Wednesday, August 05, 2009
U.S. Says Sunni Insurgent Leader Was Arrested During Raids in Northern Iraq
New York Times By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS and ROD NORDLAND BAGHDAD — The United States military said Tuesday that a leader of a Sunni insurgent group had been arrested last month during a joint Iraqi-American operation. The man, Fakri Hadi Gari, was among 10 people arrested July 24 during raids in the northern city of Mosul, the United States military said in a statement. Mr. Gari is suspected of organizing attacks carried out by the insurgent group Ansar al-Islam and of being in charge of its recruiting and financing, the statement said. Ansar al-Islam has roots in the country’s Kurdish region and has been blamed for suicide bombings throughout the country. “He is also believed to have facilitated the movement of terrorists across the borders of Iraq,” the statement read. The Iraqi military had no comment about the arrest, even though the statement said the raid had been conducted by units of the Mosul Special Weapons and Tactics team and Iraqi Army soldiers, along with “coalition advisers.” On June 30, United States combat forces departed Iraq’s urban areas as part of the American military’s negotiated drawdown in Iraq. In the weeks since, many Iraqi commanders have interpreted that to mean that all American troop movements, other than logistics and force protection missions, require prior approval from the Iraqi military. That has led to some friction between American and Iraqi units. In Diyala Province, for instance, the provincial police commander ordered police stations closed to American troops, resulting in the cancellation of training visits for several weeks. A recent memo from Col. Timothy R. Reese, the chief American adviser to Iraqi forces in Baghdad, complained that one consequence of the withdrawal was that Iraqi units “are far less likely to want to conduct combined combat operations with U.S. forces, to go after targets the U.S. considers high value.” Despite that, joint patrols and operations continue in many parts of the country, although with much less frequency than before June 30. Also Tuesday, the Iraqi government announced that it had arrested a 25-year-old man in the slaying of an Iraqi television journalist in 2006. The man, Yasser Mohammed Hamad al-Takhi, 25, was shown on Iraqi television in a videotaped confession describing how he and three other men, including one of his brothers, had set up a checkpoint on a road outside the city of Samarra to stop a car carrying the journalist, Atwar Bahjat, and two members of her crew. Mr. Takhi said he had been working for a Sunni armed group with ties to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown insurgent group that American intelligence agencies say has some foreign leadership. Ms. Bahjat, a journalist working for Al Arabiya, a satellite television station based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, had been returning to Baghdad after having covered the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, an event that pushed Iraq into sectarian warfare. Speaking calmly and looking directly into the camera, Mr. Takhi said his gang had stopped Ms. Bahjat’s car and ordered her to get into the gang’s vehicle. He did not say why the gang had made the reporter their target, but at the time, journalists were frequently killed and kidnapped by Sunni and Shiite armed groups in Iraq. The gang drove to a side street, followed by a car driven by another member of the gang. Inside the second car were Adnan Abdallah and Khaled Mohsen, the television station’s other employees. “I got in the car and told Atwar that she was beautiful, that I liked the way she looked and I would like to have fun with her,” Mr. Takhi said. “She answered that it was not her job. I told her it is not up to you.” Mr. Takhi said he raped Ms. Bahjat at gunpoint inside the car. He then shot her in the neck, head and chest. Another member of the gang fatally shot Mr. Abdallah and Mr. Mohsen. The gang filmed the crimes, he said, though it was not clear what happened to the tape. Portions of the televised confession were edited to spare the family details of her rape, said Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, an Iraqi Army spokesman. General Atta said Mr. Takhi’s brother had been arrested earlier, and had admitted to his role in the crime.