Friday, January 11, 2013

Will the needed question be asked?

Violence continues in Iraq today.  Two bombings are getting press attention.  All Iraq News notes a Babylon roadside bombing targeted police officers today.  The Iraq Times, citing a police source, notes police were targeted with a Kirkuk bombing as well; however it ended up killing 1 bystander and injuring another.

But the big news is an event that repeats more and more often these days: an escape. The Iraq Times reports there has been a Taji prison break with 12 prisoners fleeing -- some of whom are said to have been sentenced to death.  AP states the inmates escaped through cell windows.

Back in 2001, Maria F. Durand (ABC News) reported that in the US prison escapes were on the decline.  That does not appear to be the case in Iraq.  Among the more well covered prison breaks was the September 24, 2009 escape from Tikrit:

The big news of the day?  Prison break. Xinhua reports that 16 prisoners have escaped from a Tikrit prison after they "broke through a ventilation duct in the prison" -- five of the sixteen were on death row. Al Jazeera cites Maj Gen Abdul-Karim Khalaf claiming six "are considered dangerous." Reuters notes  one of the escapees was captured post-escape. Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) adds that Tirket is now under "complete curfew" and that "The facility from which the inmates escaped was a makeshift prison, built on the compounds of one of Saddam's former palaces. Inmates were housed in a former school of Islamic studies, surrounded by tall concrete blast wallas and guard towers." Sabah al-Bazee and Missy Ryan (Reuters) report, "Mutashar Hussain Allawi, governor of Salahuddin, said an investigation had been opened into the matter and that it appeared there may have been police involvement or negligence."

Two years later, another prison break that would set the tone for future ones in that details were in conflict and were never sorted out.  From the August 9, 2011 snapshot:

Friday in Hilla, there was a clash at a prison and a prison break. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that four escapees have been captured with one more remaining at large. Details have changed from one day to the next. Hammoudi quotes Hilla lawmaker Eskander Witwit stating, "The incident was very well planned, there is a clear collusion and negligence by the guards of the jail. An iron saw, police uniform and a faked pistol which looks like a pistol with a silencer had been passed to the prisoners."  Let's review.  Saturday,  AFP reports late Friday there were clashes in a Hilla prison and 4 prisoners and 1 guard died (five more prisoners were injured -- and we're using the numbers reported by the medic in the article) and that up to 15 prisoners may have escaped. Al Sabaah noted a state of emergency has been called and a curfew imposed on Hilla. Dar Addustour stated 20 prisoners escaped (including al Qaeda in Iraq members and members of Moqtada's Mahdi militia) and that the armed clash on Friday lasted up to an hour. Al Mada stated that the escapees included 8 death row inmates.  Sunday, Al Mada reported today that the Ministry of Justice won't state specifically how or why but guns were in the prison with silencers on them -- guns used by prison staff (why do guards need guns with silencers?) and that some of the escapees made off with them. Dar Addustour noted that the Minister of Justice (Hassan Shammari) held a press conference in Hilla today and insisted that only one prisoner was on the loose and that he will be found.

Weeks later, another prison break.  From the September 1, 2011 snapshot:

In Iraq, there's been another prison break, this time in Mosul. Bushra Jhui (AP) reports that 35 people ar said to have "tunneled their way out" with 21 being caught and 14 remaining at large. AFP provides this recent context, "Officials said on August 6 that four prisoners and a guard were killed in clashes at a prison in the central Iraqi city of Hilla, during which eight inmates escaped. Six Iraqi police and 11 inmates were killed in a Baghdad jail mutiny in May, while 12 suspected Al-Qaeda members escaped from prison in the southern city of Basra in mid-January. At least two of the Basra escapees have been recaptured."  Alsumaria TV adds, "A similar incident occurred in Nineveh on April 3 as 23 prisoners escaped from Al Ghazalni prison in southern Mosul. On April 9 as well, 5 prisoners escaped a prison in Al Shifaa' region, eastern Mosul."    Reuters notes it was "a temporary jail" and that the prisoners are said to have made their way out via "a sewage pipe." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "A senior officer in the Mosul police department said the inmates had used metal plates and iron bars to dig nearly 150 feet out of the jail. He asked not to be identified because he wasn't authorized to discuss the escape."   Aswat al-Iraq cites Abdul-Rahim al-Shimmary as stating the escapees "were charged according to the Iraqi Criminal Law's Article-4 - Terrorism."
Who was in charge of this facility?
The Ministry of the Interior -- one of three security ministries that Nouri's failed to appoint a minister too. Before December ended, Nouri was supposed to have named a full Cabinet -- all the ministers. Nearly nine months later, he still hasn't done that (Political Stalemate II). How many prison breaks will there be before Nouri's held accountable for refusing to do his job -- his Constitutionally mandated job?
At what point does his inaction result in leaving his reputation in permanent disarray?

 Nouri still hasn't nominated anyone to be Minister of Interior.  And the entire problem is on Nouri.  As we noted September 27th when yet another prison break took place:

The latest day's violence includes a prison attack BBC News reports assailants using bombs and guns attacked a Tikrit prison.  AFP quotes a police Lieutenant Colonel stating, "A suicide bomber targeted the gate of the prison with a car bomb and gunment then assaulted the prison, after which they killed guards" and a police Colonel stating, "The prisoners killed one policeman and wounded (prison director) Brigadier General Laith al-Sagmani, the gunmen took control of the prison, and clashes are continuing."  Kitabat states two car bombs were used to blow up the entrance to the prison and gain access and they also state 12 guards have been killed. Reports note the riot is continuing.  Alsumaria reports four guards have died, 1 police officer and the injured include two soldiers and the prison director al-Sagmani.  There's confusion as to whether a number of prisoners were able to escape in the early stages after the bombing and during gunfire.  Reuters goes with "dozens" escaping which is probably smarter than the hard number some are repeating. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports 5 police officers killed and another two injured -- the numbers are going to vary until tomorrow, this is ongoing -- and state over 200 prisoners escaped with 33 of them already having been recaptured.  If you skip the English language media, what's not confusing is why it happened and why it was able to happen.   Alsumaria reports that there are approximately 900 inmates in the prison and that many have death sentences.  Alsumaria does even more than that.  It notes the recent prison violence throughout the country and ties it into the death sentences.  These aren't just happening at random, this is about the many people being sentenced to death -- a fact the English language press either doesn't know or doesn't think people need to know.
When prisoners escape, as some have, without being caught, it makes a lot of sense when you grasp that they are seen as persecuted.  They're not the deadly evil suddenly let loose and roaming through a town that's going to cause people to pick up the phones and call the authorities.  These are people that many Iraqis feel didn't get a fair trial or received an unduly harsh sentence.  The refusal for this part of the story to be reported goes a long way towards explaining the confusion over what's been taking place in Iraq for months with these increased attacks on prisons.
Already the English-language press is obsessed with the Islamic State of Iraq -- a violent group that may be responsible.  And they may be. July 22nd, the Islamic State of Iraq released an audio recording announcing a new campaign of violence entitled Breaking The Walls which would include prison breaks and killing "judges and investigators and their guards."  (They also threatened to attack America on US soil.)  They've had great success since then in launching deadly attacks.  And one of the reasons for their success is Nouri al-Maliki.  The Islamic State of Iraq is using violence which appalls many Iraqis but for reasons that a number of Iraqis can identify with. 
 Nouri created this.  Nouri's the reason it thrives.  Again, the English-speaking press has ignored it but there have been mass arrests all month.  Alsumaria reports 17 arrested today for 'terrorism' just south of Baghdad, another 17 arrested in Nineveh Province and another 44 in Kirkuk -- while in Diyala Province, the federal forces are said to be out of control but they insist that they have not seized control of residential areas and that they are not putting up barriers as part of their security measures or 'security measures.'  Mass arrests create a climate in which the Islamic State of Iraq's actions can garner sympathy.  You may be lucky and it didn't happen to anyone in your family but, down the street, it happened to one of your neighbors and the thing about mass arrests is that they (rightly) create distrust in the government.  And they create sympathy for responses like the Islamic State of Iraq.   You see and overhear plotting and planning, in a stable society you might call the police.  In Nouri's Iraq, you instead understand the motives and you may not take part in violence yourself but your attitude is you're not going to stop it.

 What got put off again this week?  The proposed amnesty law.  Who keeps blocking it?  Nouri's State of Law.

What's been going on for weeks now?  Protests in Iraq.  Among the demands, what are they calling for?  For the innocents rounded up in mass arrests to be released.  That's one of their demands.  An end to Article 4 and it's 'terrorism' catch-all that keeps resulting in people being arrested is another.

A prison break in Iraq today?  If you're an Iraqi, you're liable to look the other way.  It's very unlikely that you don't know someone who's been arrested at this point.

And then there's the issue of the death penalty.  2012 found Iraq setting a record for executions in the country (it may have even executed the most people of any country in 2012).  And the feeling is that Nouri refuses to honor the United Nations' call for a moratorium on the death penalty or to allow the amnesty bill to become law until he can execute as many Sunnis as possible.

This is on Nouri al-Maliki.  The western press will make excuses for him by distracting with talk of 'who helped, who aided?'  They will steadfastly avoid asking the important question: Why does this keep happening?  Or the follow up, "Why is it so difficult to recapture escapees?"

Nouri created and nurtured an environment where the only 'parole' is prison break and where the average Iraqi doesn't feel on the side of the mass arrest government.

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qassim abdul-zahra

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