Insurgents kill Sunni parliamentary candidate, U.S. launches new operation
By CHRIS TOMLINSON
BAGHDAD, Iraq - (AP) Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms broke
into the home of a senior Sunni leader on Wednesday and killed him, his
three sons and his son-in-law on the outskirts of Baghdad, his brother and
an interior ministry official said.
Khadim Sarhid al-Hemaiyem was the leader of the Sunni Batta tribe
and the brother of a candidate in the Dec. 15 election, Maj. Falah
al-Mohammedawi said. One of the slain man's brothers said the family has
been attacked before.
"A group of gunmen with Iraqi army uniforms and vehicles broke into
my brother's house in the Hurriyah area and sprayed them with machine gun
fire, killing him along with three sons and his son-in law," said his
brother, Nima Sarhid Al-Hemaiyem. "His eldest son was assassinated one month
ago in the Taji area, northern Baghdad, when unidentified men shot and
The Batta tribe is one of Iraq's largest Sunni tribes from the area
north of Baghdad, where they are influential. Dozens of people went to
al-Hemaiyem's home, where the bodies were laid out, wrapped in blankets
before the funeral.
The slaying follows a big push by U.S. officials to encourage Sunni
Muslim participation in the Dec. 15 election, which will install the first
non-transitional government in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
Some Sunni-led insurgent groups have declared a boycott of the
election and have threatened politicians who choose to participate in it.
U.S. and Iraqi troops launched an operation in predominately-Sunni
western Iraq on Tuesday to prevent insurgents from stopping the vote in that
city, a U.S. military statement said.
The operation in Ramadi, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad,
is the third in the city since Nov. 16. The operations have resulted in 32
enemy killed, and the seizure and destruction of surface-to-air missiles,
rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds, artillery rounds, hand grenades,
small arms and bomb making equipment, the statement said.
U.S. Marines also announced Tuesday the end of a major operation to
secure towns along the Syrian border used by al-Qaida to smuggle foreign
fighters into Iraq. Ten U.S. Marines and 139 insurgents were killed in
"Operation Steel Curtain," which began Nov. 5 with about 2,500 U.S. troops
and 1,000 Iraqi soldiers, a military statement said.
U.S. commanders plan to establish a long-term presence in the area
to prevent al-Qaida and its Iraqi allies from re-establishing themselves in
the towns of Husaybah, Karabilah and Obeidi along the Euphrates River.
In a positive development, a senior government official said a
representative of an unidentified insurgent group responded to an offer by
President Jalal Talabani to talk with those willing to lay down their arms.
Presidential adviser Lt. Gen. Wafiq al-Samaraei told Qatar's
Al-Jazeera television that he had received a call from someone "who claimed
to be a senior official of the resistance."
"I informed him that I would welcome him in a meeting to hear from
him, but this doesn't indicate our acceptance of their demands," he said.
Al-Samaraei, a former head of military intelligence under Saddam,
did not identify the caller, and it was unclear whether the overture
represented a breakthrough.
On Tuesday, a suicide bomber struck a busy commercial street in
Kirkuk, leaving 21 dead, another 24 people were wounded, after insurgents
lured police to the scene by shooting an officer, officials said.
Half the dead were police who rushed to the scene after gunmen
killed a fellow officer, according to police Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qader. The
blast was just the latest of many in Kirkuk, a mixed Arab, Kurdish and
Turkoman city in an oil-producing region 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of
More than 160 Iraqis, most of them Shiites, have died in a wave of
spectacular suicide operations across Iraq.
Elsewhere, insurgents fired a mortar shell at a U.S. ceremony
transferring one of Saddam Hussein's palaces in Tikrit to Iraqi control. The
shell failed to explode but sent the U.S. ambassador, the top American
commander and robed tribal sheiks scurrying for cover as the round whistled
U.S. officials sought to downplay the mortar attack in Tikrit, 80
miles (128 kilometers) north of Baghdad, noting that the lone shell failed
to explode or to interfere with the handover.
"This was an ineffectual attempt to stop the progress that goes on
every day in Iraq," said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for the U.S.
command in Baghdad.
However, Arabic satellite television stations aired footage showing
an American colonel ducking for cover as the shell whistled overhead.
Fearing more were on the way, U.S. security hustled U.S. Ambassador Zalmay
Khalilzad and the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, into the palace
while American infantrymen and an Apache attack helicopter searched for the
source of fire. The ceremony resumed a few minutes later.
The provincial governor, Hamad Hamoud Shagtti, received a symbolic
key to the palace and a deputy governor raised the Iraqi flag. Dignitaries
toured the palace complex, which Saddam ordered built for his mother in 1991
and which had served as a U.S. military regional headquarters until this
"Although 28 other coalition operating bases have already been
turned over to Iraqi Security Forces control this year, the Tikrit Palace
complex is the most significant transition of real estate thus far," a U.S.
In Baghdad, Iraq's anti-corruption commission said that members of
the former government who are under investigation will not be allowed to run
in the elections.
A commission official, who asked not to be identified because he is
not authorized to speak to the press, said Minister of Public Works Nasreen
Berwari, who is the wife of Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer, and Hazem
Shaalan, a former defense minister, are among those banned.