View Full Version : Sunni Leader Slain at Home in Iraq

11-23-2005, 03:30 PM
Sunni Leader Slain at Home in Iraq
AP (http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/I/IRAQ?SITE=VTBUR&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT)

Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms burst into the home of a Sunni Arab sheik Wednesday, killing him, three of his sons and a son-in-law in what police believe may have been aimed at discouraging Sunnis from participating in next month's election.

Khadim Sarhid al-Hemaiyem, who lived on the outskirts of Baghdad, was the leader of a branch of the Dulaimi tribe, one of the biggest in Iraq. His brother is a candidate in the Dec. 15 parliamentary election, three of his sons had been policemen and another son was slain last month north of the capital, police and family members said.

The brutal attack took place amid a major campaign by U.S. and Iraqi authorities to encourage Sunni Arabs to vote in next month's election in hopes of luring them away from the Sunni-led insurgency.

Some Sunni-led insurgent groups have declared a boycott of the election and have threatened politicians who choose to participate. Police said they suspected the sheik's death was designed as a warning to Sunni Arabs against heeding the U.S. call.

However, the Association of Muslim Scholars, a hardline Sunni organization believed to have links to some insurgent groups, also condemned the slayings, linking them to what many Sunnis fear is a campaign against them by the Shiite-led government security services.

"We warn the government against continuing with this tyranny," association spokesman Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi said.

Police Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi denied that government forces were involved in the deaths of the sheik and his relatives and blamed the insurgents.

"Surely, they are outlaw insurgents. As for the military uniform, they can be bought from many shops in Baghdad," he said. "Also, we have several police and army vehicles stolen and they can be used in the raids."

The United States hopes that a big Sunni turnout next month will send more Sunni Arabs to parliament and produce a broad-based government that can win the trust of Sunni Arabs, who form about 20 percent of Iraq's 27 million people.

Many Sunnis boycotted the January election, enabling rival Shiites and Kurds to dominate the current government, a move that heightened communal tensions. U.S. officials believe a bigger Sunni Arab voice in government will help take the steam out of the insurgency and hasten the day when American and other international troops can go home.

At the same time, U.S. military commanders have warned that insurgents will probably escalate attacks in hopes of undermining the election.

In other election-related violence, gunmen blocked the road leading to the Communist Party's branch office in Baghdad's Shiite district of Sadr City, broke into the party building late Tuesday and killed two activists, the party said in a statement.

"This cowardly act coincides with our preparations for the upcoming election and it targets the political process," the party said Wednesday. "The government should bear the responsibility of providing the necessary protection in order to ensure a safe atmosphere for the elections."

Despite the violence, Sen. Joseph Lieberman told reporters Wednesday in Baghdad that he was encouraged by the political progress achieved so far in Iraq. Lieberman, who arrived Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with U.S. troops, told Iraq's prime minister that American forces will remain in Iraq until their mission is complete, despite growing unease in Congress about the conflict.

"We cannot let extremists and terrorists, a small number, here in Iraq deprive the 27 million Iraqis of what they want which is a better freer life, safer life for themselves and their children" Lieberman said after his meeting Wednesday with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

The Connecticut Democrat, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the cost of success in Iraq would be high "but the cost for America of failure in Iraq would be catastrophic - for America, for the Iraqi people and I believe for the world."

Meanwhile, a U.S. official said he expected defense lawyers in the Saddam Hussein trial to attend Monday's session, despite their threat to boycott the proceedings after the assassination of two members of their team.

The official told a news briefing that the court has "standby" defense lawyers to step in if the defense team makes good on its threat to boycott the Monday hearing, the first since the trial opened Oct. 19.

The threat followed the assassination of two members of the defense team since Oct. 19. They have since demanded protection for themselves and their families, as well as a U.N. investigation of the killings.

In Brussels, Belgium, a group representing lawyers across the European Union urged Iraqi authorities Wednesday to move the trial of another country for security reasons. The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, which represents 700,000 lawyers in the 25 EU nations, said the killings of the two attorneys raised "serious concerns" about security.

There was no comment from the Iraqi government to the appeal, but authorities here have rejected earlier suggestions to move the trial.