Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Iraqi verdict sparks violence

Nationwide attacks leave dozens dead

  • Print

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's fugitive Sunni vice-president was sentenced Sunday to death by hanging on charges he masterminded death squads against rivals in a terror trial that has fueled sectarian tensions in the country. Underscoring the instability, insurgents unleashed an onslaught of bombings and shootings across Iraq, killing at least 92 people in one of the deadliest days this year.

It's unlikely attacks in 13 cities were timed to coincide with the afternoon verdict that capped a lengthy case against Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, a longtime foe of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Still, taken together, they could energize Sunni insurgents bent on returning Iraq to the brink of civil war by targeting Shiites and undermining the government.

Al-Hashemi fled to Turkey in the months after the Shiite-led government accused him of playing a role in 150 bombings, assassinations and other attacks from 2005 to 2011. Most of the attacks were allegedly carried out by al-Hashemi's bodyguards and other employees, and largely targeted government officials, security forces and Shiite pilgrims.

The politically charged case -- announced the day after U.S. troops withdrew from the country last December -- sparked a government crisis and fuelled Sunni Muslim and Kurdish resentment against al-Maliki, whom critics say is monopolizing power.

Insurgents continue to stage high-profile bombings and shooting rampages. Al-Qaida's Iraq branch has promised a comeback in predominantly Sunni areas from which it was routed by the U.S. and local allies after sectarian fighting peaked in 2007.

"These attacks show al-Qaida's ability to hit any place in Iraq and at any time," said Ali Salem, 40, an elementary school teacher in Baghdad. "The lack of security could take us back to zero."

The worst violence on Sunday struck the capital, where bombs pounded a half-dozen neighbourhoods -- both Sunni and Shiite -- throughout the day. But the deadliest attacks in Baghdad hit Shiite areas Sunday evening, hours after the al-Hashemi verdict was announced. In all, 42 people were killed in the capital and 120 wounded, according to police and hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The countrywide attacks began before dawn, with gunmen killing soldiers at an army post in the central Iraqi city of Dujail. A few hours later, a car exploded in a lot where police recruits waited in line to apply for jobs outside Kirkuk in the country's north. Both Dujail and Kirkuk are former insurgent strongholds.

Over the day, at least 92 people were killed and more than 360 wounded in at least 21 separate bombings and shootings, according to reports from police and hospital officials. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but Iraq's Interior Ministry blamed al-Qaida in Iraq.

"The attacks today on the markets and mosques are aimed at provoking sectarian and political tensions," the ministry said in a statement. "Our war against terrorism is continuing, and we are ready."

The courtroom at Baghdad's criminal court was silent as the presiding judge read out the verdict. It convicted al-Hashemi and his son-in-law, Ahmed Qahtan, of organizing the murders of a Shiite security official and a lawyer who had refused to help the vice-president's allies in terror cases. The two were acquitted in a third case of the killing of a security officer due to a lack of evidence.

The court sentenced both men in absentia to death by hanging. They have 30 days to appeal the verdict and could win a retrial if they return to Iraq to face the charges. Al-Hashemi is on Interpol's most-wanted list, but Turkey has shown no interest in sending him back to Baghdad.

The defence team began its closing statement with a searing indictment of Iraq's justice system, accusing it of showing no independence and siding with the Shiite-led government.

"From the beginning and through all procedures it has become obvious that the Iraqi judicial system has been under political pressure," attorney Muayad Obeid al-Ezzi, the head of the defence team, told the court.

The presiding judge immediately interjected, warning the court would open legal proceedings against the defence team if it continued to heap accusations on the court or the legal system.

Sunday saw one of the worst outbreaks of violence in Iraq in 2012, although the single deadliest day was July 23, which saw at least 115 people killed.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 10, 2012 A9

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

RMTC preview of Good People

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A red squirrel peaks out of the shade in a tree in East Fort Garry, Sunday, September 9, 2012. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local- (Standup Photo). Watcher in the woods. A young deer peers from the forest while eating leaves by Cricket Drive in Assiniboine Park. A group of eight deer were seen in the park. 060508.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google