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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Detainment of Arabs and Turkmen by Kurdish political parties

Today the Washington Post will report upon a confidential State Department cable addressed to the White House, Pentagon and U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The cable will describe how a spate of "extra-judicial detentions" were part of a "concerted and widespread initiative" by Kurdish political parties "to exercise authority in Kirkuk in an increasingly provocative manner."

The abductions and detentions are being carried out by Asayesh, the Kurdish intelligence agency, the Kurdish-led Emergency Services Unit, a 500-member anti-terrorism squad within the Kirkuk police force.

The campaign surged after the Jan. 30 elections consolidated the two main Kurdish parties' control over the Kirkuk provincial government. The two parties are the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

The U.S. military said it had logged 180 cases; Arab and Turkmen politicians put the number at more than 600 and said many families feared retribution for coming forward.

According to former detainee Abu Abdullah Jabbouri, detainees were mistreated and beaten. He describes how some were forced to wear a 130-pound metal jacket and were beaten when they collapsed, he recalled. Jabbouri said that upon his release he met a fellow prisoner who displayed scars from wounds sustained when he was whipped with a wire cable, sometimes heated over a fire.

The cable notes that the abductions have "greatly exacerbated tensions along purely ethnic lines" and endangered U.S. credibility. "Turkmen in Kirkuk tell us they perceive a U.S. tolerance for the practice while Arabs in Kirkuk believe Coalition Forces are directly responsible."

The Washington Post report quotes several U.S. officials denying complicity in the campaign. It quotes 116th Brigade Combat Team commander Brig. Gen. Alan Gayhart as saying "I can tell you that the coalition forces absolutely do not condone it."

It also quotes Maj. Darren Blagburn, intelligence officer for the 116th Brigade Combat Team in Kirkuk, stating that he was "pretty sure" the practice had ended, thanks to their intervention. "We put a stop to it," Blagburn said.

The U.S. military acknowledged picking up detainees in joint raids with the Kurdish-led police and handing them over.

The State Department cable notes that "Coalition PR efforts to counter the story have been ineffective."


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