US 'victory' against cult leader was 'massacre'
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
Published: 31 January 2007
There are growing suspicions in Iraq that the official story of the battle outside Najaf between a messianic Iraqi cult and the Iraqi security forces supported by the US, in which 263 people were killed and 210 wounded, is a fabrication. The heavy casualties may be evidence of an unpremeditated massacre.
A picture is beginning to emerge of a clash between an Iraqi Shia tribe on a pilgrimage to Najaf and an Iraqi army checkpoint that led the US to intervene with devastating effect. The involvement of Ahmed al-Hassani (also known as Abu Kamar), who believed himself to be the coming Mahdi, or Messiah, appears to have been accidental.
The story emerging on independent Iraqi websites and in Arabic newspapers is entirely different from the government's account of the battle with the so-called "Soldiers of Heaven", planning a raid on Najaf to kill Shia religious leaders.
The cult denied it was involved in the fighting, saying it was a peaceful movement. The incident reportedly began when a procession of 200 pilgrims was on its way, on foot, to celebrate Ashura in Najaf. They came from the Hawatim tribe, which lives between Najaf and Diwaniyah to the south, and arrived in the Zarga area, one mile from Najaf at about 6am on Sunday. Heading the procession was the chief of the tribe, Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi, and his wife driving in their 1982 Super Toyota sedan because they could not walk. When they reached an Iraqi army checkpoint it opened fire, killing Mr Hatemi, his wife and his driver, Jabar Ridha al-Hatemi. The tribe, fully armed because they were travelling at night, then assaulted the checkpoint to avenge their fallen chief.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
(CBS/AP) U.S. helicopter gunships launched new attacks Tuesday against suspected al Qaeda members, a Somali official said, a day after American forces launched airstrikes in the first offensive in the African country since 18 U.S. troops were killed there in 1993.
The latest attacks killed at least 27 civilians in the town of Afmadow in southern Somalia, lawmaker Abdiqadir Daqane told The Associated Press.
The attack helicopters were trying to kill Islamic extremists, said a defense ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak.