Accessibility links

US Forces Capture Key Aide to Moqtada al-Sadr - 2004-05-26

U.S. forces in Iraq have captured a key aide to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, during a series of overnight raids in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. Meanwhile, the Coalition Provisional Authority announced the formation of a new task force to provide compensation to victims of the former regime.

American Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said coalition forces captured Riyad al-Nouri, who is considered to be a key lieutenant and relative of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. ?He [al-Nouri] is being handed over to Iraqi authorities to comply with an outstanding warrant for his arrest in connection with the murder of Ayatollah Abdul Majid al-Khoei, in April 2003,? he announced.

Ayatollah al-Khoei was a prominent Shi'ite cleric who was killed in Najaf after he had just returned from exile in London. Moqtada al-Sadr is also wanted in connection with his murder.

At the same briefing, Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor announced the formation of a special task force to determine compensation for victims of Saddam Hussein's regime.

?The coalition is setting aside initial funding from the Development Fund for Iraq, to bolster this important effort on behalf of the Iraqi people,? Mr. Senor said. ?The initial set aside is for $25 million.?

Mr. Senor added that among other things, the three-person task force will work with victims and ministries to define which injustices should be subject to compensation.

Speaking to the U.S. Institute of Peace Tuesday night, Secretary of State Colin Powell said any U.N. resolution for Iraq would call for international troops to remain there for the time being, to work with the new interim Iraqi government. ?The [U.S.-British-proposed U.N.] resolution recognizes that there is still a need for a multinational force to remain and protect the Iraqi people while its own forces are being built up, while Iraqi forces are being built up, to provide for the security of the nation,? Mr. Powell said.

His comments were backed up by General Kimmitt, who said the command structure under Iraqi sovereignty is still being hammered out.

?It has not been firmly established in the post 30 June environment what the relationship will be,? he added. ?Broadly, it will be a partnership, just like we have the coalition partners.?

He said coalition members from individual countries could, in his words, "opt out" of decisions made by the coalition commander that exceed what their nation allows them to do, but he did not refer to any country's right to veto a coalition military operation.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International issued its annual report that strongly criticizes the U.S.-led global war against terrorism. Amnesty Secretary-General Irene Kahn had especially harsh words for the U.S. efforts in Iraq.

?By sacrificing the global values of human rights in a blind pursuit of security, governments we believe are losing the moral compass,? she said. ?And this failure of leadership is a dangerous concession to armed groups. And nowhere has that failure been clearer than in Iraq, in the context of the U.S.-led war against terrorism.?

The State Department countered that the global war on terror has resulted in the liberation of 50 million people, in Afghanistan and Iraq. A spokesman acknowledged the prison abuses in Abu Ghraib prison, but said a firm process is under way to bring the guilty parties to justice.