‘Driller killers’ spread a new horror in Iraq
By Hala Jaber
Times" -- -- THERE was no sign of danger as Mohammed Sammarai arrived at his brother Mustafa’s home for lunch last week,
no hint that this would be their last meal together.
It was not until after they had been joined by their old friend Ali
Ahmad that they heard a commotion outside and realised something was
wrong. Even then, the three men — all government employees, all
Sunnis — had no inkling of the terrifying events that were about to
First two police vehicles pulled up outside their house in the Hay
al-Jihad district of Baghdad’s sprawling southern suburbs. Then came
a convoy of up to 10 black BMWs and Opels — the favoured cars of the
Shi’ite militias. Suddenly masked men brandishing Kalashnikov
automatic rifles were storming inside.
Ahmad was arrested. Mustafa protested. Mohammed fled upstairs. There
was no escape, however, as Ahmad recalled.
“One of the men grabbed Mustafa’s one-year-old son and put him
between his legs and threatened to kill him unless Mohammed came
downstairs,” he said.
“Another man grabbed the boy’s mother and placed a machinegun on her
chest and threatened to shoot her.” Then he banged her head against
a chair, loudly cursing her.
Realising that trying to run away was futile, Mohammed, 30, came
downstairs. He begged the intruders to leave 32-year-old Mustafa and
his family alone but was arrested for his pains.
“Who are you?” the family demanded to know.
“We are from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in
Iraq,” one of the men is said to have shouted.
They beat the brothers, dragged them and Ahmad, 40, outside and
thrust each man into the boot of a different car, firing their
Kalashnikovs into the air to deter anyone tempted to intervene.
The convoy stopped and started and it seemed to Ahmad that several
others had been detained by the time the cars finally halted and the
boots were opened.
To their horror, the captives found themselves in Sadr City, a
Shi’ite stronghold in Baghdad. “A crowd gathered to watch what was
going on,” Ahmad said.
“The armed men told them we were terrorists and the crowd began to
The Sunni brothers and their friend were bundled back into the car
boots and driven off again. The next person they saw was an imam,
but he was not there to save them.
“I saw an imam peer into the boot with a policeman,” Ahmad said.
According to his account, the imam condemned Mustafa and Mohammed
with the chilling words: “Kill any identified suspect immediately.”
Ahmad was freed on the imam’s orders, apparently because he had
merely been a guest of the brothers and had not been suitably
“I walked home barefoot in a terrible state,” he said. “I could not
call any official to report this. How could I when they were
involved?” Two days later he found his friends’ bodies in the city’s
Teb al-Adli mortuary. Mustafa’s right eye had been gouged out and
his right leg broken. Other parts of his body appeared to have been
penetrated by an electric drill, an increasingly common tool of
torture in Iraq.
Mohammed’s body bore similar injuries. Both men had been shot in the
Their widows have now moved in with relatives and Mustafa’s empty
home has already been vandalised.
The killings have left Ahmad bewildered; he says he knows of no
reason why his friends should have been targeted by a militia. But
the remarks of a United Nations official last week suggest their
murders fit a pattern emerging in the sectarian violence that has
claimed at least 500 lives since an attack on February 22 on the
golden-domed Askari shrine, a Shi’ite mosque in Samarra.
John Pace, the outgoing head of the UN human rights office in
Baghdad, said the vast majority of the bodies arriving at the
mortuary showed signs of summary execution and many had their hands
tied behind their backs. “Some showed evidence of torture, with arms
and leg joints broken by electric drills,” said Pace, a Maltese
He claimed that militias were integrated with the police and were
wearing police uniforms. One in particular was singled out: the Badr
organisation that used to be the armed wing of the Supreme Council
for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the political party
mentioned by one of the men in the Sammarais’ home.
“The Badr brigade are in the police and are mainly the ones doing
the killing,” Pace was quoted as saying. “They’re the most
The Badr organisation, as it is known today, was founded in Iran in
the 1980s with the aim of overthrowing Saddam Hussein and is thought
to number 20,000 men. It was once led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who
now heads SCIRI, one of the main parties in the Shi’ite alliance
that won last December’s election. The interior minister, Bayan Jabr,
was also a member.
The Badr organisation has denied that it is operating death squads.
Its leader, Hadi al-Amery, a member of parliament, said only 5% of
the militia had been integrated into the Iraqi security forces. “We
say to our members who go to the armed forces that your relationship
with us will be severed,” he added. “No one is above the law.”
Thousands of Shi’ites have been killed by Sunni insurgents in the
past two years, including 19 labourers murdered last Friday when
gunmen ran amok in the small town of Nahrawan, near Baghdad.
Yesterday Baghdad was hit by a series of bombings and seven people
died in an explosion at a market in the south of the capital. The
spiral of violence has raised questions about the prospects for a
reduction in the number of coalition troops this year.
President Jalal Talabani said he had been assured by the chief of US
Central Command, General John Abizaid, that American forces would
remain for as long as they were needed. The president called for a
government of national unity to help calm sectarian tensions.
According to Pace, the cases of torture and extrajudicial executions
now exceed those under Saddam’s rule.
“Under Saddam, if you agreed to forgo your basic right to freedom of
expression and thought, you were physically more or less okay,” he
said. “Now you have a primitive, chaotic situation where anybody can
do anything they want to anyone.”
Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.
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