Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Insurgents Infiltrate Iraqi Police?

From Knight-Ridder:

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - Days after Iraq's new Shiite-led government was announced on April 28, the bodies of Sunni Muslim men began turning up at the capital's central morgue after the men had been detained by people wearing Iraqi police uniforms.

Faik Baqr, the director and chief forensic investigator at the central Baghdad morgue, said the corpses first caught his attention because the men appeared to have been killed in methodical fashion. Their hands had been tied or handcuffed behind their backs, their eyes were blindfolded and they appeared to have been tortured. In most cases, the dead men looked as if they'd been whipped with a cord, subjected to electric shocks or beaten with a blunt object and shot to death, often with single bullets to their heads.

Marks on the bodies were similar to the injuries found on prisoners who were rescued from secret Interior Ministry jails by representatives of the Iraqi ministry for human rights, according to family accounts and medical records.

Iraqi and American officials said the murders aren't being investigated systematically, but in dozens of interviews with families and Iraqi officials, and a review of medical records, a Knight Ridder reporter and two special correspondents found more than 30 examples of this type of killing in less than a week. They include 12 cases with specific dates, times, names and witnesses who said they might come forward if asked by law enforcement.

The Interior Ministry, which oversees the Iraqi police, denies any involvement in the killings. But eyewitnesses said that many of the dead were apprehended by large groups of men driving white Toyota Land Cruisers with police markings. The men were wearing police commando uniforms and bulletproof vests, carrying expensive 9-millimeter Glock pistols and using sophisticated radios, the witnesses said.

U.S. officials, who have advisers in the Interior Ministry, have said that they're aware of the abductions and killings, but that they think the murders are the work of insurgents posing as police.

While he admitted that Interior Ministry troops have at times abused detainees, Casteel said he knew of only one instance in which they falsely detained an Iraqi and beat him. And in that case, the troops and their commander were convicted and jailed, he said...

... The murders and the allegations about who's committing them add another explosive element to Iraq's growing sectarian strife at a time when the Bush administration has begun saying that it's up to the Iraqi government to defeat the insurgency by attracting broader popular support, especially from Sunni Arabs.

If the killers are proven to be Sunni insurgents masquerading as Shiite police, the murders raise troubling questions about how insurgents are getting expensive new police equipment. The Toyotas, which cost more than $55,000 apiece, and Glocks, at about $500 each, are hard to come by in Iraq, and they're rarely used by anyone other than Western contractors and Iraqi security forces.

Further evidence that a police force created, trained and funded by the United States has been abusing human rights, on the other hand, would complicate the Bush administration's efforts to muster greater domestic support for its Iraq policy and more international support for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari.

The U.S. government has appropriated more than $11 billion for training and equipping Iraqi security forces, including the police. At least 55,000 Iraqi police officers have undergone training, including thousands trained in neighboring Jordan.

However, a March report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that police were trained mainly for civilian law enforcement duty.

'The Multinational Force in Iraq and the Iraqi ministries find it difficult to train a national police force that abides by the rule of law while operating in a hostile environment,' the report said.

Raad Sultan, an official in Iraq's ministry of human rights who monitors the treatment of Iraqis in prisons and detention centers, said some Interior Ministry employees have tortured Iraqis whom they suspected of supporting the insurgency.

Officials in the Interior Ministry's intelligence division deny having detainees, saying they only question those in Iraqi prisons. But one investigation by the Human Rights Ministry found 32 detainees, and another found 67 in Interior Ministry intelligence facilities. The majority of the detainees had been tortured, Sultan said.

Most of those who were tortured had their hands cuffed behind their backs, were blindfolded and had been beaten by cords or subjected to electrical shock, Sultan said. Baqr, at the morgue, said the bodies that have been brought to him handcuffed and blindfolded had been similarly abused.

But when battered corpses turn up outside Interior Ministry facilities, Sultan said, 'How can I prove it is the security forces?'

Ghathanfar al Jasim, who sits on Iraq's national judicial council and functions as an attorney general, said it's difficult to discuss extrajudicial murder.

'We cannot admit that our police are doing it; it would make them look weak,' Jasim said, adding that Sunni insurgents often target Iraqi security forces, especially commando units such as the Interior Ministry's Wolf Brigade.

'When a man kills another man (from their group), what do you think will be the result?' he said. 'How do you think the Wolf Brigade would behave? If you arrested (Osama) bin Laden, what would you do with him?'

Asked who he thought was behind the upsurge in such executions, Baqr said, 'It is a very delicate subject for society when you are blaming the police officers. . . . It is not an easy issue.

'We hear that they are captured by the police and then the bodies are found killed . . . it's obviously increasing.'

Okay, so either the insurgeny has access to cop equipment and cop guns and is masquerading as police or the Iraqi police are torturing and murdering Iraqis in growing numbers.

As the preznit said in last night's speech, we're making progress in Iraq while training Iraqi police and Iraqi troops.

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