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IRAQ: Anti-US riots



As Gilbert and Sullivan said, a policeman's lot is not a happy one, and these Reuters dispatches (5/20/03) confirmed that. Iraqi protestors vowed vengeance on the US. Scores of gunmen fired in the air at the funeral of a former Iraqi air force man killed by US troops during a violent protest in Baghdad. Several hundred mourners shouted for revenge as assault rifles were fired into the air in defiance of a US ban on carrying weapons in Iraq. "There is no god but Allah, America is the enemy of Allah," mourners chanted as they followed the coffin of Tareq Mohammed, one of two men shot dead at a demonstration. There was no sign of US troops in Baghdad's impoverished al-Hurriya district where Mohammed, a former air force non-commissioned officer, had lived with his wife and five children. Mohammed was killed when sacked members of Iraq's dissolved armed forces confronted US soldiers during furious protests outside the headquarters of the US-led administration in the capital. The US military said demonstrators had thrown stones at a convoy entering the compound and one had pulled out a weapon and begun shooting, prompting US forces to respond.

The Iraqi Shi'ite party distanced itself from these attacks. An armed Iraqi Shi'ite group which has strained relations with Washington distanced itself from recent attacks against US forces in Iraq, saying they would only escalate the war-torn country's problems. Abdelaziz Hakim, deputy head of the Iran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), also said the group did not share Tehran's enmity towards the United States, which has accused Iran of meddling in Iraq. US forces trying to police Iraq have come under a series of deadly attacks. The military has blamed them on supporters of ousted President Saddam Hussein and is trying to hunt them down. "We do not approve of such acts. There are no fatwas (religious edicts) from Iraqi scholars for these kinds of acts because they cause more problems," Hakim told the pan-Arab al-Hayat daily. "We must seek to end the occupation peacefully." SCIRI enjoys widespread respect among the Shi'ite majority in Iraq which was long oppressed by Hussein and is now keen to get its share of power.

Ronald Hilton - 6/27/03


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