The most powerful Sunni Muslim party in Iraq issued an angry statement Saturday accusing Americans of covering up the killing of an innocent member of the party.
The Iraqi Islamic Party of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi suspended all “official communication” with U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq until it receives an “explanation … official apology … and a vow to stop the campaign of harassment against the party.”
The statement followed an incident Friday in which U.S. and Iraqi forces raided a home six miles west of Fallujah in predominantly Sunni Anbar province, detained one man and killed another. The Islamic Party accused the U.S. military of detaining five innocent members of the party and killing Sajed Yasseen Hameed, 44, “in his bed in cold blood.”
The U.S. military said in a statement that the raid was conducted based on a Ministry of Interior warrant for a member of an insurgent group. When troops raided the home, an armed man shot at them and they returned fire, the statement said. The Iraqi Army found homemade bombs, a detonation cord and blasting caps in the room where the man was arrested, the statement said.
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“The individual detained on 24 October was a leader of Hamas al Iraq. The arrest was conducted under Iraqi authority by the Iraqi army with coalition forces in support,” Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, said in an e-mail. “The evidence of an explosives cache found in the suspect's room certainly indicates that this person was involved in terrorist activity, not political activity.”
Hamas al Iraq is an offshoot of the 1920 Revolution Brigade, a Sunni insurgent group. Both groups consider themselves part of the resistance against foreign occupation. Some members of both groups, however, have negotiated with the Americans, and many have joined the U.S.-backed mostly Sunni militias known as the Sons of Iraq.
The Iraqi Islamic Party, in danger of losing power to the growing, U.S.-backed Awakening council in Anbar provincial elections, accused the Americans of acting on false information and targeting the party.
The Islamic Party participated in the political process that other Sunnis boycotted in 2005, but its accusations come as provincial elections approach and the U.S. and Iraqi government are at odds over a long-term security agreement to replace the United Nations mandate that governs U.S. actions in Iraq.
The accusations implied that U.S. forces, which handed security in the western Sunni heartland over to Iraqis in September, were acting on information from the rival party, which is widely credited with helping drive al-Qaida in Iraq out of Anbar.
“There is direct and indirect targeting that is visible, audible and touchable by the Americans against leaderships in the Islamic Party in the province,” said Omar Abdul Sattar, a leading lawmaker from the Sunni party. “The repeated targeting by al-Qaida and Americans against our forces is an ironic coincidence. … We will not allow for our members to be targeted with false reports and be killed in their beds in cold blood.”
The party's statement said that local police “condemned” the incident and said the raid was “political.” It also accused the Americans of continuing to control the province after responsibility for security had been handed to Iraq.
“This is very unacceptable, especially when we are pushing the U.S. and Iraq to be in a better relationship,” said Alaa Makki, a leading member of the Iraqi Islamic Party.