Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Iraqi Resistance to US Imperialist Occupation Escalates

21:50 MECCA TIME, 18:50 GMT

Dozens killed in Baghdad fighting

Dozens of people have been killed in heavy fighting in central Baghdad after the Iraqi government launched another attempt to take control of the capital.

The violence began when Iraqi security forces moved into Haifa Street - a stronghold of Sunni armed groups - on Tuesday morning.

Sunni fighters in the area quickly mobilised and fought back, leading to casualties on both sides.

By the end of the day Major-General Ibrahim Shakir, the defence ministry spokesman, estimated that about 50 people were killed in the fighting.

Ali al-Dabbagh, an Iraqi government spokesman, said the operation aimed to take control of an area known as a stronghold of Sunni fighters opposed to the mainly Shia government.

"God willing, Haifa Street will never threaten the Iraqi people again," he said.

Iraqis summon US support

Iraqi troops initally tried to tackle the fighters by themselves, but soon called on the US for reinforcements.

US jets, helicopters and extra troops who arrived on the scene were soon engaged in heavy fighting and under fire from rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

After hours of fierce fighting, Iraqi government and US troops were said to be in control of most of Haifa Street.

Iraq's defence ministry said its troops captured three people, including seven Syrians, in the area.

Saddam's followers

Al-Dabbagh blamed followers of Saddam Hussein for the violence.

"This would never have happened were it not for some groups who provided safe havens for these terrorists," he said. "And as everyone knows, the former Baathists provided safe haven and logistics for them to destabilise Iraq."

The raid on Haifa Street came after police found the bodies of 27 Shias who had been seized and shot in the area on Saturday.

Officials have said that more than 130 people have died there since Saturday.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

14:01 MECCA TIME, 11:01 GMT

Rights group condemns Iraq trials

The planned execution of two of Saddam's aides should not be carried out, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

The rights group, in a statement released on Monday, also said the Iraqi prime minister's defence of the execution of Saddam Hussein, Iraq's former leader, showed the government's "disregard for human rights and the rule of law".

The rights group called for the Iraqi government to halt the upcoming execution of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam's half brother and a former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court.

Richard Dicker, director of HRW's international justice programme, said: "The execution of these two, however heinous the crimes involved, is cruel and inhuman punishment that will only drag a deeply flawed process into even greater disrepute."

"The tribunal repeatedly showed its disregard for the fundamental due process rights of all of the defendants."

The statement by HRW comes days after Louise Arbour, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, also appealed to Iraq not to execute Barzan and al-Bandar.

Swift execution urged

However, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, Shia leader of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), on Monday called for a swift execution of the two former aides.

"We demand in the name of the Iraqi people that the prime minister and the government accelerate the carrying out of the execution of those criminals who have been sentenced."

He also urged authorities to "stay on course to take legal actions against the others to achieve justice."


A video of Saddam's execution, filmed on a mobile phone and released over the internet, showed Saddam being taunted on the gallows, in contrast to an official video that was released without sound.

Dicker said: "The haste and vengeance infusing Saddam Hussein's hanging should prompt the Iraqi government to halt these [upcoming] executions."

The internet video provoked an outcry around the world, with many international leaders saying the video showed the execution to be closer to a sectarian lynching than a court-directed punishment.

But Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, has defended the execution and said that Iraq might "review" relations with countries that criticised the hanging.

"The execution of the tyrant was not a political decision, as the enemies of the Iraqi people say.

"The verdict was implemented after a fair and transparent trial, which the dictator never deserved," al-Maliki said on Saturday.

HRW has said the execution obscured Saddam's "unspeakable human rights record" and raised questions about the new government's "commitment to fundamental human rights".

Source: Agencies

17:16 MECCA TIME, 14:16 GMT

Dozens killed in Iraq air crash

At least 34 people have been killed as their chartered aircraft crashed while trying to land in Iraq in foggy conditions.

The Antonov-26, which took off from the Turkish city of Adana early on Tuesday, was carrying 35 people, including 30 construction workers, when it crashed.

A Turkish government official said the crash occurred near Balad, the main US military aviation hub in Iraq about 80km north of the capital, Baghdad.

"The plane came down at about midday Turkish time [10:00 GMT] some 2.5km to the northwest of Balad," the foreign ministry press service said.

Turkish officials later put the death toll later rose to 34, although American officials said that one man survived the crash and was being treated.

"Thirty-four people were killed in the accident: an American, 28 Turks and the five crew. There is one survivor, who is seriously wounded," a source at the Turkish embassy in Baghdad told AFP newsagency.

Cahit Kirac, the governor of Adana, told CNN Turk television that the aircraft was carrying 29 Turks, one American and a crew comprising a Russian, a Ukrainian and three Moldovans.

The aircraft belonged to Moldova's Aerian Tur Airlines and the workers on board were from the Turkish construction company Kulak, the Turkish foreign ministry said.

Source: Agencies

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