Death squads found inside Iraqi government
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Ridder" -- -- BAGHDAD - Senior Iraqi officials on
Sunday confirmed for the first time that death squads composed of
government employees had operated illegally from inside two
"The death squads that we have captured are in the Defense and
Interior ministries," Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said during a
joint news conference with the minister of Defense. "There are
people who have infiltrated the army and the interior."
Jabr said that investigations into death squads were ongoing in the
Defense Ministry. He said the Interior Ministry had arrested 22
people, and subsequently released 18 as innocent after
interrogation, detaining four for further questioning.
"Now we have sent them (the four) to the court because it hasn't
been proven that all four were involved," Jabr said. "Although I did
not have clear signs (of their guilt) I sent them to the Justice
Ministry so that the law could be carried out."
Although Jabr appeared to confirm the existence of death squads, the
scale of the operation uncovered would appear to be far smaller than
critics had alleged.
Sunni Muslims have long complained about Shiite death squads that
arrived wearing official uniforms and rode in official-looking
vehicles to haul away victims.
Knight Ridder first reported the accusation of death squads in
February 2005, and in June documented cases in which victims were
taken away allegedly by men wearing Interior Ministry commando
uniforms were later found handcuffed and killed execution-style.
The government had long denied the existence of such death squads.
Sunnis had accused the Badr Organization, a Shiite militia supported
by Iran, of being behind the killings, inside or outside of
government ministries. Jabr is a senior leader of the Supreme
Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political
party, and has close ties to the Badr Organization.
The investigation that led to Sunday's confirmation of government
death squads came after American forces stopped a group of men who
were passing through a checkpoint in late January.
The men wore official uniforms and said they were preparing to kill
a Sunni man in their custody.
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