Iraq Plans to Pursue Insurgents' Allies

Mohammed Jaafar, 16, lies in a bed in Yarmouk Hospital a day after being injured by a car bomb that exploded near a crowded market in southern Baghdad. With him is his mother.
Mohammed Jaafar, 16, lies in a bed in Yarmouk Hospital a day after being injured by a car bomb that exploded near a crowded market in southern Baghdad. With him is his mother. (By Karim Kadim -- Associated Press)

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By Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 18, 2005

BAGHDAD, May 17 -- The Iraqi government said Tuesday that it would push for new laws to punish people who provide logistical support for networks of insurgents, aiming to toughen its stance after a surge of violence that has claimed 450 Iraqi lives in two weeks.

The new laws would also make it a crime not to share information about insurgent networks with the government.

"People who keep information from the authorities, who give material support or cooperate with terrorists, they will be held accountable," said Laith Kubba, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, adding that punishments would include detention, longer-term imprisonment and the seizure of private assets.

"If people know there will be legal consequences, they will stop. We must take the terrorists' cover away so that no one will work with them anymore," he said. Kubba said details of the new measures -- augmenting emergency powers the government has wielded since November -- would be unveiled in the next few weeks.

U.S. military commanders here have encouraged the government to take bolder action in confronting insurgents as a spate of violence has continued across the country. Execution-style killings targeting groups of Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs, as well as the assassination of religious leaders from both branches of Islam, have heightened concern about an emerging sectarian conflict.

Asked for examples of those who might be targeted by the Shiite-led government's new measures, Kubba suggested people who knowingly rent property to insurgents, or "petty criminals" who help fund insurgent operations through robberies.

He said such policies were in the same vein as security measures implemented in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and steps taken by Britain during the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland.

"It is the duty of any state that faces such a challenge to confront such dangers," he said.

At least three more religious leaders -- one Shiite and two from the country's Sunni minority -- were slain or found dead Tuesday in Baghdad.

In the Shaab neighborhood, where more than a dozen corpses were found Monday, the bullet-riddled bodies of two Sunni clerics were discovered, according to Hamed Khazraji, a spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars, an influential Sunni religious group.

In response, the Sunni-led Iraqi Islamic Party issued a statement saying that the government is either "colluding or unable to achieve security" and that "this situation will not leave groups or individuals a choice except to pick up arms in self-defense."

The party also accused Interior Ministry commandos of torturing and killing captives and warned of "a dangerous crisis" unless "quick, speedy measures are taken to circumvent this."

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