Motto of the sniper: One shot, one kill. It worked with Yasser Salihee. A single, well-aimed shot to the head killed him.
US Knight Ridder Exposes Systematic Torture, Murder Iraqi Sunnis; Writer Pays With Life
Jun 29, 2005
By Muhammad Abu Nasr, Free Arab Voice; Edited For Publication By JUS
Months after the stories began to surface in uncensored press, now American Knight Ridder newspaper has reported that so-called Iraqi security forces have been torturing and killing Iraqi Sunnis.
A story by Tom Lasseter and Yasser Salihee written for Knight Ridder was published on Monday 27 June 2005 and reported that â€œdays after Iraq’s new Shiâ€˜i-led [puppet] government was announced on April 28, the bodies of Sunni Muslim men began turning up at the capitalâ€™s central morgue after the men had been detained by people wearing Iraqi police uniforms.â€
The American agency reported that Fayiq Baqr, the director and chief forensic investigator at the central Baghdad morgue, said that the corpses first caught his attention because the men appeared to have been killed in methodical fashion. Their hands had been tied or handcuffed behind their backs, their eyes were blindfolded and they appeared to have been tortured. In most cases the dead men looked as if they had been whipped with a cord, subjected to electric shocks, beaten with a blunt object and shot to death, often with single bullets to their heads.â€
The American news report said that marks on those bodies were similar to injuries found on prisoners that the so-called Iraqi â€œministry for human rights,â€ prodded by families of victims, rescued from secret prisons run by the â€œinterior ministryâ€ according to family accounts and medical records.
Knight Ridder reported that American occupation authorities and collaborating Iraqi officials said that the so-called police murders are â€œnot being investigated systematically.â€ The agency said, however, that in dozens of interviews with families and officials, and through a review of medical records a Knight Ridder reporter and two special correspondents found more than 30 examples of this type of killing in less than a week. They include 12 cases with specific dates, times, names, and witnesses who said they would be willing to come forward if asked to do so by the installed authorities.
The so-called â€œministry of the interior,â€ which oversees the Iraqi police, denied any involvement in the murders, Knight Ridder reported. â€œBut eyewitnesses said that many of the dead were apprehended by large groups of men driving white Toyota Land Cruisers with [puppet] police markings.â€ Knight Ridder reported that â€œThe men were wearing police commando uniforms and bulletproof vests, carrying expensive 9-millimeter Glock pistols and using sophisticated radios, the witnesses said.â€
American occupation officials cover up the systematic murders claiming that the victims were killed by resistance fighters dressed as puppet police. American Steven Casteel, a senior US adviser to the so-called â€œministry of the interiorâ€ and a former American Drug Enforcement Administration intelligence chief, admitted that the puppet forces at times â€œabused detaineesâ€ but denied reports of systematic sectarian abduction and murder by his charges. When Knight Ridder attempted to contact the â€œinterior ministerâ€ to get his comment on the reports, the agency was told that the â€œministerâ€ â€œcould not schedule an interview.â€
The so-called â€œministry of human rightsâ€, though more accepting of the stories, was similarly evasive about the matter of placing blame for the murders.
Raâ€˜d Sultan, an official in puppet â€œministry of human rightsâ€, whose job is to monitor the treatment of Iraqis in prisons and detention centers, said some â€œinterior ministryâ€ employees have tortured Iraqis whom they suspected of supporting the Resistance.
For one thing, officials in the interior ministryâ€™s intelligence division deny having any detainees, at all, claiming that they only question inmates in Iraqi prisons. But one investigation by the so-called â€œhuman rights ministryâ€ found 32 detainees and another found 67 in â€œinterior ministryâ€ intelligence facilities. â€œThe majority of the detainees had been tortured,â€ Knight Ridder quoted Sultan as saying.
Knight Ridder reported that â€œmost of those who were tortured had their hands cuffed behind their backs, were blindfolded and had been beaten by cords or subjected to electrical shock, Sultan said.â€ The American news agency noted that â€œFayiq Baqr, at the morgue, said the bodies that have been brought to him handcuffed and blindfolded had been similarly abused.â€
But when it came to assigning blame for the torture and murder, the human rights official was evasive. Knight Ridder quoted Sultan as saying, â€œwhen battered corpses turn up outside â€˜interior ministryâ€™ facilities, How can I prove it is the security forces who were guilty of the torture and murder?
While it is evident to forensic investigator Fayiq Baqr what is going on, he too fears to state bluntly what is going on. Knight Ridder reported that â€œasked who he thought was behind the upsurge in such executions, Baqr said, â€˜It is a very delicate subject for society when you are blaming the [puppet] police officers. . . . It is not an easy issue.â€ But Baqr cites the clear evidence of what is going on: â€œWe hear that they are captured by the police and then the bodies are found killed . . . itâ€™s obviously increasing.â€
In fact the abductions, tortures and murders have been increasing at an overwhelming rate. Knight Ridder reported that Baqr said he had been unable to catalog the deaths because so many bodies have been brought through his morgue and because he doesnâ€™t have enough doctors.
Before March 2003, he said, the morgue handled 200 to 250 suspicious deaths a month, about 16 of which included firearm injuries. He said he now sees 700 to 800 suspicious deaths a month, with some 500 having firearm wounds.
Many Iraqis say the giveaway that the abductors are at least connected to the police is the preponderance of reports involving Land Cruisers, Glocks and other expensive equipment.
Knight Ridder reported that on May 5, for example, 14 Sunni farmers were picked up from an east Baghdad vegetable market. The farmers had driven to the capital from al-Madaâ€™in, a town south of Baghdad where the month before the puppet regime had concocted a false story about Resistance fighters kidnapping and executing Shiâ€˜a â€“ a story that later proved to be fabricated in an operation blamed on Iranian intelligence.
The bodies of the farmers were discovered in shallow graves the next day, Knight Ridder reported. They had been blindfolded and tortured, and their hands had been cuffed behind their backs.
In separate interviews this week, Knight Ridder reported, two men who were at the east Baghdad market at the time said they saw a large group of puppet police detain the farmers.
â€œA patrol of more than 10 police vehicles drove up and parked,â€ said â€˜Ali Karim, a fruit vendor. â€œThey were running through the street with their guns, saying that the farmers had a car bomb with them. They pushed them against the walls and asked them for their IDs.â€
Knight Ridder reported that another vendor, Ahmed â€˜Adil, gave a similar account in a separate interview.
â€œWe were sitting,â€ Knight Ridder reported â€˜Adil as saying, â€œand the [puppet] police cars pulled up and spread in different directions. A neighborhood guard asked the [puppet] police what they were doing – he said these are just farmers – and the police said donâ€™t get involved, they have a car bomb with them.â€
A brigadier general in the so-called â€œinterior ministry,â€ who spoke to Knight Ridder on the condition of anonymity, said his brother was taken during a large raid on May 14 in his working-class Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad. The brother’s body was found a day later, bearing signs of torture.
The general, who was not present when his brother was detained, said he canvassed the neighborhood and interviewed one family after the next.
The descriptions of the abductors were identical in every case, he said: They came in white police Toyota Land Cruisers, wore [puppet] police commando uniforms, flak vests and helmets. They also had Glocks.
Knight Ridder reported that the general said he had tried, through the â€œinterior ministry,â€ to find out which commando unit was in that neighborhood when his brother disappeared. He also said colleagues have told him that his own life is now in danger.
A day before the generalâ€™s brother disappeared in west Baghdad, Anwar Jasim, a Sunni welder at the puppet so-called â€œIraqi ministry of industry and minerals,â€ went missing from his south Baghdad home.
Knight Ridder reported that Jasimâ€™s family said he was taken by a large group of men dressed and equipped like puppet police commandos.
Another man taken in Jasim’s neighborhood, a local grocer who gave his name as Abu Ahmad, said he was taken to the same detention facility as Jasim. While he was there, he said, he and other men sat on the floor blindfolded and handcuffed. They listened to other prisoners screaming.
When the other prisoners were brought back into the room, Abu Ahmad said, they said theyâ€™d been pummeled with long wooden staffs.
â€œWhen we were in detention, they put blindfolds and handcuffs on us. On the second day, the soldiers were saying, â€˜He’s dead,â€™â€ said Abu Ahmad. â€œLater, we found out it was Anwar.â€
Knight Ridder reported that the abductors dropped Jasim’s body at Baghdadâ€™s al-Yarmuk hospital the next day, hospital staffers said. According to hospital records, Jasim had a bullet wound in the back of his head and cuts and bruises on his abdomen, back and neck.
The man in charge of the al-Yarmuk morgue, who gave his name as Abu â€˜Amir, said he remembers the day the commandos brought Jasimâ€™s corpse.
â€œThe commandos told me to keep the body outside of the refrigerator so that the dogs could eat it because heâ€™s a terrorist and he deserves it,â€ Abu â€˜Amir said, according to the Knight Ridder Reporters.
The killings didn’t stop in May, Knight Ridder noted.
Saâ€˜di Khalif’s body was also found at al-Yarmuk. The 52-year-old Sunni, along with his brother Muhammad, was taken from his home in western Baghdad on June 10. His abductors rode up in pickup trucks painted with Iraqi puppet police insignia, his family said. About 10 came into the house, while about twice as many fanned out in the street outside, forming a security perimeter. They had radios, uniforms, flak vests and helmets, family members said.
â€œThe doctor told us he was choked and tortured before they shot him,â€ said Ahmad Khalif, one of Saâ€˜diâ€™s brothers. â€œHe looked like he had been dragged by a car.â€
Muhammad Khalif, 47, also beaten and shot, still had on metal handcuffs at the al-Yarmuk morgue.
The Knight Ridder report concluded by noting that Yasser Salihee was a special correspondent who worked on the report. He was shot and killed last week in Baghdad in circumstances that remain unclear. Special correspondent Mohammed al Dulaimy also contributed to the report from Baghdad, Knight Ridder added.
“Yasser Salihee, 30, was killed while driving alone in Baghdad on June 24, his day off. A single bullet pierced his windshield and struck him in the head. It appeared that a U.S. sniper shot him.” – The Guardian, June 30, 2005.
Salihee’s widow at his funeral