A suspected member of Al Qaida in Mesopotamia who confessed to involvement in an August 2003 bomb attack that killed one of Iraq’s most prominent Shia leaders and at least 84 other people has been hanged, a Justice Ministry official said last Friday.
(New York Times News Service) BAGHDAD, Iraq (July 8) — A suspected member of Al Qaida in Mesopotamia who confessed to involvement in an August 2003 bomb attack that killed one of Iraq’s most prominent Shia leaders and at least 84 other people has been hanged, a Justice Ministry official said last Friday.
The sudden announcement came three days after the suspect, Oras Muhammad Abdul-Aziz, was executed for the bombing, which killed Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al Hakeem, a well-known politician and cleric. The attack was one of the earliest high-profile bombings after the American invasion in March 2003
Busho Ibrahim, an undersecretary in the Justice Ministry, said Abdul-Aziz, also known as Abu Omar Al Kurdi, confessed to the Al Hakeem bombing and to involvement in a suicide bombing that killed 19 Italian troops in Nasiriya three months later, and the May 2004 killing of Abdel Zahara Othman, then the head of Iraq’s Governing Council. Ibrahim said Abdul-Aziz was convicted by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq in October.
"Oras’ corpse is at the Forensic Medicine Directorate right now," Ibrahim said. " Any of his family or relatives can claim the body."
Al Qaida in Mesopotamia, a homegrown Sunni insurgent group with some foreign operatives, claimed responsibility for killing Al Hakeem, who died when a huge car bomb exploded outside Najaf’s golden-domed shrine of Imam Ali, one of Shia Islam’s holiest sites.
The bombing was widely seen as an attempt to instigate sectarian mistrust and violence in Iraq in the early, uncertain days after Saddam Hussein’s fall, and it caused fury among Shia Iraqis.
The black-turbaned son of a revered Shia religious leader, Al Hakeem had returned to Iraq just three months earlier, after 23 years in exile in Iran to escape persecution by Saddam. He was the leader and figurehead of the well-armed Islamist Shia opposition party the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is now led by his ailing brother Sayed Abdul Aziz Al Hakeem and recently changed its name to the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council.
A senior judicial official familiar with the case said that the executed man, believed to be a Kurd from Mosul, was captured by multinational forces in late 2004 in Mishahda, just north of Baghdad, and was handed over to the Iraqi judicial system.
"He is Al Qaida, and was linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," the official said. "The assassination was planned in the mosque in Mishahda. They arrested many people, but most of them were later released except four against whom there was evidence. They also confessed.