News Middle East

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Prisoners killed in Iraq 'to stop them joining jihad'

Ruth Sherlock

Published 14/07/2014 | 02:30

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Armed Shi'ite volunteers from brigades loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, take their positions during a military advance in areas under the control of militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), on the outskirts of Samarra July 12, 2014. Followers of al-Sadr, who fought U.S. troops under the banner of the Mehdi Army during the 2003-2011 occupation, have returned as Sadr's new "Peace Brigades." The black-turbaned cleric was shown on television this week surrounded by aides in camouflage poring over maps of deployments around Samarra. Picture taken July 12, 2014.
Armed Shi'ite volunteers from brigades loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, take their positions during a military advance in areas under the control of militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), on the outskirts of Samarra. Reuters
Armed Shi'ite volunteers from brigades loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, take their positions during a military advance in areas under the control of militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), on the outskirts of Samarra July 12, 2014. Followers of al-Sadr, who fought U.S. troops under the banner of the Mehdi Army during the 2003-2011 occupation, have returned as Sadr's new "Peace Brigades." The black-turbaned cleric was shown on television this week surrounded by aides in camouflage poring over maps of deployments around Samarra. Picture taken July 12, 2014.
Armed Shi'ite volunteers from brigades loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, take their positions during a military advance in areas under the control of militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), on the outskirts of Samarra. Reuters
Armed Shi'ite volunteers from brigades loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, take their positions during a military advance in areas under the control of militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), on the outskirts of Samarra July 12, 2014. Followers of al-Sadr, who fought U.S. troops under the banner of the Mehdi Army during the 2003-2011 occupation, have returned as Sadr's new "Peace Brigades." The black-turbaned cleric was shown on television this week surrounded by aides in camouflage poring over maps of deployments around Samarra. Picture taken July 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Armed Shi'ite volunteers from brigades loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, take their positions during a military advance in areas under the control of militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), on the outskirts of Samarra. Reuters

Abdullah Hamid al-Hayali is a man waging a campaign that he knows could end in his murder. The mayor of the Iraqi town of Baquba has taken it upon himself to reveal the truth about the fate of 46 prisoners, his nephew among them, who were killed in their cells.

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Government officials have blamed the deaths on the Sunni jihadists who swept through northern Iraq last month, claiming that an insurgent mortar destroyed the police station in which the prisoners were held.

But photographs of the dead on Mr Hayali's phone, plus the thick pile of hospital death certificates that sit on his lap, tell a much darker story, in which security forces from Iraq's Shia government, fearing that the prisoners would join the jihadists, massacred them.

The pictures show that far from dying from mortar fire, most were killed at close range with a bullet to the head.

"They murdered the prisoners," said Mr Hayali. "There were two rooms full of men; in one they put the prisoners in a line and shot them in the head. They sprayed the other cell with bullets and then they threw in hand grenades."

As mayor, Mr Hayali is one of the most powerful Sunnis in Baquba. Now, though, he lives in fear of his life for speaking out, thanks to the presence of the Shia militias that Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, has brought in to bolster the presence of troops.

Mr Hayali claims to know the names of the police commander who oversaw the killings in the police station. The town's governor, Amer al-Mujamai, who is backing the mayor's campaign to speak out, said he had written to Mr Maliki appealing for the police commander to be sacked, but had had no reply.

Interrogated

Mr Hayali showed a photograph of Yasser Ali Ahmed (22), his nephew. He had been taken to the police station to be interrogated. "They told him that I was being 'loose with my tongue', in speaking out against the presence of militias in Baquba," Mr Hayali said. "They tortured him, all just to get to me."

There was originally one survivor of the massacre, Ahmed Zaidan, who was badly wounded but still alive when Mr Hayali visited him in hospital. Two hours later, Mr Zaidan was taken from his bed, killed and dumped behind the hospital. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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