IRAQ: Baghdad warns neighbors, airs militants' confessions on TV
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has turned the heat up on his Arab neighbors after last month’s double bombings at the foreign and finance ministries, which killed about 100 people. Maliki and his government have repeatedly accused Syria of providing shelter to those behind the blasts. Syria has denied the charge, and some Iraqi politicians have raised serious questions about whether Syria or the Baath Party was involved.
Today, Maliki once more slammed his neighbors. “We will continue looking [for a way] to close all the gaps and the doors from which the killers can breathe again. We censure the others from our brothers, friends and the neighborly countries,” Maliki said on a visit to the southern city of Karbala. “They used to say that they are with us and they did stand with us in certain situations, but how can we describe the practice of embracing the killers. To where will they be exported [next] time, to Iraq again or to a different country? Can the evil be contained to one specific country?”
Maliki has asked the U.N. Security Council to establish a formal investigation into the bombings. He has also accused Syrian intelligence agents of sitting in on a meeting in July of Baath Party officials and Islamic militants. The government sees it as the latest episode in which Syria has allegedly been complicit in the activities of anti-Iraq militants. Iraqi security officials confirmed today that they had sent additional security forces to reinforce the vast Syria-Iraq border.
Since the bombings, the government has revived the practice of showing taped confessions from alleged militants. Two confessions have been shown on state television and a third was aired at a news conference. The first confession was of an Iraqi arrested for the Aug. 19 attack, who blamed Baath Party leaders in Syria for planning the attack. The other confessions have shown foreign fighters recounting their alleged travels through Syria. There is no way to verify whether the taped remarks were genuine or staged. But they mark a concerted effort to blame Syria in part for recent security breaches.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the state channel broadcast the purported confessions of an alleged fighter from Yemen named Mohammed Oud.
The following are excerpts from the broadcast:
I started my connection to Iraq via my brother and colleague Outh Oubthani after the fall of Afghanistan, where I was asked to join jihad [holy war] and enter Iraq. So we decided to enter Iraq by the help of Oubthani to establish a committee in Fallouja to treat all wounded fighters. Our connections were with Outh Oubthani, who used to contact Hamza Issawi, who in turn used to contact the groups of Abed Alah Janabi, who were based … in Fallouja. ...
We organized ourselves in Yemen and Outh Oubthani took my proper documents from me in order to make a passport and book the tickets. This was done with the help of Sheik Said Batal. So I was taken to the capital, Sana, then I took a flight to Damascus, a round-way ticket. We stayed in a hotel in Al Marga circle. Outh contacted his friends in Halab [Aleppo], and we stayed in Damascus for about 20 days. Then we moved to Halab and met a person named Kamal, a close Syrian friend of Outh’s. ... We waited until Mohammed Issawi, who is an Iraqi, arrived to get us. Abu Naser was the one facilitating our entrance to Iraq. My duties were to enter Iraq , film footage of the incidents that took place, then to return to Syria because I will be based there, and Kamal will be my supervisor after the return of Outh to Yemen. ...
In Fallouja, I met with the armed groups. They were all Arabs. All the Arabs entered from Syria even those that came from Afghanistan. Some Pakistanis came from Iran, went to Lebanon, then into Syria, then Iraq, so the majority of Arabs entered via the Syrian borders. All the ones I met in prison also [came] through Syria.
So Ahmed Issawi with the help of Abu Naser brought me to Fallouja to meet armed groups and Abed Alah Janabi. We infiltrated the borders into Husaybah [in western Iraq]. We stayed in a safe house, then Ahmed Issawi and I went on to Fallouja, but we were caught on the road by another armed group. We were beaten and tortured there. Ahmed Issawi called Fallouja and they sent people to rescue us with the money we had, which was about 150,000 dollars. We finally reached Fallouja and met with Abed Alah Janabi, and I was waiting to take the pictures.
-- Ned Parker and Caesar Ahmed in Baghdad
Photo: Journalists watch a video aired by the authorities Aug. 30 showing an alleged militant in Baghdad. Credit: Ahmad al-Rubaye / AFP/Getty Images