Maliki Aide Who Discussed Amnesty Leaves Job

An Iraqi soldier mans a checkpoint as Baghdad remained under tightened security. Bombings there and in northern Iraq killed eight security personnel.
An Iraqi soldier mans a checkpoint as Baghdad remained under tightened security. Bombings there and in northern Iraq killed eight security personnel. (By Karim Kadim -- Associated Press)
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, June 16, 2006

BAGHDAD, June 15 -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office on Thursday accepted the resignation of an aide who had told a reporter that Maliki was considering a limited amnesty that would likely include guerrillas who had attacked U.S. troops, the aide said.

Also, on a day when the U.S. military announced that the death toll for American personnel had reached 2,500, U.S. military and counterterrorism officials said they believed they had identified the new head of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq: Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian about 40 years old and a longtime associate of Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. A Web site tied to al-Qaeda in Iraq on Monday identified the same man as Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, a pseudonym meaning "the immigrant."

A veteran of the Zawahiri-led Egyptian Islamic Jihad and of al-Qaeda's organization in Afghanistan, Masri -- also a pseudonym, meaning "the Egyptian" -- has been in Iraq at least since 2003, officials said. Since the 2004 battle of Fallujah, he had been a trusted lieutenant of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the insurgent leader killed in a U.S. attack north of Baghdad last week.

Since Fallujah, Masri had been in charge of Zarqawi's operations in southern Iraq. Officials say they believe he also has been instrumental in enlisting and managing foreign fighters allied with the Sunni Arab insurgency.

The Maliki aide who resigned, Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, stood by his account of amnesty considerations, reported Thursday by The Washington Post. Kadhimi said Maliki had indicated the same position less directly in public. "The prime minister himself has said that he is ready to give amnesty to the so-called resistance, provided they have not been involved in killing Iraqis," Kadhimi said Thursday.

Maliki's office issued a statement earlier Thursday saying, "Mr. Adnan Kadhimi doesn't represent the Iraqi government in this issue, and Mr. Kadhimi is not an advisor or spokesman for the prime minister."

Kadhimi, who also worked as an aide to the previous prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jafari, said he had submitted his resignation earlier in the week. He was informed Thursday that it had been accepted, he said.

Another Maliki aide, asked if the amnesty being considered by the government was likely to apply to those who had attacked U.S. forces, said Maliki had been "clear, saying those whose hands weren't stained with Iraqi blood" may be eligible for any amnesty.

That aide spoke on condition of anonymity, saying Maliki had not authorized anyone to speak for him. Another aide declined to comment, on the same grounds.

On the issue of clemency for those who had attacked U.S. troops, Kadhimi was quoted in Thursday's Post as saying: "That's an area where we can see a green line. There's some sort of preliminary understanding between us and the MNF-I," the U.S.-led Multi-National Force-Iraq, "that there is a patriotic feeling among the Iraqi youth and the belief that those attacks are legitimate acts of resistance and defending their homeland. These people will be pardoned definitely, I believe."

In Washington, Senate Democrats offered a resolution Thursday demanding that President Bush repudiate the amnesty proposal regarding those who attacked American forces.

"It is shocking that the Iraqi prime minister is reportedly considering granting amnesty to insurgents who have killed U.S. troops," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "On the day we lost the 2,500th soldier in Iraq, the mere idea that this proposal may go forward is an insult to the brave men and women who have died in the name of Iraqi freedom. I call on President Bush to denounce this proposal immediately."

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