Iraq Arabic News Summary, February 7, 2008

Iraq Arabic News Summary, February 7, 2008

Summarized by Nathaniel Rabkin

Tensions Run High in Maysan After Jaysh al-Mahdi Leader Dies in Iraqi Army Custody

Tensions are running high in Maysan between the Sadrist Current and the Iraqi Army’s 10th Division. The source of the tensions is the death of Mundhir Majid al-Bukhati, a local Sadrist leader in the city of Ammara, the capital of Maysan province. Bukhati was arrested by forces of the 1st brigade of the 10th Iraqi Army division on Thursday the 31st of January. He was brought to the hospital on Monday February 4th and declared dead on arrival.

Nabil Yasin, the commander of the 1st brigade, says that Bukhati seized a gun from one of his guards and shot himself with it. The head of the Office of the Martyr Sadr (the main Sadrist organization) in Ammara, Adnan al-Silawi, accuses Nabil Yasin and Hasan Sari, the 1st brigade’s intelligence officer, of killing Bukhati in cold blood. The province’s governor, Adil Mahoudar, has opened a provincial investigation and has also called on the Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki to open an investigation of the incident in the Prime Minister’s office.

An anonymous source within the Office of the Martyr Sadr in Ammara told Aswat al-Iraq that Bukhati had served as a commander of a Jaysh al-Mahdi detatchment (sariyah) in the Risala neighborhood of central Ammara. Nabil Yasin said in an interview with al-Hurra television that the order to arrest Bukhati had come from “higher levels of the Ministry of Defense.”

In the immediate aftermath of Bukhati’s death on Monday, Iraqi Army forces withdrew from the streets, apparently fearing revenge attacks by Jaysh al-Mahdi. However, they returned to their positions the next morning. According to Adnan al-Silawi, the director of the Ammara Office of the Martyr Sadr (OMS), Jaysh al-Mahdi commanders reassured the army that they had no intention of attacking its positions.

But then on February 6th, Radio Sawa reported that three Iraqi army officers had been killed in different parts of Ammara by unidentified gunmen. On the same day, al-Hurra TV aired a new interview with OMS director Adnan al-Silawi, who warned that army patrols “should not enter residential areas in a provocative fashion.” al-Hurra TV also interviewed the commander of the 10th division, Habib al-Husayni, who arrived in Ammara with his mobile headquarters to examine the state of the army units stationed in the city. Husayni defended the performance of his troops, and said that the recent tensions were the result of a conspiracy to “place the army in direct confrontation with the people.”

According to al-Hurra TV and Radio Sawa, several different investigations have been opened into the death of al-Bukhati and the sorrounding events, including a provincial investigatory committee, a judicial investigation, and an investigatory committee from the Prime Minister’s office. The Interior Ministry has begun a separate investigation of the performance of the police in the province, after receiving reports that the police’s performance was inadequate.

Aswat al-Iraq, “Sadr Office in Maysan Asks Government to Investigate the Killing of One of Its Leaders,” February 5, 2008.

Reporting from Radio Sawa’s Sayf Musa and al-Hurra’s Akram Rubaei.