Tue, Oct 10, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Hundreds of police poisoned in Iraq

ARRESTED Four cooks were held on suspicion of tampering with food at a base south of Baghdad, while elsewhere 11 Iraqi soldiers were kidnapped by gunmen


At least seven policemen died and hundreds of others fell ill after suffering food poisoning on Sunday evening in the town of Numaniya, south of Baghdad, police sources at the base said on Monday.

It was not clear if the poisoning at an Iraqi military base was deliberate but police sources said they arrested four cooks yesterday suspected of tampering with the food.

But the spokesman for the commander of the Iraqi armed forces said no one had died.

"Three hundred and fifty to 400 people were poisoned, they were given medical treatment instantly and four were taken to a nearby hospital and everyone has returned to normal," spokesman Brigadier Qasim al-Musawi told a news conference.

But Lieutenant-Colonel Hasan Nima at the base said the policemen, from the Interior Ministry's 4th division, became ill only minutes after the meal and insisted at least 1,350 of the 2,000 policemen at the base were hospitalized.

The policemen, nearly all Shiite Muslims from southern Iraq, blamed several people, most notably a Sunni contractor, providing food for the military base where the police were "re-training."

But Qasim and other Shiites did not say they believed the poisoning had sectarian motives.

Meanwhile,. in a daring move, gunmen overran an Iraqi military checkpoint in east Baghdad early yesterday and kidnapped 11 soldiers, police said.

The gunmen arrived at the Sadr City checkpoint in a minivan and a car, police spokesman Lieutenant Thaer Mahmoud said. They seized all the soldiers on duty and made off.

It was not clear who kidnapped the soldiers, but Sadr City is a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

In other news the brother of Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president was slain early yesterday in his Baghdad home -- the third member of the family to be murdered in the last year, a government spokesman said.

General Amir al-Hashimi, brother of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and an adviser in the Defense Ministry, was killed by unidentified gunmen wearing military uniforms in his home in north Baghdad, Brigadier Qassim al-Moussawi said.

Hashimi's sister and another brother also have been murdered in the last year.

Elsewhere, a suicide car bomber slammed into an Iraqi police checkpoint in Tal Afar, 420km northwest of Baghdad, killing one policeman and wounding 12, police Brigadier Najim Abdullah said.

Meanwhile, a Kurdish woman accused former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein of bulldozing her family into a mass grave yesterday as the ousted Iraqi leader returned to court for the latest hearing in his genocide trial.

The case continued following a two-week adjournment, despite a boycott by Saddam's defense lawyers, and heard more grim prosecution testimony.

The former strongman and six of his top officials are accused of ordering the 1988 Anfal campaign by Iraqi forces in which, prosecutors say, 182,000 Kurds were killed.

The woman told of how Iraqi forces attacked her village in northern Iraq region in April 1988 when she was 13 years old and rounded up members of her family, including her brother and his wife and children.

"I know what happened to my family. They were buried alive," she told the court. The prosecutor said that her relatives' identity cards had been found at a mass grave near Hadhar, in northern Iraq.

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