By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
BAGHDAD, Sept. 25 -- British troops killed a man U.S. officials believed to be a top lieutenant to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a pre-dawn raid on Monday in the southern city of Basra, a British military spokesman said.
Omar al-Farouq, an al-Qaeda leader in Southeast Asia who escaped from a prison in Afghanistan last summer, was killed during crossfire that began when he shot at about 200 British troops storming the home where he was hiding, according to the spokesman, Maj. Charlie Burbridge.
"He was a terrorist of considerable significance," Burbridge said.
Farouq's death was announced during another tumultuous day in the genocide trial of ousted president Saddam Hussein, culminating in his expulsion from the courtroom for the second time in as many sessions.
The proceedings began with Hussein and his six co-defendants, who are charged with attempting to annihilate the country's Kurdish minority, vigorously protesting the absence of their attorneys. Last week, the entire defense team boycotted the trial to protest the Iraqi government's dismissal of the chief judge for saying that Hussein was "not a dictator."
The eight new court-appointed defense attorneys appeared to struggle Monday during simple cross-examinations of witnesses. The new chief judge, Mohammed al-Uraibiy, frequently told them to rephrase their questions or simply dismissed their queries as "irrelevant." Ali Hassan al-Majeed, a co-defendant known as "Chemical Ali," complained that his attorney had a weak grasp of military terminology central to the case.
"I don't acknowledge this attorney!" another defendant, Sultan Hashim Ahhmad al-Jabburi al-Tai, shouted as his newly appointed attorney tried to speak. He jabbed his finger in the air. " I don't want to be associated with this lawyer!"
But the most heated clash came after the judge rebuked defendant Sabir Aba al-Aziz al-Duri for referring to al-Tai as a brigadier general.
"Don't mention his title," the judge said. "None of you have a title or rank now."
As Hussein prepared to interject his opinion, the judge instructed him to remain silent and respect the court.
"I'd respect the session if it was a respected court," Hussein retorted.
Then he held up a folded piece of yellow paper that he said was a request not to attend the trial as long as Uraibiy remained the presiding judge. "I don't want to sit inside this cage. It is a shame to be here. It is a dishonor to talk to you," Hussein said.
The judge angrily ordered Hussein to be removed from the courtroom and refused to accept his petition. "I am the one who decides to receive the request or not," he said.
"Take him out!" the judge decreed.
Violence continued to flare across Iraq on Monday. At least 13 people were killed in attacks throughout the country, police said.
The U.S. military also announced that a soldier attached to Task Force Lightning was killed by enemy fire near Mosul on Monday. No further details were released.
Special correspondent Saad Sarhan in Najaf, Iraq, contributed to this report.