Updated at 8:56 p.m. EDT, April 19, 2010
The confirmation of the deaths of two al-Qaeda figures on the U.S. most wanted list outweighed even the revelation of a secret Iraqi prison where hundreds of Sunni men may have tortured and the recount of votes from the national election. Meanwhile, at least four Iraqis were killed and 11 more were wounded in other attacks. Also, a U.S. soldier died of non-combat injuries in Basra.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the deaths of two men who are believed to be al-Qaeda in Iraq’s military leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Islamic State of Iraq figurehead Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. The men were killed yesterday during a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid on a safehouse near Tikrit in the Tharthar region. The men were found hiding in a hole in the ground. Also killed were another two men identified as al-Masri’s assistant and al-Baghdadi’s son. Al-Masri, who was Egyptian, took over after the 2006 death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Sixteen suspects were arrested.
U.S. authorities later confirmed al-Masri’s and al-Baghdadi’s identities; however, previous reports of their deaths or capture were clearly premature. There is even a question as to whether al-Baghdadi is a fictional character. A previously reported U.S. helicopter crash that killed one American yesterday was first described as a non-hostile incident, but the event is now revealed to have been part of this operation. A U.S. soldier did die of non-combat causes, but the death was in Basra and unreported until today.
The Human Rights Ministry has discovered that at least 431 prisoners from Ninewa province were subjected to appalling conditions while in Iraqi custody. Although some of the men may have been militants, ordinary citizens were among those arrested. Over 100 showed signs of having been tortured. The men were transferred to a secret Baghdad prison to avoid court orders freeing the men. A U.S. embassy report revealed allegations of rape and extortion. It is not the first secret prison reported in post-invasion Iraq, where sectarian violence committed by security forces was once considered almost par for the course. The allegation came on the heels of another report of government forces abusing Sunni Iraqis in Anbar.
The Independent High Electoral Commission has ordered a partial recount of Baghdad province’s 2.5 million votes cast in last month’s national elections. Although there was no evidence of fraud in the election, this recount could throw the election back to PM Maliki’s State of Law party, which took second place overall to the Iraqiya party. State of Law, however, won more seats than Iraqiya in the province. The count will take about a week.
Should State of Law flip the results and manage to form a coalition with Shi’ite religious or Kurdish parties, Maliki could return as prime minister. Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council leader Ammar al-Hakim, however, openly doubted that either frontrunner, Maliki or Ayad Allawi, has enough support to become the new prime minister. An Iraqiya party spokesman has threatened a boycott should any marginalizing coalitions form; they insist that the Iraqi public wants them to lead the organization of the new government.
Two people were killed and two more were wounded during a roadside bomb blast in al-Azeem.
Police defused roadside bombs and found two Katyusha rockets in Buhriz.
A high-ranking, al-Qaeda suspect was captured in Kut.
Two al-Qaeda suspects were arrested near Baghdad.
An al-Qaeda cell was busted in Balad Ruz.