Updated at 10:44 a.m. EST, Jan. 26, 2010
Chemical Ali was executed for genocide and crimes against humanity today. In Baghdad, three suicide bombs that exploded shortly before news became public could have been in retaliation for the execution. Not including Chemical Ali, at least 54 Iraqis were killed there and elsewhere. Another 106 Iraqis were wounded. Meanwhile, a controversial bomb detector will be kept in service, and a number of Iraqi candidates accused of ties to the Ba’ath Party will be allowed to run in March elections.
A number of international stories connected to Iraq were in the headlines today as well. Among them was the attempted assassination of a Kurdish Sunni cleric in Oslo. An audit of U.S. State Department contract has revealed possible waste. Also, a former British Defense Secretary testified at the Chilcot Inquiry.
Ali Hassan al-Majid who was Saddam Hussein’s cousin and better known by his nickname "Chemical Ali" was hanged a week after his fourth death sentence was handed down. Although death sentences are usually carried out swiftly in Iraq, officials allowed Majid to live so that he could be tried repeatedly for his crimes. The final trial involved the killing of an estimated 5,000 Kurds during a 1988 chemical attack in Halabja. Thousands still suffer the after effects of the attack, but the survivors were pleased to see Majid convicted specifically for the Halabja attack. An earlier death sentence was for an offensive against Kurds in the Anfal Campaign. The two other sentences involved assaults against Shi’ites. Because the government this morning announced his execution would occur within days, his imminent death may have triggered today’s major bomb attack in Baghdad.
A senior explosives expert at the Interior Ministry said that a controversial bomb detector would remain in service for the time being. Col. Hato al-Hashemi said the ministry has "great confidence" in the device and that it has proven its value in detecting explosives. However, the British last week arrested the director of ATSC Ltd., which produces the ADE 651 device, on fraud charges. The device was also banned from export. International bomb experts have called into question the device’s usefulness, and Iraqis wonder if the device contributed to a string of deadly bombings in Baghdad that began in August of last year and includes today’s attack.
Of the 150 appeals requests, the Accountability and Justice (De-Baathification) Committee ruled favorably in 59 cases. Those candidates can now run in March elections, but 458 others remain barred. The committee recently barred over 500 potential candidates for alleged ties to the Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein. Many on the secret list were told they could appeal and be reinstated; however, many Iraqis feel the blacklisting was political in nature as it targeted popular Sunni candidates. International calls for a fair and open resolution to the controversy have gone unanswered.
In Baghdad, at least four suicide bombers simultaneously struck at three hotels popular with Western journalists and businessmen this afternoon. At least 15 people were killed at the al-Hamra Hotel, while another 14 died at the Ishtar Sheraton. Eight people were killed at the Babel Oberon Hotel. At least one attack involved more than one bomber. Witnesses reported that two men shot at guards working the al-Hamra’s security checkpoint before blowing themselves up. At least 106 were injured at the three locations. At least four more victims died overnight. Separately, Baghdad Operations Command televised confessions from an alleged al-Qaeda cell. The men included a Palestinian national and a university professor.
In Mosul, gunmen stormed a Zahraa neighborhood home, killing a woman and her daughter who lived there. At a store in Sukar, gunmen killed a man. Gunmen in Maared killed a civilian. A bomb at restaurant in al-Majmouaa al-Thaqafiya left no casualties. Also, six suspects were arrested.
Two policemen were killed during a drive-by shooting at a Kirkuk petrol station.
Three more bodies were pulled from a previously reported mass grave found near Fallujah.
A bomb was defused outside the home of a Kut politician. In Tikrit, security forces continue to occupy the Salah ad Din provincial building. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki last Thursday ordered the governor removed from office. He has been accused of corruption.
Five al-Qaeda suspects were arrested north of Karbala.
In Anbar province, 21 detainees were cleared of charges and released.
An audit has concluded that the U.S. State Department has repeatedly failed to properly oversee spending in a DynCorp International contract, making it vulnerable to waste and fraud. Assistant Secretary of State David Johnson disputed the findings.
The U.S. Marines may have left Iraq "for good" a second time, but many are left wondering if the Marines will eventually be forced to return.
Mullah Krekar, who founded the Kurdish Sunni Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, was apparently the target of an assassination attempt in Oslo, Norway. Gunmen shot at the apartment after an attempt to enter the apartment failed. Only Krekar’s son-in-law was injured. The U.S. and other governments list Ansar al-Islam as a terrorist organization.
Former British Defense Secretary Des Browne testified at the Iraq Inquiry today. His lack of a military background, he says, made coming to terms with the deaths of British servicemembers in Iraq all the more difficult.