Iraqi army raid in Diyala leaves provincial official dead

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 19, 2008 

BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces raided the provincial government compound in Diyala early Tuesday morning, killing the governor's secretary and confiscating computers and cars before local police engaged them in a two-hour gun battle, police and local officials said.

Four policemen were wounded, according to a police source.

Forces arrested Hussein al Zubaidi, provincial council member and head of the security committee. A nearby raid conducted almost simultaneously by unidentified armed forces arrested the president of Diyala University.

Taha Dria, a Shiite lawmaker from Diyala who was not in the government compound during the raid, said the armed forces were from Iraq's Emergency Response Unit, an American-trained unit similar to U.S. Special Forces.

"They were wearing khaki. Their weapons were American. The Humvees they used looked American," said the governor's surviving secretary, Abbas Adnan, who was in the government compound when it was raided. "They didn’t have any ranks on their shoulders. They didn't talk."

Local police said they were fired on by U.S. helicopters during the gun battle. Two U.S. helicopters were on regular patrol in the area but did not fire their weapons, said a U.S. military spokesman.

Adnan gave this account of the raid: "At about 12:30 an Iraqi force entered the building. They were in seven Humvees and two black GMC's . . . They took all the weapons from the guards. When the secretary, Abbas Al Timimi, tried to go to the operational command building, he was shot dead, without a word. He is a civilian. He wasn't carrying any weapons."

Local police surrounded the raiders as they withdrew. A two-hour gun battle ensued, stopping only when orders came from Baghdad to let the raiders pass, said the police source.

Dria said that the soldiers beat up lawmakers, took computers and left the government compound in disarray. Governor Raad Rashid said he'd not been told about the raid beforehand. "Even the security forces in Diyala had no idea."

Majida Orebi, wife of university president Nazar Jabbar al Khafaji, said their house was raided around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning. "(Security forces) put him down. He said, 'I’m the president of Diyala University and I've done nothing wrong.' They told him to shut up, and started shooting down the doors upstairs. They brook into closets and took things from our room and others — about 10 million Iraqi dinars (equivalent to $8,000), two mobile phones, a laptop computer."

Spokesmen for the Iraqi government, Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defense were unavailable for comment.

Officials were sleeping at the governorate building because of a massive operation involving the Iraqi military, local and national police forces and U.S. military backup.

Operation Glad Tidings has been underway in Diyala since late July, targeting al Qaida in Iraq and other insurgent groups.

(Spangler reports for The Miami Herald. Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent in Baghdad. Special Correspondents Hussein Kadhim, Hamad Al Dulaimy and a McClatchy Special Correspondent in Diyala contributed reporting.)

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