Iraq: quisling cleric targeted in bomb blast that kill three...

David Quarter davidquarter at sympatico.ca
Sun Aug 24 11:49:38 MDT 2003


Bomb Targets Key Iraqi Shiite Cleric 
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By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer 

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A bomb exploded outside the house of one of 
Iraqi's most important Shiite clerics on Sunday, killing three guards 
and injuring 10 others. The fresh violence comes as the U.S.-led 
coalition quietly recruits former Iraqi spies to work with American 
intelligence officials in the country, according to Iraqis. 

 Also Sunday, the top U.S. official in Iraq (news - web sites) said 
the United States needs better intelligence and more cooperation 
from the Iraqi people to stabilize the situation. Terrorists bombed 
U.N. headquarters this past week in Baghdad. 


It's hard to tell if more terrorists are in Iraq now than before the war, 
but a "large number" of foreign terrorists — perhaps several 
hundred — have come into Iraq and some who had been in Iraq 
before the war are returning, Bremer said on ABC's "This Week." 


Bremer also reiterated a Bush administration claim of pre-war ties 
between Saddam's regime and al-Qaida. 


The deadly gas cylinder bomb was placed along the outside wall of 
the home of Mohammed Saeed al-Hakim in Najaf, one of Shiite 
Islam's holiest cities. It exploded after noon prayers. 


The cleric suffered scratches on his neck, said Abdel-Aziz al-
Hakim, a member of Iraq's U.S.-picked Governing Council and 
leader of what was the armed wing of the Supreme Council for 
Islamic Revolution in Iraq, headquartered in Iran before the war. 


Al-Hakim is one of the most influential families in the Shiite 
community. 


Meanwhile, Iraqis with ties to Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s 
once-feared Mukhabarat intelligence agency said former Iraqi 
agents would work with Americans inside Saddam's former 
presidential palace where the American-led coalition has its 
headquarters. 


"It was obvious they would have to turn to the Mukhabarat, they 
knew everything in this country," said one of the Iraqis, who refused 
to be named. 


Coalition spokesman Charles Heatly, responding to questions 
about recruitment of former Saddam intelligence officers, said U.S. 
military intelligence and civilian authorities were "not leaving any 
stone unturned to uncover the people who are conducting attacks 
against the Iraqi people and the coalition forces. And they will 
continue." The recruitment efforts were first reported in Sunday's 
Washington Post. 


The Mukhabarat was the foreign intelligence branch of Saddam's 
regime and its very name struck fear in the hearts of ordinary 
Iraqis. 


Besides anti-U.S. violence, ethnic and religious rivalries persist in 
Iraq. 


Iraqi newspapers reported last week that the cleric al-Hakim had 
received threats against his life. He also is one of three top Shiite 
leaders threatened with death by a rival Shiite cleric shortly after 
Saddam Hussein was toppled April 9. 


Al-Hakim blamed "terrorist groups who belong to the former 
regime," for the attack. Najaf residents rushed to the ayatollah's 
house after the explosion, which shattered windows and damaged 
a wall, he told The Associated Press. 


In the north, the cities of Kirkuk and Tuz Kharmato were quiet 
Sunday as Iraqi police and U.S. troops maintained a heavy 
presence after two days of deadly violence between Iraqi Turkomen 
and Kurds. 


A third Turkoman, injured in weekend ethnic violence in the north of 
the country died from his wounds, Turkey's Anatolia news agency 
reported Sunday. 


The Turkomen claimed the violence started Friday after Kurds 
damaged a newly reopened Turkomen Shiite shrine and spread the 
next day to Kirkuk where two Turkomen hero statues were hit by 
rocket-propelled grenade fire. 

   



Two U.S. soldiers died in non-combat incidents, the U.S. military 
reported Sunday . 

A soldier from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Baghdad was 
killed in a friendly fire incident on Saturday, while a second soldier 
from the same regiment drowned in the Euphrates River, west of 
Ramadi, also on Saturday. 

At the battered Canal Hotel compound, the United Nations (news - 
web sites) Baghdad headquarters, U.N. workers who had not left 
Iraq after Tuesday's attack resumed work in a cluster of tents set 
up in the compound. 

Investigators and soldiers searched piles of debris for human 
remains and clues in the truck bombing that killed at least 23 
people, including top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, whose 
memorial was held Saturday in his native Brazil. 

One of the envoy's dying wishes was for the United Nations to 
remain in Iraq and continue work to establish democracy, U.N. 
Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) told mourners. 

"Let us respect that," Annan said. "Let Sergio, who has given his 
life in that cause, find a fitting memorial in a free and sovereign 
Iraq." 

On or since May 1, when President Bush (news - web sites) 
declared major combat operations over, 137 U.S. soldiers have 
died in Iraq, according to the latest military figures. Counting only 
combat deaths, 65 Americans and 11 Britons have died since the 
Bush declaration. 

___ 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Associated Press writers Tarek al-Issawi in 
Kirkuk, Hrvoje Hranjski in Tikrit, D'Arcy Doran and Sabah Jerges in 
Baghdad contributed to this report. 






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