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 Tuesday, May 31, 2005

IRAQ: A Dangerous Blunder by Incompetent US Soldiers in a Volatile Environment

  Read here full article by Adrian Blomfield in Telegraph (UK)

31 May 2005

Edited article

US military arrested Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, one of the country's foremost Sunni leaders and head of the largest Sunni Arab political party, at his home just after dawn.

American soldiers burst into the home of Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, firing stun guns and then forced a hood over his head and dragged him away along with his three sons.

Mohsen Abdul-Hamid's wife, Awatif, said that a translator with the US troops who arrested her husband shouted:

"This is what happens to those who boycotted the elections."
Later, the US military said it was a mistake and released him ten hours later.

No explanation was offered for his detention and stopped short of apologising.

Questions were already being raised yesterday about how accidental or mistaken the raid really was.

Mr Abdul-Hamid was certainly well known to the Americans. A number of Sunni politicians and religious leaders have been accused of links to Iraq's insurgency - but never Mr Abdul-Hamid.

Image hosted by Mohsen Abdul-Hamid is a Sunni Kurd. He is widely considered a moderate and played a leading role in bringing Sunni Arabs who boycotted January's elections back into the political process.

It appeared that the Americans had NOT sought permission for the raid from the Iraqi government, again raising questions about its supposed sovereignty.

It also threatened the most serious rift between Washington and Baghdad since the administration was sworn in a month ago.

US central command said in a statement:
"It was determined that he was detained by mistake and should be released.

Coalition forces regret any inconvenience and acknowledge Mr Hamid's co-operation in resolving this matter."
Iraq's constantly bickering Sunni Arabs, Shias and Kurds were united in condemnation of what was generally perceived as an outrage.

The Islamic Party described the arrest of its leader as a "humiliation".

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, issued a strongly worded condemnation of the arrest, saying: "I consider treating a prominent political leader such as Abdul-Hamid in this way unacceptable."

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the prime minister, ordered an investigation but said he had received no explanation for Mr Abdul-Hamid's arrest. Prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has ordered an investigation.

Dr Abdul-Hamid's Iraqi Islamic Party did not join the widely successful Sunni Arab boycott on ideological grounds. His party put forward candidates but did not campaign because of insecurity in the Sunni Triangle.

The most serious fall-out from his detention is likely to be among Sunni Arabs themselves, who respect him despite his Kurdish roots.

Meanwhile, a double suicide bombing yesterday killed at least 27 people in the Shia town of Hilla, south of Baghdad. Al-Qaeda's frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility.

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