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"All the journalists out now or we'll kill you!"

America's "Iraqi Police"
Iraqi Elections Loom Now in just 5 Months!

MER - MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 27 August 2004:

Let's call it very brutally straight here -- Gestapo tactics from what the American occupation regime now calls the new 'Iraqi police'. And if this is the way they treat international journalists at a time when the whole world is watching, just imagine what they must do to Iraqis when no one is there to see or report anything at all. Most reports from the past two days also point the finger at America's new "Iraqi police" for opening fire on crowds of civilians heeding the call from Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to march to Najaf, the death toll now thought to be about one hundred killed, many hundreds injured.

The real battles though lie ahead. The American Allawi regime in Baghdad inside the 'Green Zone' has not achieved credibility and is not likely to. Throughout Iraq it continues to be the American occupation troops using battle tanks and helicopter gunships to try to kill a still growing popular Iraqi resistance. It's now in fact a kind of Iraqi Intifada and even the American military has begun issuing reports acknowledging it could go on for many years into the future.

Meanwhile, it is the same Ayatollah al-Sistani who has all along insisted he would not meet with U.S. occupation officials nor would he acknowledge the various flags, conferences, documents, or regimes that occupation has attempted to foist upon his country and his people. The Americans love to create 'client regimes'. But the reclusive Ayatollah has turned all the 'freedom' and 'democracy' slogans right back on them simply insisting that both the Baghdad regime and the U.N. prepare for popular elections. He 'compromised' a few times in the past year at crucial moments, allowing the election date to be put back to January 2005, a now fast approaching date.

That is the Iraq battle that now lies ahead for all. And it's clear that if it's a competiton between Negroponte and Allawi, against al-Sistani and al-Sadr, the Americans and their regime are in big trouble. Just how the U.S. occupation is going to attempt to either further delay the election or not-too-blantantly manipulate and control it now looms ahead -- just as soon as the American election is behind us all.

Najaf police storm hotel, round up journalists

Some officers fired shots. They forced reporters
from rooms, into trucks, and to the police station.

Inquirer Foreign Staff

Iraqi police, some with their faces covered by ski masks, fired several shots as they stormed a hotel packed with journalists yesterday, rounding up the journalists at gunpoint and forcing them onto flatbed trucks bound for the local police station, where they were detained for an hour.

At the station, Najaf Police Chief Ghaleb Hashem al Jazairi told journalists they were detained because the Dubai-based satellite television channel al Arabiya had reported that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, the most prominent Shiite Muslim cleric in Iraq, would arrive in Najaf today to lead a demonstration.

The chief said that his forces had been unprepared for the news to go out last night and that as a result at least two Iraqis who arrived early for Sistani's march were killed during clashes with police.

Some officers also accused reporters of inciting violence against government institutions such as the police and armed services.

"We were attacked by 14 mortar shells tonight and we expect more, so you're going to stay with us in this room to see what we go through," one officer told the journalists crowded in the chief's office.

The incident underscored how tense and unpredictable Najaf has become after three weeks of fighting between U.S.-led forces and the Mahdi Army militia of rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Sistani's sudden plan to return to Najaf, and his call for Iraqi Shiite Muslims to join him there today, has unsettled an already chaotic situation.

This correspondent was in her room on the third floor of the hotel when there was a loud boom that sounded like a mortar or rocket attack. When she peered over an indoor balcony, she saw at least four policemen running up the stairs with guns drawn.

Other reporters were in the first-floor restaurant when the police rushed the building, brandishing pistols. "All the journalists out now or we'll kill you!" one officer yelled as he went room to room, kicking doors and dragging out reporters.

This reporter hastily grabbed a flak jacket, computer equipment and a camera before a police officer barged into her room, pointed an assault rifle in her face and ordered her out.

"Now, sister, now!" the officer yelled in Arabic.

Outside, dozens of dazed and outraged journalists stood in the darkness as large trucks rolled up the front drive.

A police officer forced three female reporters into the backseat of a flatbed truck, while they crammed male correspondents into the open bed. At last two other trucks were loaded with reporters.

The scene became increasingly chaotic. One officer fired a shot at the feet of one obstinate Iraqi journalist. Another officer, who apparently believed correspondents were filming the incident from the roof, started firing his assault rifle from the crowd.

Police roughed up a few reporters, but no one appeared seriously injured.

At the nearby police headquarters, the journalists were ordered out of the trucks and into the chief's office for a news conference at gunpoint. Officers passed out pieces of paper for reporters to take notes.

Jazairi launched into a tirade about how the news of Sistani's return to Najaf was "exploited by elements of the Mahdi Army and al-Qaeda." He would not elaborate. Jazairi said the end of Sadr's militia was near and held up photos of the bruised bodies of police officers beaten by insurgents.

He even waxed poetic, describing how Mahdi Army mortar fire left one child "shaking like a palm leaf in the wind."

A British reporter interrupted Jazairi. "This is a kidnapping," the London-based journalist said.

"I didn't tell them to arrest you," Jazairi responded with a shrug.

After several more minutes, the journalists were released. At this reporter's insistence, the police chief's nephew drove the female reporters back to the hotel in his personal car. The others climbed back onto the trucks.

"If you need anything, just name it," the chief's nephew said, identifying himself only as Ali. "We'll help you."

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