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Iraq Executes 13 Prisoners in Baghdad

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By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 19, 2006; 2:56 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Thirteen men convicted of murder, kidnapping and other crimes were hanged in a Baghdad jail on Tuesday, lining up shortly before their execution in hoods and green jumpsuits, their hands bound behind their backs.

Elsewhere in the Iraqi capital, gunmen in military uniforms robbed government accountants as they left a bank with bags of cash, in the second major bank robbery in Baghdad in eight days.

Assailants in four vehicles drove up to the Zuwiyah Bank in Baghdad's Karradah neighborhood and fired automatic weapons in the air, then handcuffed guards and robbed accountants of 1 billion Iraqi dinars ($709,000), police said. On Dec. 11, gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms stole $1 million from a bank truck.

The government executed the 13 men after an appeals court and the presidency approved the verdict, said Busho Ibrahim, undersecretary of the Justice Ministry.

"They included terrorists and other criminals convicted of abduction and murder as well as assassination plots in several provinces," he said.

Television footage showed the hooded men standing in a row shortly before they were hanged. Several stooped, and one man had his arm around the shoulder of another. Some images showed two men standing together on a gallows with nooses around their necks.

The footage also showed a bearded man without a hood as he listened to an official tell him that his appeal had been rejected and the sentence was death. "OK," the prisoner said, impassively.

The U.S. military announced the death of a Marine in the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, bringing to 61 the number of American military personnel killed in December. Some 2,950 U.S. troops have been killed since the U.S.-led 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Ayham al-Samaraie, a former electricity minister who escaped from police custody inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, remained at large. Al-Samaraie, a dual U.S.-Iraqi citizen was being held on corruption charges, walked out of a police station on Sunday with the help of private guards who arrived at the station in sport utility vehicles, officials said.

His escape left "more question marks," said Ali al-Shabout, spokesman for Iraq's Public Integrity Commission, which brought charges against al-Samaraie. "Why did the police only inform us after 12 hours?"

Al-Samaraie is the only Iraqi official to have been convicted and jailed on corruption charges, although arrest warrants have been issued for about 90 former officials, including 15 ex-Cabinet ministers, according to the anti-corruption commission. His conviction was thrown out on appeal, but he faced a dozen other charges.

The Iraqi Red Crescent said the total number of people seized in a mass kidnapping at the aid group's Baghdad office on Sunday was 42, and that 26 had been released.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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