- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2002

BERLIN German police commandos stormed the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin yesterday, freeing two captives and bringing a peaceful end to a hostage-taking by a previously unknown Iraqi dissident group seeking Saddam Hussein's ouster. Police said five persons were detained.
Police ended the five-hour occupation without firing a shot, officials said.
The suspects initially had taken four persons hostage including acting Ambassador Shamil Mohammed. Two hostages were released during the ordeal, one who suffered eye irritation after being sprayed with pepper gas by the attackers and a second who went into shock. It was not clear if Mr. Mohammed was one of the two hostages still in the embassy when police stormed the building.
Police said the hostage takers had threatened people with weapons, but would not say what kind.
The dissidents, calling themselves the Democratic Iraqi Opposition of Germany, said, "We are taking over the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin and thereby take the first step toward the liberation of our beloved fatherland.
"Our action is peaceful and limited in time," the group said in a statement received by two news agencies in Germany. "Our path is the liberation of Baghdad."
The Bush administration which is exploring military action to topple Saddam condemned the embassy seizure and said it had not known about the dissident group or had contact with it.
"Actions like this takeover are unacceptable. They undermine legitimate efforts by Iraqis both inside and outside Iraq to bring regime change to Iraq," Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said.
The embassy seizure came as Germany was expressing opposition to any U.S.-led military action against Saddam, who was accused of trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.
During the standoff, dozens of police, some in bulletproof vests, sealed off the embassy and surrounding streets in the elegant Zehlendorf neighborhood of the capital.
It was not clear how the attackers gained entry to the mission, which German police had the responsibility of guarding.
The Iraqi diplomatic mission opened on July 17 after moving from Bonn, the former West German capital. German police carry out irregular patrols around the perimeter, but may enter the embassy grounds only with Iraqi permission.
The group's statement, written in nearly flawless German, said the embassy occupation was designed to "make the German people, its organization and political forces aware that our people have the will to freedom and will put it into practice."
In London, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress the main umbrella group for opponents of Saddam said the group had no connection to the embassy incident.
He said the Democratic Iraqi Opposition of Germany was a new group, but he was not familiar with its members. The spokesman said the Iraqi opposition "has never resorted to any violent action outside the country against the regime."
Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations said that "this is the first time we have heard about this [groups] name."
"Certainly they have been pushed by somebody else, some government perhaps," Mohammed Al-Douri told reporters in New York.


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