Thursday, June 30, 2005

Speaking of the war

This Knight-Ridder article discusses a systematic pattern of torture/executions in Iraq carried out by groups bearing a striking resemblance to Latin American death squads.
"Their [the victims'] 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'd been whipped with a cord, subjected to electric shocks or beaten with a blunt object and shot to death, often with single bullets to their heads."
U.S. officials pin the murders on "insurgents posing as police" but ordinary Iraqis think otherwise and point to the fact that these squads go around in white Toyota Land Cruisers (cost: $55,000) with police markings, sport bulletproof vests and commando uniforms, and brandish expensive Glock pistols ($500 apiece) which, the article states, are "rarely used by anyone other than Western contractors and Iraqi security forces."

Furthermore, the story states that the bodies started turning up at the Baghdad morgue "days after Iraq's new Shiite-led government was announced on April 28."

"Before March 2003 ... the [Baghdad] morgue handled 200 to 250 suspicious deaths a month, about 16 of which included firearm injuries. [Fayiq Baqr director and chief forensic investigator at the central Baghdad morgue] said he now sees 700 to 800 suspicious deaths a month, with some 500 having firearm wounds."

And the postscript: Yasser Salihee, the article's co-author, "was shot and killed last week in Baghdad in circumstances that remain unclear."

Update 6/30: Reporter shot to death in Iraq

The unclear circumstances of Salihee's death remain so, but we know at least that he was killed by a U.S. military sniper with a single shot to the head.

He was shot as his car neared a joint patrol of American and Iraqi troops who'd stopped to search a building for snipers. American and Iraqi soldiers are frequently targeted by suicide car bombers.

The U.S. Army is investigating the incident....

Most of the witnesses told another Knight Ridder Iraqi special correspondent that no warning shots were fired. But the front right tire of Salihee's car, a white Daewoo Espero, was pierced by a bullet, presumably meant to stop him from advancing.
Murky murky murky, and a shame. A doctor who "volunteered at medical clinics on his days off", Salihee was praised by his bureau chief thus:
"We weren't really looking for reporters at the time, but Yasser's impeccable English and sunny personality made him too hard to pass up. We hired him and took great delight in watching him blossom into one of our best reporters, the one who accompanied us to militant mosques and talked his way into insurgent-controlled Fallujah."

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