Anti-Sectarian Police Commander Is Assassinated in Babel
Posted by Reidar Visser on Sunday, 9 December 2007 18:21
The news about the assassination of Babel’s police chief Qays al-Ma‘muri today is particularly tragic to those who are hoping for the restoration of a non-sectarian Iraq where ethno-religious identities are in the background. For several years, Ma‘muri had stood out as an honest figure of authority in the mixed governorate of Babel, and had fought hard against militias regardless of their sectarian affiliations.
Already, some newswire reports speak of “suspicion towards al-Qaida”. In the absence of further evidence, such accusations should be treated with caution. In several cases of violence in the Shiite-dominated parts of Iraq – including Basra before the imposition of a state of emergency in May 2006, and Najaf during the battle with the “Soldiers of Heaven” in January 2007 – vague references to al-Qaida were used by Iraqi government sources to gloss over episodes that clearly featured elements of intra-Shiite conflict.
Instead, it may be worth looking at how al-Ma‘muri’s conflict with various Shiite militias unfolded in the past. In May, 2006, for example, Bartle Bull wrote in the New York Times,
“What really makes Babel special is that it is a largely Shiite province in which the Shiite militias – the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades – have almost no foothold. But they are trying. All Iraq’s police answer to the Interior Ministry, which is held by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the main Iranian organ in the country. And the interior minister, Bayan Jabr, has repeatedly tried to replace Babel’s independent-minded provincial police chief, Gen. Qais Hamza al-Maamony. Under heavy pressure from the Americans, however, the minister agreed in January to a moratorium on the replacement of senior police officers until after the formation of the new government. Nonetheless, according to American officials in the province, General Maamony was recently forced to accept 700 candidates recommended by the ministry – that is, by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution – for the incoming class of the provincial police academy. The police chief, I’m told, plans to spread these recruits as thinly as possible around the province upon their graduation to lessen their impact on the force. General Maamony and his 8,000 men – especially the provincial SWAT teams, which supply the muscle that the relatively poorly trained and lightly armed regular police often cannot or will not provide – are understandably unpopular with the council and its military wing, the Badr Brigades. And they are equally feared by the Mahdi Army of the rebel Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.”
Subsequently, in August 2006, there was an attempt by the SCIRI-dominated provincial council to unseat Ma‘muri – but on that occasion he was defended by the central government and the interior ministry which by now had passed into the hands of the more independent Jawad al-Bulani. However, only a few days ago, Iraqi media reported renewed attempts by the ISCI-led provincial council to get rid of Ma‘muri by having him transferred to another part of the country. Also, there have been reports about conflicts between Ma‘muri and the Sadrists.
Already today, some Iraqi press stories make accusations about Shiite factions being behind the assassination – with one source even blaming Nuri al-Maliki’s wing of the Daawa party. Whoever committed this crime, it is now up to the Iraqi government to conduct a credible and transparent investigation of the affair instead of automatically resorting to the predictable explanation of al-Qaida terrorism.
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