Reported U.S. Raid Triggers Outrage

By Ernesto Londoño and Saad Sarhan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, June 29, 2008

BAGHDAD, June 28 -- Iraqi officials in the home town of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are calling for an investigation into a reported raid by the U.S. military early Friday that resulted in the death of a man identified by some Iraqi officials as a relative of the prime minister.

The raid was carried out shortly after midnight in the town of Hindiyah, 50 miles southwest of Baghdad in Karbala province. According to Iraqi officials in Karbala, a team of about 60 U.S. soldiers traveling in four helicopters descended on a sparsely populated area a few miles from the town, where the prime minister owns a villa.

"We are shocked by the news of the raid," Karbala Gov. Aqeel al-Khazaly said at a news conference Friday afternoon. "The aerial landing and subsequent operations led to the death of an innocent civilian and the arrest of another."

Karbala is one of nine Iraqi provinces where the U.S. military has handed over responsibility for security to local officials. Khazaly, who has been a U.S. ally, said Iraqi officials were not notified about the operation and called it a violation of the handover agreement.

"Iraqi forces in Karbala had reached a level that qualified them to pursue criminal gangs and outlaw groups" on their own, he said.

The governor called for an investigation and said U.S. soldiers involved in the reported raid should "face the Iraqi courts."

Haider al-Ebaidi, a senior member of parliament from Dawa, the prime minister's party, described Maliki as upset over the incident.

"The prime minister was very angry," Ebaidi said in a phone interview Saturday night. "The Americans are saying that they informed the Iraqis beforehand, but that is not true."

Ebaidi said Maliki had asked an Iraqi judge to investigate the raid and submit his findings directly to the prime minister.

U.S. soldiers in Iraq are exempt from prosecution under Iraqi law. The reported raid occurred as U.S. and Iraqi officials are negotiating the terms under which U.S. troops would be allowed to operate in Iraq after the U.N. mandate that regulates their presence expires in December. Ebaidi said the incident was likely to hinder the negotiations.

U.S. soldiers stormed into a house in Hindiyah searching for Ali Abdul Hussein al-Maliki, the man's brother, Ahmad Abdul Hussein Razak al-Maliki, said in an interview Saturday.

"They came in at night, gathered everyone inside a room and went to that room where my brother was," he said.

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