Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Crack in Iraq

As the Shiite majority prepared to take control of the country's first freely elected government, tribal chiefs representing Sunni Arabs in six provinces issued a list of demands — including participation in the government and drafting a new constitution — after previously refusing to acknowledge the vote's legitimacy.

"We made a big mistake when we didn't vote," said Sheik Hathal Younis Yahiya, 49, a representative from northern Nineveh. "Our votes were very important."

He said threats from insurgents — not sectarian differences — kept most Sunnis from voting.

Sunnis make up 20 percent of Iraq (news - web sites)'s population of 26 million compared to the Shiite's 60 percent.

Gathering in a central Baghdad hotel, about 70 tribal leaders from the provinces of Baghdad, Kirkuk, Salaheddin, Diyala, Anbar and Nineveh, tried to devise a strategy for participation in a future government. There was an air of desperation in some quarters of the smoke-filled conference room.

"When we said that we are not going to take part, that didn't mean that we are not going to take part in the political process. We have to take part in the political process and draft the new constitution," said Adnan al-Duleimi, the head of Sunni Endowments in Baghdad.
Iraq’s major Sunni Arab tribes and political parties met in Baghdad to discuss their role in Iraq’s new government. The tribes are apparently looking for a role in the new government and drafting of Iraq’s new constitution.

Iraqi President Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, a Sunni Muslim and head of the Iraqis list that won five seats in the Jan. 30 election, was to attend. Sunnis largely stayed away from the polls, many because they feared threats of retribution from insurgents.

Iyad al-Sameria, a senior leader of the Iraqi Islamic party, a Sunni group that boycotted the elections, said his party wasn’t invited to the meeting.

Iraq’s interim national security advisor, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, said the recent suicide bombings were attempts “to create a religious war within Iraq. Iraqis will not allow this to happen, Iraqis will stand united as Iraqis foremost, and Iraq will not fall into sectarian war.”

Al-Roubaie’s Shiite clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance, which received nearly half the election votes, was to decide early in the week on their choice for prime minister.
BAQUBA, Feb 19: Iraqi security forces on Saturday arrested the alleged commander of an insurgent cell close to Al Qaeda frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, police said.

"Early this morning Iraqi security forces assisted by US forces raided the house of Haidar Abu al-Buwari in western Baquba," said a police spokesman for Diyala province, whose capital is Baquba.

"He is one of the mujahideen princes who works with Zarqawi in the position of cell leader," he said. Police found rocket-propelled grenades, grenades, drugs, computers and a photocopier in the house, he added.

Iraqi security forces also arrested a former high-ranking officer under Saddam Hussein allegedly involved in the insurgency in the northern city of Mosul, said a government statement. "Harbi Abd al-Khudaier Hamudi, 50, also known as Abu Nur, was arrested on February 12," it said. –AFP
BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraqi security forces have killed or captured three insurgents producing websites showing hostages being tortured, officials said, as Indonesia stepped up efforts to try to free two of its journalists kidnapped in Iraq (news - web sites).

Time magazine meanwhile reported that rebel leaders had held secret talks with US officials seeking to end the deadly insurgency in which thousands of people have died since the US-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) nearly two years ago.

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The government said security forces had "killed the terrorist Adel Mujtaba, known as Abu Rim, who disseminated propaganda for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist network".

Mujtaba was the third Zarqawi propaganda chief to be killed or detained after the first and second in command, Abu Sufiyan and Husam Abdullah Muhsin al-Dulaymi, were respectively killed and detained, a statement said, without providing further details on the latter two.

"Abu Rim (Mujtaba) specialised in creating terrorist websites which encouraged terrorism," it said, adding that he was killed in a raid on February 11.

"He glorified the murder of innocent people and published images which included terrorists torturing hostages."