September 15, 2003


Shiite cleric's killer held (P. MITCHELL PROTHERO, 9/15/2003, UPI)

A former Baath Party official arrested in connection with the killing of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim last month has confessed to planning the operation that killed the senior Shiite cleric, United Press International has learned.

Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for Revolution in Iraq, was killed by a car bomb in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Aug. 29. The incident has threatened to further divide Iraqi Shiites oppressed by former President Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, which was primarily Sunni.

The Shiite Badr Brigade, SCIRI's militia wing, which is now controlled by Hakim's brother Abdul Aziz, arrested the official, the former head of security for Najaf, after a gunfight in the days after the car bombing. Identified as former Security Director Kareem Ghatheeth, the official had been removed from that position by U.S. military forces on charges of corruption and ties to the Baath regime, an Iraqi Police source said.

Abu Zualfakar al-Hussan, a top Badr Brigade official, who was involved in the raid, told UPI that Ghatheeth had confessed to his role in planning and executing the car bombing outside the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf that killed Hakim. The shrine is one of the holiest in Shiite Islam.

Al-Hussan said the confession proved that the remnants of Saddam's regime killed Hakim, a longtime Saddam opponent. However, the confession could not be verified outside of officials from SCIRI and it is unclear if the suspect has been or will be turned over to U.S. military authorities.

It doesn't make the murder any less tragic, but it's a big plus that it was a Baathist operation. Anything that gets the Shi'ites motivated to go after the Baath remnants is helpful.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 15, 2003 8:45 PM
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