PI - Militia Backed By Iraqi Leaders Accused In Attacks
What I wonder is if th Badr Brigade was involved in latest bombing murder in Baghdad of Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani's top aide.
June 10, 2005 Pg. 1
Militia Backed By Iraqi Leaders Accused In Attacks
By Tom Lasseter, Inquirer Foreign Staff
BAGHDAD - A militant Shiite Muslim group with close ties to Iran has gained enormous power since Iraq's January elections and now is accused of conducting a terror campaign against Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority that includes kidnappings and murders.
But in spite of concern among Sunni Arabs that the Badr Brigade is behind a series of attacks against Sunni clerics, including cases where victims appear to have been tortured with electric drills, the group has received praise from top Iraqi government officials.
"Today, there is a sacred mission of sweeping away the remnants of the dictatorship and defeating the terrorism, and your role with your brothers in the [Kurdish militia] is required and necessary to fulfill this sacred mission," Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Sunni Kurd, told a meeting of Badr members Wednesday. At the same gathering, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari praised Badr for its restraint, saying "force without integrity is evil and integrity without force is weakness."
The Badr Brigade was organized and trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in the early 1980s and served as the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, an organization of exiled Iraqi Shiites then based in Iran. In the 1980s it gained fame for its guerrilla raids against Iraqi military units during the Iran-Iraq war.
Now, with the Supreme Council leading the Shiite coalition that dominated Iraq's elections, Badr members have gained unprecedented authority. The interior minister, who controls the nation's police and commando forces, is a former Supreme Council official with close ties to Badr. At least six provincial governors, including Baghdad's, are Badr members, according to the organization.
Hadi al-Ameri, Badr commander, is a driving force in the Iraqi National Assembly's public integrity committee, which is investigating former Iraqi officials, many of them Sunnis, over allegations of corruption.
Ameri says the Badr Organization, as the group is now called, has given up its weapons. "We are serving the country by participating through the political process," Ameri said.
Many in the Sunni community say that Badr's claim of political transition is an attempt to hide the fact that it still controls thousands of militia troops that harass and kill Sunnis in back-and-forth bloodshed with Sunni insurgents.
Others say they were kidnapped or tortured by people who claim to be from Badr. The organization is also accused of killing at least four Sunni clerics during the last month and kidnapping 30 Sunnis from a Baghdad mosque.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said American officials no longer played a role in determining the policy on militias.
"I have to emphasize this is an Iraqi issue that they will decide, and that they will deal with. But we will continue to work closely with them in the training of Iraqi forces," he said Wednesday, according to the New York Times.
Perhaps more than any other organization in Iraq, the Badr Brigade has come to symbolize the deep ethnic divisions that threaten Iraq's stability.
U.S. and Iraqi officials agree that for Iraq to avoid civil war, its Shiite majority and its minority Sunni population must learn to coexist.
But the task is made difficult by the bloody history that pitted a Sunni community that enjoyed status and privilege under Saddam Hussein against the larger Shiite community he oppressed.
Recent accounts of the kidnapping and killing of Sunni clerics often include men wearing police uniforms and driving police vehicles - a detail that Interior Ministry officials ascribe to stolen equipment but that many Sunnis point to as evidence that the Badr-dominated Interior Ministry has police death squads.
The first public accusation against the Badr Brigade was made last month by Harith al-Dhari, leader of Iraq's Muslim Scholars Association, an influential group of militant Sunni clerics. In a news conference broadcast over Arabic satellite television, he said that "the parties that are behind the campaign of killings of preachers and worshipers are... the Badr Brigade."
Ameri, the Badr commander, responded immediately in a phone interview on Arab satellite TV, saying Dhari condoned attacks carried out by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a leading insurgent with ties to al-Qaeda.
The attacks that triggered Dhari's accusation were particularly brutal: On May 12, Ayad al-Samarrae, a Sunni cleric, was kidnapped in Baghdad. Two days later he was found dead. Family members said that, judging from holes in the corpse, he appeared to have been tortured with an electric drill.
On May 15, Sunni clerics Hassan al-Naimi and Tala Nayef were kidnapped from separate Baghdad mosques by men wearing Iraqi police commando uniforms. They were later found dead. Pictures of Naimi show what appear to be drill holes in his shoulder, head and neck. Similar crimes have continued.
On Sunday, a Sunni cleric in Basra was taken by men wearing police uniforms. His corpse was found two days later, under a bridge. A spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni group, said that the cleric's eye had been gouged out and that he had drill holes in his chest.
In an interview, Ameri said Dhari should apologize for his accusation.
"His public comments are very dangerous and will lead us to sectarian war," he said.
Some Sunnis accuse Shiites of dominating the government. Firas al-Nakib, a Sunni and a senior legal adviser in the Interior Ministry, said that since the new government had been installed, more than 160 senior members of the ministry have been dismissed and many police commanders have been replaced by Shiites loyal to the Shiite bloc that won the elections.
Many of the new commanders, he said, are members of Badr or are connected to the Supreme Council.
Nakib said that when men in police uniforms stormed a mosque in his neighborhood and detained 30 people last month, his neighbors asked him the reason for the raid.
He said he asked at work the next day and was told by other interior officials to stay out of the matter.
Five of the 30 people were later found in the morgue, their bodies mutilated and tortured, Nakib said. The rest are still unaccounted for.
An interior spokesman said that the ministry's troops were not involved and that police uniforms had been stolen.
Asked who he thought was behind the abductions and killings, Nakib paused and then said: "Badr, of course."
Ameri, the Badr leader, said that while his militiamen were not targeting Sunnis, they "still exist... . The sons of Badr are ready to defend Iraq from terrorism," which he said was the work of Sunni Baathists and Sunni jihadists.