Fri, Jan 15, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Iraq sentences 11 to death over attacks

BAGHDAD BOMBINGSThe 11 were sentenced to death by hanging for planning and carrying out twin explosions on Aug. 19, which killed 106 and wounded 600

AFP AND AP , BAGHDAD

A wounded man leaves the scene of a massive explosion outside the Iraqi foreign ministry in a residential area close to the Green Zone in Baghdad on Aug. 19.

PHOTO: AFP

An Iraqi court yesterday sentenced to death 11 men, including al-Qaeda militants, over devastating truck bombs in Baghdad that killed more than 100 people in August and dealt a harsh blow to the government.

The trial was the first to convict suspects arrested in the wake of three major attacks in the second half of last year that saw insurgents defy the war-torn country’s fledgling security forces and penetrate the heart of the capital.

“They are sentenced to death for the crime they planned,” Ali Abdul Sattar, president of the criminal court, said at a hearing in Baghdad.

The convicted men have a month to appeal the ruling, he said.

The Aug. 19 attacks just minutes apart outside the ministries of finance and foreign affairs caused massive destruction, killed 106 people and wounded about 600.

Those convicted included Salim Abed Jassim, who confessed that he received funding for the attacks from Brigadier General Nabil Abdul Rahman, a senior army officer during the rule of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein now living in Syria.

Also sentenced to death by hanging were Ishaq Mohammed Abbas, an al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, and his brother Mustapha, the court official said.

Both men had once been detained but were later released from Camp Bucca, a now closed US-run prison in the southern city of Basra.

“These men were the brains behind the attacks in August,” a security official involved in a probe into the attacks said on condition of anonymity.

“The others bought the explosives and transported them into Baghdad,” he said.

The Aug. 19 truck attacks on what was dubbed “Black Wednesday” marked Iraq’s worst day of violence in 18 months and prompted outrage among citizens at how the bombers had been able to commit such atrocities.

The government, which blamed the bombings on al-Qaeda and Saddam loyalists from the executed dictator’s outlawed Baath party, admitted at the time that negligence at checkpoints allowed the attackers to enter the capital.

Despite outrage over the Aug. 19 atrocities, bombers managed to commit similar carnage in October and last month, when they again struck government buildings in attacks that killed at least 280 people and wounded 1,000.

The attacks were a severe blow to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s largely successful efforts to portray himself as a guardian of security ahead of nationwide parliamentary elections scheduled for March 7.

Violence in Iraq dropped dramatically last year to its lowest level since the 2003 invasion, figures showed on Jan. 1, but a monitoring group warned that security gains were levelling off.

An Agence France-Presse tally of figures released by the defense, interior and health ministries showed that a total of 2,800 civilians were killed by violence last year, less than half of 2008’s toll of 5,886.

However, Iraq Body Count (IBC), an independent Britain-based group, put the civilians toll at 4,497, and said while there had been “significant improvements” in security last year, “such violence still afflicts Iraq’s population more than any other.”

The second half of last year saw around the same number of civilian deaths as the first, which IBC said “may indicate that the situation is no longer improving.”

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