in vetting intelligence and generating leads. AP cited Hammond as saying that the tip line is part of an Arabic media blitz organized by the division that includes weekly Arabic-only news conferences and interviews on radio call-in shows in Baghdad. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MILITANTS KIDNAP AMERICAN, TWO NEPALESE IN IRAQ. Militants kidnapped an American, two Nepalese, and two Iraqi security guards in Baghdad on 1 November, international media reported. The Iraqis were later released; a third Iraqi guard was killed during the attack. The hostages were kidnapped from a residential building housing the employees of the Saudi Arabian Trading and Contracting Company (Satco) in Baghdad, a firm supplying U.S. forces in Iraq, Reuters reported. The Interior Ministry confirmed the kidnappings on 2 November, Al-Jazeera television reported. A ministry official told the satellite news channel that militants armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled-grenade launchers attacked the house, spraying it with bullets before kidnapping the men. A U.S. official said a second American at the house escaped capture, washingtonpost.com reported on 2 November. One militant was also found dead at the site, the website reported. The abduction took place just 500 meters from the house where two Americans and a British national were kidnapped in September. Those men were later beheaded. The abduction of the American national marks the 12th U.S. citizen reported kidnapped or missing in Iraq, washingtonpost.com reported. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CAR BOMBS DETONATE IN BAGHDAD. A car bomb detonated near the Education Ministry in the Iraqi capital on 2 November, international media reported. Dubai's Al-Arabiyah television reported that five people were killed in the blast, while Reuters reported that as many as six died, and cited an Education Ministry official who said that the death toll could be as high as 20. The ministry is located in the Al-Adhamiyah district and is close to several government buildings and a number of schools, Al-Arabiyah reported. Several vehicles were destroyed by the blast. A second bomb targeted a convoy of national guardsmen near the Abu Ghurayb prison. That blast killed at least four Iraqis and wounded 12, Al-Jazeera reported. Seven guardsmen acting as escorts for National Guard commander Rashid Fulayyih were wounded in a car bombing targeting Fulayyih's convoy in Mosul on 2 November, Al-Jazeera reported. That attack destroyed one National Guard vehicle and three civilian cars. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MILITANTS ATTACK TRAIN ON BAGHDAD-DAMASCUS RAILWAY. Militants in Iraq attacked a train operating along the Baghdad-Damascus railway in the Ninawa Governorate in northwestern Iraq on 1 November, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. A source at the Iraqi Transportation Ministry said that the militants killed the four train drivers and set fire to five boxcars containing a shipment of wood being imported from Syria. Al-Sharqiyah reported that similar attacks have taken place in recent weeks on trains transporting grain and other commodities from Syria to Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DEPUTY GOVERNORS ASSASSINATED IN IRAQ. The deputy governor of Baghdad, Hatim Kamal Abd al-Fattah al-Bayati, was shot and killed by unidentified assassins as he was traveling to work in the Iraqi capital on 1 November, international media reported. An Interior Ministry source said that four of al-Bayati's bodyguards were wounded in the attack, which took place in the Al-Dura District, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera television reported that three governorate employees were killed in the attack. Aqil Hamid al-Abbali, the deputy governor of the Diyala Governorate located northwest of Baghdad, was shot and killed in Ba'qubah on 29 October, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on the same day. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ELECTION DEVELOPMENTS THIS WEEK. The office of Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has increased its efforts to encourage Shi'a to register to vote in the January elections. Al-Diyar television reported on 30 October that al-Sistani's office reportedly issued a statement that said voting is to be considered a religious duty similar to prayers and fasting, and those that fail to vote would be considered disobedient in the eyes of God.

Popular preparatory election committees have been formed throughout Iraq by representatives of the ayatollah in order to guide citizens as to how to cast their votes, Al-Diyar reported. The committees will also help transport citizens to polling centers on election day. Al-Sistani's Karbala representative Ahmad al-Safi denied media reports on 22 October that al-Sistani's office had prepared a united election list. Media reports had indicated that the ayatollah was working to devise a unified Shi'ite list to contest the January elections. "This is not true. The office maintains its attitude of being the patron of all the members of our society," al-Safi said.

The Shi'ite Political Council announced on 30 October preparations for a Shi'ite national elections list, Voice of the Mujahedin Radio reported the same day. The group claimed that the list enjoyed the support of Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani.

Shi'ite Political Council Secretary Husayn al-Musawi said that the list would be open to all segments of Iraqi society. Al-Musawi claimed that the list would include over 38 political parties and movements, as well as tribal groupings, civil-society institutions, and women. Thirteen Shi'ite figures already on the list include Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmad Chalabi, Ahmad al-Barrak, Salamah al-Khafaji, Muhammad Abd al-Jabbar al-Shabbut, Abd al-Karim al-Muhammadawi, Najm al-Zahiri, Najm al-Bulani, and Jawad al-Attar. The Shi'ite News Agency (http://www.ebaa.net) on 21 October quoted council spokesman Jawad al-Bulani as saying that the list would be open to the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) to join the list. SCIRI and Al-Da'wah are the two largest Shi'ite political parties in Iraq.

A Denmark-based website (http://www.iraq4allnews.dk) reported on 29 October that the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party has distributed leaflets in the Iraqi capital and other cities calling on the Iraqi people to boycott elections. The leaflets also reportedly called the interim government a racial government appointed by the U.S. occupation to prolong its presence in Iraq. The leaflets further claimed that Saddam Hussein is the sole legitimate government in Iraq.

Former INC member Mithal al-Alusi announced on 27 October that he has established his own party, called the Iraqi Nation Party, "Al-Dustur" reported the next day. Al-Alusi was sidelined from the INC following a controversial visit to Israel in September.

The Sunni group Unified National Movement, led by Ahmad al-Kubaysi announced in its biweekly newspaper "Al-Sa'ah" on 25 October that it intends to participate in January elections. The group said it decided to participate so as to not leave "the political arena for the secular and sectarian project that the United States is hinting at to be the only master of political life." The group also said, "The fruits of running the elections will be in the interest of proving the identity and improving the abilities toward understanding the new volume of the game, although we believe that these elections will be only nominal, or that they carry dangers in this time of terminations carried nowadays by various sides in Iraq, each one working in the interest of its own project." Al-Kubaysi has vehemently opposed the presence of U.S.-led forces in Iraq.

Turkoman groups gathered on 21 October at the headquarters of the Iraqi Turkoman Justice and Salvation Party to coordinate ahead of elections, "Turkomaneli" reported on 28 October. Turkomaneli Party leader Riyad Sari Kihya attended the meeting, along with Turkoman National Party head Jamal Shan, Independent Turkoman Movement head Shakir Aziz Aghali, and Turkoman Justice and Salvation Party head Anwar Birqdar. The secretary of the Iraqi Turkoman Loyalty Movement, Firyad Tuzlu, and Iraqi Turkoman Islamic Movement representative Akram Tirzi also attended. The participants agreed to work together to mobilize and educate their constituents ahead of the January elections. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

VOTER, POLITICAL PARTY REGISTRATION BEGINS IN IRAQ... Iraqis over the age of 18 wishing to cast their ballots in the January elections can register to vote at over 545 registration centers across Iraq beginning on 1 November, according to international media reports. Political parties can also begin to register their lists for the elections as of 1 November. Both processes will be open for the next six weeks. Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 30 October that some 6,500 employees will be hired by the Electoral Commission to help prepare for the elections. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AS ELECTION WORKERS THREATENED. The official start of the electoral process was overshadowed by threats issued by the militant group associated with fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, international media reported. Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn has sent letters to the Mosul and Baghdad offices of the Independent Electoral Commission that read in part: "The members of the [commission] and anyone associated with fraudulent democracy will feel the sword of righteousness on their necks," London's "The Guardian" reported on 30 October. Electoral Commission spokesman Farid Ayar confirmed the existence of the letters to Xinhua news agency on the same day, saying: "We have received typewritten letters in the name of Tawhid and Jihad [a reference to al-Zarqawi's group, which changed its name last week] in the commission's offices in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul this week." Ayar added that the letters threatened to kill commission members and their family members if they continue to remain at their posts. "The Guardian" reported that a female poll worker was kidnapped and killed in recent days in Al-Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. FORCES BATTLE MILITANTS IN AL-RAMADI. Clashes broke out on 1 November between U.S. forces and militants in the volatile city of Al-Ramadi, located 110 kilometers west of Baghdad, Reuters reported. Witnesses and hospital officials told the news agency that the clashes appeared to be some of the fiercest fighting in weeks, as groups of militants fired rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds at U.S. forces. The news agency also reported that Iraqi families could be seen fleeing the city as fighting intensified. At least eight Iraqis were killed and 10 wounded in fighting in Al-Ramadi on 31 October, Al-Arabiyah television reported. The news channel also reported that nine Marines were killed and nine others wounded on 30 October across the Al-Anbar Governorate, which encompasses the cities of Al-Ramadi and Al-Fallujah. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ALLAWI SAYS GOVERNMENT'S PATIENCE 'RUNNING THIN.' Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told reporters in a 31 October press briefing broadcast on Al-Jazeera television that he has extended an olive branch to militants throughout Iraq and specifically in Al-Fallujah, Al-Ramadi, and Mosul, but added that the government's patience is "running thin." "The Iraqi government has clear demands. We want the terrorists handed over or expelled from the city [Al-Fallujah], or the Iraqi forces, police and National Guard [will] be called upon to enter the cities and capture those criminals," Allawi said. The prime minister also said that Iraqi security forces have arrested 167 non-Iraqi terrorists, including Saudi, Sudanese, and Syrian nationals. He did not say when or where the terrorists were arrested. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

94 AFGHANS ARRESTED IN IRAQ. Ninety-four Afghan nationals were arrested in Al-Basrah after illegally crossing the Iran-Iraq border, the Iraqi border police chief said on 31 October, AFP reported. Ali Hamadi al-Musawi said that the Afghans were arrested and "put before the court." He did not elaborate on the circumstances of the arrests or court appearances. "We hope that the neighboring countries will help in the domain of security during this sensitive period in the run-up to the elections," he told AFP. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REGIONAL NEWS
TURKEY MAKES PLANS FOR IRAQ. Turkish newspapers this week are reporting that the Turkish government has formulated a contingency plan that would place at least 20,000 Turkish troops inside northern Iraq in an effort to prevent Kurdish leaders from changing the demographic structure of the highly contested city of Kirkuk.

The plan ostensibly calls for the reentry of Turkish forces into northern Iraq to rout out Turkish-Kurdish militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and also calls for Turkish troops to prevent further Iraqi Kurdish migration to Kirkuk. The city has a large Turkoman (ethnic Turkish) population, and vast oil reserves.

Media reports in recent months claimed that large numbers of Kurds are migrating to the city. Kurds say that they were displaced under the Hussein regime and are returning to their rightful homes; Turkey claims that Iraqi Kurdish leaders Mas'ud Barzani and Jalal Talabani want to ensure a Kurdish majority in the city under the next census in order to claim it as rightfully theirs, and possibly seek its inclusion in a federal Kurdistan.

Barzani heightened Turkish concern over Kirkuk in recent weeks through a number of inflammatory statements that made clear that Iraqi Kurds seek the return of Kirkuk to Kurdistan (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 22 October 2004). He told reporters in the Turkish capital on 12 October that Kirkuk has a Kurdish "identity," and vowed to fight any force that attempts to intercede in the issue (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 October 2004).

According to news reports published in Istanbul dailies "Cumhuriyet," "Milliyet," and "Sabah" between 30 October and 1 November, Ankara's contingency plan was reviewed during a 14 October cabinet meeting attended by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, chief of General Staff General Hilmi Ozkok, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, and Turkish envoy to Iraq Osman Koruturk, among others. "Milliyet" reported on 1 November that the plan calls for the deployment of two army corps divisions to the area, including a 40,000-strong force to stand ready to enter northern Iraq on 18-hours notice. Those troops would first focus on PKK camps in the Qandil mountain range with the assistance of air support.

Turkish concerns over the presence of PKK militants in northern Iraq have been heightened by reports that Syrian and Iranian Kurds have joined Turkish Kurds in northern Iraq, "Sabah" reported on 31 October. The daily claimed that the number of militants present there has increased dramatically from the 2,000 that fled across the Turkish-Iraqi border on the orders of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan four years ago. "Sabah" cited as "proof" the discovery of Syrian and Iranian nationals among those militants killed in clashes "over the past few days."

"Cumhuriyet" reported on 30 October that the Turkish force would consist of 20,000 troops, and claimed that military forces have already begun their deployment toward the Turkish-Iraqi border. The daily also claimed that Turkey has received tacit approval from U.S. officials to intervene in Kirkuk. "Cumhuriyet" also reported that the contingency plan was further discussed at a 27 October meeting between the Turkish National Security Council and the Turkish armed forces.

The newspapers' reports claim that Barzani and Talabani are operating under the false assumption that Turkey would not take action against the "Kurdization" of Kirkuk before the 17 December EU Summit, when Turkey will begin accession talks with the European Union. But as "Sabah" contended: "There are national goals and causes that are more important than the EU.... For Kirkuk is in fact not the heart of Kurdistan, but rather that of Turkey's Iraq policy."

It remains rather unlikely that the United States has given any sort of tacit approval for a Turkish incursion into northern Iraq. While the dailies are correct in reporting that the United States is perhaps wary of any demographic transformation of the city, it is a far stretch to assume that the United States would permit Turkish troops to move deep into northern Iraq. Iraq's Kurds would interpret such a move as an invasion, and large-scale fighting would ensue. Baghdad would also not welcome such an incursion, since it would destabilize the whole of northern Iraq, which has experienced relative quiet since the fall of the Hussein regime.

However, it is clear that something is afoot in northern Iraq. A 12 October MENA report stated that Kurdish peshmerga forces were moving troops further north and digging tunnels and establishing military outposts near Dahuk, close to the Turkish border. The news agency said the new positions of peshmerga would effectively give them control over the major land entry points along the border. Turkey has had a long-standing interest in Kirkuk because of its vast oil reserves, and Turkish leaders in 2003 attempted to claim a Turkish historical right to the city (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 January 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQ
ALLAWI CONGRATULATES U.S. PRESIDENT. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi offered his congratulations and support for U.S. President George W. Bush on 4 November after Bush won reelection to a second term in office, Al-Arabiyah television reported. Allawi made his statement in Italy where he is scheduled to meet with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Pope John Paul II, after which he will travel to Brussels for the European Union summit. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQIS REACT TO BUSH ELECTION VICTORY. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) spoke with Iraqi National Congress head Ahmad Chalabi on 4 November about the outcome of U.S. elections. "I'm happy that [U.S. President George W.] Bush won the elections. It's good for the Iraqis," he said. Asked why, Chalabi said: "First, he was the one who helped the Iraqis to get rid of Saddam [Hussein]. Destroyed Saddam's regime. Second, he saw the mistakes made by the United States recently [in Iraq] and the American policies in the last period. [The administration] noticed the mistakes of all of that."

Asked what change may occur in the second Bush term, Chalabi said: "There will be new studies about what's going on in Iraq and a reevaluation of the situation in a serious way. I don't think they are going to leave the situation as it is now." Chalabi also said that a second Bush term is good for Iraq because the administration is familiar with the situation in Iraq. "There wouldn't be any gap of seven to eight months to know the situation" as might happen with a new administration in the White House, he said.

RFI also interviewed Iraqi Kurds in Al-Sulaymaniyah to gauge reaction to Bush's reelection. Iraqi poet Jawhar Kerman said, "We were watching the U.S. elections the last days, especially when the race was close between the candidates, which makes the Iraqis and especially the Kurds very interested in the elections." "We were watching the results on the television and on the Internet. It was important for the Kurds that George Bush win the election for another term for many reasons...."

Writer Abd al-Karim Shaykhani told RFI: "I will not exaggerate when I say that all the world was holding its breath for the elections, because this process is not a normal process. It's an election for the president of the strongest nation in the world and in [Bush's] hand he will have to power to control the world. And I can confirm here that the Kurdish nation was twice as interested in the elections than the other nations because Bush was the only one to fight against terrorism and he led the campaign to finish the Taliban [in Afghanistan] and also...because he was the president who destroyed Saddam's regime." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. MARINE COURT-MARTIALED OVER IRAQI POW DEATH. Court martial proceedings began in Los Angeles on 3 November for the last of nine U.S. Marines charged in the death of an Iraqi prisoner of war (POW), Reuters reported the same day. The POW, identified as Nagem Sa'dun Hatab, was detained at Camp Whitehorse in Al-Nasiriyah in June 2003 on suspicion of taking part in an attack on an armed convoy that killed 11 U.S. soldiers and captured U.S. soldier Jessica Lynch. Hatab was reportedly dragged by the neck to a holding pen and later found dead there. An Army pathologist has testified in pretrial hearings that Hatab likely suffocated due to a broken bone in his throat. On trial is Major Clarke Paulus, one of the highest-ranking Marines charged with abusing prisoners in Iraq. Paulus headed the jail at Camp Whitehorse and has been charged with assault, dereliction of duty, and maltreatment of prisoners. Only one Marine court-martialed in the incident has been convicted. Reuters reported that the handling of forensic evidence in the case was highly contested and led to the dismissal of charges against most of the other eight Marines. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI SECURITY PERSONNEL BEGIN NATO TRAINING IN NORWAY. Nineteen members of Iraq's security apparatus began training at the NATO Joint Warfare Center in Stavanger, Norway, on 1 November, according to a press release posted on the NATO website (http://www.nato.int). The eight-day course is the first NATO training of Iraqi forces to commence outside Iraq, and will focus on training mid- to high-level security personnel. The participants include senior military officers and civilian staff working for the Iraqi Defense and Interior ministries. Participants were specifically identified as "key leaders" by their superiors to participate in the training, the press release stated. The training course will focus on the function of an operational-level headquarters and will include instruction on command and control of forces, crisis management, civil-military cooperation, and operational planning. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

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