Ali Hassan al-Majid, AKA "Chemical Ali," Sentenced To Death By Hanging

AP Special Correspondent

Some two decades after Iraq's military laid waste to Kurdish villages, the Iraqi High Tribunal on Sunday sentenced Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," and two others to death for their roles in the bloody campaign against the restive ethnic minority.
Al-Majid, a cousin of executed former president Saddam Hussein, was convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for ordering army and security services to use chemical weapons in an offensive said to have killed some 180,000 people during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
As the verdicts were read out in Baghdad, to the north some 10,000 American troops were in their sixth day Sunday of a major offensive to oust al-Qaida fighters from the city of Baqouba.
The commander of the U.S. operation said U.S. troops have cleared about 60 percent of western Baqouba of militants, but Iraqi security forces are "not quite up to the job" yet of holding the gains long term.
Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, of the Army's 25th Infantry Division, said it will take weeks or months before Iraqi security forces are ready to police the reclaimed area on their own.
The defendants in what was known as the "Anfal" case, for the code name of the anti-Kurdish campaign, had claimed they were acting on orders at a time when the Baghdad leadership, under President Saddam, viewed the rebellious, independence-minded Kurds as allies of Iran during the 1980s war.
Saddam had been a defendant in the case but was executed Dec. 30 after his conviction for the killing of 148 Shiite Muslims in Dujail after a 1982 attempt on his life.
Al-Majid, who had headed the then-ruling Baath Party's Northern Bureau Command in the 1980s, stood silently for Sunday's verdict and said, "Thanks be to God," as he was led from court.
Two others sentenced to hang for anti-Kurdish atrocities were former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai and Hussein Rashid Mohammed, a former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces.
Interrupting the judge as the verdict was read, Mohammed said the defendants were defending Iraq against Kurdish rebels. "God bless our martyrs. Long live the brave Iraqi army. Long live Iraq. Long live the Baath party and long live Arab nations," he declared.
Two other former regime officials — Sabir al-Douri, former director of military intelligence, and Farhan Mutlaq Saleh, who was head of military intelligence's eastern regional office — were sentenced to life in prison. All charges were dropped against Taher Tawfiq al-Ani, a former governor of Mosul, because of insufficient evidence.
The operation in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, is part of a quartet of U.S. offensives to oust al-Qaida groups from the capital's outskirts.
Bednarek said U.S. forces now control about 60 percent of Baqouba's west side, but "the challenge now is how do you hold onto the terrain you've cleared? You have to do that shoulder-to-shoulder with Iraqi security forces. And they're not quite up to the job yet."
Across Diyala province, where Baqouba is the capital, Iraqi troops are short on uniforms, weapons, ammunition, trucks and radios, he said.
The American general predicted it would be several weeks before Iraqi police and soldiers could keep al-Qaida out of western Baqouba, and months before they could do the same on the city's east side and outlying villages.
Bednarek said the U.S. force has killed between 60 and 100 suspected al-Qaida fighters so far in western Baqouba, about 60 insurgents have been detained, and fewer than 500 civilians displaced from their homes. One American soldier has died in the fighting, he said.
He estimated between 50 and 100 insurgents remained inside a U.S. security "noose" closing on the Khatoon neighborhood of western Baqouba.
The U.S. command in Baghdad, meanwhile, reported a total of 10 soldiers killed on Saturday, including seven killed by roadside bombs, four by a single blast near Baghdad. The deaths raised to at least 30 the number of American soldiers killed in the past week.
In other violence, a car bomb in the southern city of Hillah on Saturday evening killed at least two people and wounded 18 others, a hospital official reported.
The parked car targeted a gathering of civilians in central Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad, said Muthana Khalid, a spokesman for Babil provincial police. The predominantly Shiite Muslim city has been the target of some of the deadliest car bomb attacks by suspected Sunni Muslim extremists in the four years of insurgency and sectarian killings in Iraq.
On the political front, two Sunni blocs in the Iraqi parliament, holding 55 seats, began a boycott of the 275-seat house on Sunday, demanding reinstatement of the Sunni speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani.
Parliament had voted June 11 to ask al-Mashhadani, whose erratic behavior had embarrassed even his Sunni Arab allies, to step down while one of the Sunni blocs named a replacement.
The Sunni boycott threatens to further disrupt the work of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government as it seeks to enact legislation, under pressure from the United States, to reconcile the differences among Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish groups.

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