The Washington Post

Maliki’s spokesman disputes allegations of TWA hijacking, embassy attack

Part of journalism is letting people respond to allegations, and I owe that to Iraq’s prime minister.

I wrote last week [“Man of the Shadows,” Dec. 15] that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a product of the Dawa Party underground — a conspiratorial group that sought to overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. I also noted that the Dawa Party was blamed by some U.S. officials for a bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait in 1983. That much is a matter of simple historical record.

But Maliki’s spokesman, Ali al-Mousaoui, questioned in an e-mail a speculative passage in my column, in which I said that some former officials believe that a 1985 photo taken from the archives of a Beirut newspaper show a man who might be Maliki standing with a group of Iranian-backed conspirators who were holding the pilots of hijacked TWA Flight 847.

Mousaoui complained: “Your article alleges that Mr. Maliki is one of the ‘conspirators’ in the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 to Beirut, Lebanon in June 1985, and the conclusion is based on a photo found in a newspaper archive. In fact, Mr. Maliki was not in Beirut at that time and in a phone interview with Radio Monte Carlo he described the hijacking as ‘an act that was perpetrated by a group of thugs, not by freedom fighters.’

“PM Maliki still holds the same views.

“In addition, when PM Maliki looked in the past at the picture he smiled and said, ‘The balding person in the photo is even balder than me now, 25 years after.’”

Mousaoui continued: “Another unfounded accusation is the linking of the attack on the US Embassy in Kuwait to Al Dawa Party that is currently headed by Mr. Al Maliki. These accusations were proved wrong at that time, and bringing the issue now is a misleading and unfortunate. If you check back you will see that the Kuwaiti officials stated, back then, that Al Dawa party has nothing to do with the attack. Mr. Maliki even told me that the Kuwait ambassador met him in Syria and confirmed that Dawa Party has nothing to do with the attacks.”

David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog.

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