Local Government Officials Targeted

Councillors from west Baghdad assassinated in what appears to be a concerted campaign of intimidation.

Local Government Officials Targeted

Councillors from west Baghdad assassinated in what appears to be a concerted campaign of intimidation.

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

Majid al-Muzani, head of the youth department in the local council for the west Baghdad district of al-Bayaa, had just climbed into his black Daewoo on the morning of May 14.

As Muzani drove off, a car full of gunmen pulled up and opened fire. He was shot in the head and killed.

"He was killed because he served the residents of the area – cleaning the streets, guarding the schools and government buildings," said Shaker al-Musawi, a guard at Muzani’s home, who witnessed the shooting.

"Once, he captured some people with a car full of grenades and rifles and handed them over to the police. He joined [local]] watchmen late at night, and succeeded in preventing many robberies and car-jackings," Musawi said.

Muzani is one of several local councillors from west Baghdad who have been killed in the last two months, apparently part of a concerted effort by insurgents to assassinate grassroots representatives of the Iraqi interim government.

West Baghdad councillors said their assassinated colleagues include: Kais al-Ani of Jihad, killed on the way to the airport on June 1; Musa Hadi, while driving in the al-Makinik district on June 3; and Salman Gharbi al-Duleimi of al-Bu Eitha, as he drove with his brother and the local mosque imam on an unspecified date.

Several more local councillors, chosen through Coalition-sponsored caucuses and other methods in the summer of 2003, have survived attempted assassinations, which have taken the form of shootings and attacks on cars and homes.

Some have simply given in and quit – like Nasreen Ahmed of the al-Rasheed council, who stepped down after her brother was shot dead on June 14.

Murtada Hashed Younis found a note in his garden declaring that Saddam Hussein was the rightful president of Iraq, and that whoever worked with the Americans should be killed.

Soon after, Youni was shot at while driving a council car. "They tried to kill or terrorise me," he said. "It's natural that they commit these terrorist acts to hinder the transfer of power [from the Coalition] to Iraqis."

Al-Rasheed councillor Jabber Agul, whose house was attacked by suspected assassins, said the council asked the Americans to assign guards to each of its members, but none have turned up.

Meanwhile, he said, "We have asked some of our friends to guard us for free.”

Al-Alaam district councillor Muhannad Hassan al-Azergawi said his neighbours rushed to his aid after an attack on his house.

"An eyewitness said he saw a black car stop by the house. A child got out, and threw a basket of explosives over the fence... The explosion was so intense I found pieces of the gate on the second floor," Azergawi said.

"Friends came to guard my house despite my asking them to leave and go home. I understood then that I had worked hard for my area, and they came to guard me in return."

Walid Khaled Ahmed is one of those who came to Azergawi's aid. "I volunteered to guard Muhannad because he is a good councillor who serves the area in the field of health, finance, and in finding jobs for the unemployed," he said.

Jawad Ahmed al-Duri, who was recently released for lack of evidence after spending eight months in Abu Ghraib prison, is less enamoured of his local council.

"My friends tell me that a member of the al-Bayaa council provided the Americans with false information about me, because I had a dispute with him," al-Duri said.

"Most of these councillors are looked on as spies, and that is why they are targeted."

Emad al-Sharei is an IWPR trainee in Baghdad.

Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq
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