Close aide to Iraq's Chalabi assassinated

Ali Feisal al Lami.
Ali Feisal al Lami. Hannah Allam/MCT

BAGHDAD — Ali Feisal al Lami, a close aide to controversial Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi and onetime director of Iraq's de-Baathification commission, was assassinated late Thursday by an unknown gunman, an adviser to Chalabi said.

Lami was driving in eastern Baghdad when the assassin drew up to the car and shot him in the head at close range, said Entifadh Qanbar, a Chalabi aide.

Chalabi, a onetime close U.S. ally while he was in exile who later became friendlier with Iran, had overseen the de-Baathification process, and Lami had chaired the Iraqi parliament's de-Baathification committee. In his role of preventing senior members of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's Baath party from running for high office, Lami made many enemies.

Lami and Chalabi were both criticized for directing de-Baathification, which disqualified hundreds of Sunni and secular Shiite candidates, without due process. In addition, both men were sitting in judgment on other candidates while running themselves in Iraq's last parliamentary elections in March 2010. Chalabi won a seat but Lami did not.

Lami had been imprisoned by the U.S. military for just under one year and questioned extensively about his relations with Iran and with a small Shiite militia — once, he claimed, by Army Gen. David Petraeus, who was then commander of U.S. troops in Iraq.

In recounting his detention, Lami said U.S. interrogators accused him of helping Iranian-backed militants kidnap and kill American and British soldiers and contractors and quizzed him about Iranian agents and deadly bombings. Lami acknowledged having close ties to Muqtada Sadr's movement, but said he told his interrogators that it was not a crime to know top leaders there.

He was released in August 2009 without ever being charged.

He lived in his own house, outside any compound, and refused to travel in an armored car or with bodyguards, Entifadh said.

Entifadh called it "a very professional" assassination.

(Hannah Allam contributed from Cairo.)


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