Head of Iraq’s anti-Baath committee gunned down

Ali al-Lami was shot dead by gunmen using silenced pistols while in his car.

Last Updated: May 27, 2011, 09:28 AM IST

Baghdad: The head of Iraq`s controversial anti-Baath committee was gunned down while on his way home in Baghdad on Thursday, while nine other policemen and soldiers were killed in nationwide unrest.

Ali al-Lami, the executive director of the Justice and Accountability Commission (JAC), was shot dead by gunmen using silenced pistols while in his car on his way home in east Baghdad, a colleague and security officials said.

"Yes, it`s true," Entifadh Qanbar, a friend who ran with Lami on the same political slate in a March 2010 Parliamentary Election, said.

"He was going from Palestine Street to his house in east Baghdad. His brother was driving. He was followed carefully by a car, then he was intercepted.”

"He was shot in the head with silenced pistols, and pronounced dead in the hospital about 20 minutes after that, at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) tonight."

Qanbar described the murder as "a very well-planned operation”, noting that Lami`s brother escaped unharmed.

An Interior Ministry official and a senior counter-terrorism officer, both speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the murder.

Ali Saif Hamad al-Lami, born in Baghdad in 1964, refused to join now executed president Saddam Hussein`s Baath party during the dictator`s rule, and said in February 2010 that he was detained by the regime several times before it was overthrown in a 2003 US-led invasion.

He was arrested after an aborted post-war revolt by Shi’ites against Saddam`s Sunni-dominated regime in 1991, and again after mourning ceremonies for revered Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, when he said he was held for three years.

Lami held Bachelor`s and Master`s degrees in Mathematics, and is survived by a wife and six children.

The JAC that he headed from February 2004 banned several hundred would-be MPs from taking part in Iraq`s March 07, 2010 Parliamentary Election over their alleged ties to Saddam`s party.

The body came in for sharp criticism over its membership -- Lami and chairman Ahmed Chalabi both ran for parliament on the Iraqi National Alliance slate, along with Qanbar. Lami and Qanbar were unsuccessful, but Chalabi is now an MP.

The row over the bans and the apparent conflict of interest dominated the election campaign, raising questions about the JAC’s legal status and the ultimate fairness of the vote.

The process also heightened political tensions in a country which was engulfed by deadly sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007. Iraq`s government said last year that it was looking to reform and reconstitute the committee.

Meanwhile, in separate violence in and around Baghdad and in central Iraq on Thursday, nine soldiers and policemen were killed in several attacks, security officials said.

In the town of Garma, close to the former Sunni rebel bastion of Fallujah, a roadside bomb struck a car carrying three senior policemen, killing all three, according to a police official in Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

Of the three -- Lieutenant Colonel Khalaf Abbas, Lieutenant Colonel Dalaf Rashid and Captain Saif Mohsen -- Abbas was well-known for carrying out operations against al Qaeda.

The car`s driver was also seriously wounded in the attack.

Fallujah was the site of fierce fighting in 2004 between US forces and Sunni insurgents, and has long been a rebel bastion, though the area, and Iraq more broadly, has seen a dramatic drop in violence in recent years.

And in the central Iraqi city of Samarra, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed three policemen and wounded another, the provincial operations command said.

In the nearby town of Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives vest near an army patrol, killing two soldiers and wounding 13 other people, an interior ministry official said.

And in the capital, police Colonel Khader Mohammed was shot dead by gunmen using silenced pistols in the Al-Ghadir neighbourhood of central Baghdad, the official added.

Violence in Iraq is significantly less than in 2006 and 2007 during a brutal sectarian war, but attacks remain common. A total of 211 people were killed in violence in April, according to official figures.

Bureau Report