- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003

HILLA, Iraq — Coalition forces have arrested a landowner and tribal chief who locals say was paid a bounty for killing and providing the burial site where Saddam Hussein’s security forces dumped the bodies of as many as 10,000 men, women and children after a failed uprising in 1991.

The arrest, but not the identity of the man, was revealed by Iraq’s new civil administrator, L. Paul Bremer, after a visit to the mass grave yesterday.

Also yesterday, coalition forces announced the capture in Baghdad of Aziz Sajih al-Numan, a high-ranking Ba’ath Party official who was No. 8 on their list of wanted members of Saddam’s regime. Mr. al-Numan, the regional command chairman for west Baghdad, had served as governor in the towns of Karbala and Najaf.

On Wednesday night, a U.S. armored vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during a late-night ambush in the former Ba’ath Party stronghold of Fallujah, a city 30 miles west of Baghdad.

No U.S. soldiers were injured in Fallujah, but news agencies quoted residents as saying two Iraqi civilians were killed in shooting that followed.

In Hilla, near the historic ruins of Babylon, Mr. Bremer vowed to “bring to justice” the men responsible for the killing field and called his visit a “powerful reminder of why we have removed Saddam Hussein from power.”

Iraqi sources said the arrested man had been paid about $100 for every person he and his men killed in putting down the Shi’ite revolt after the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

The local sources, who identified the arrested sheik as Mohammed Jawad Onaifis, said he had forced a rival tribal leader to sell him the land, then used it as the mass grave.

A local doctor told Mr. Bremer that more bodies remain to be found in the grave site and that two other major sites still had to be excavated nearby.

Local residents came to the coalition about 10 days ago demanding the sheik’s arrest, the sources said, but the doctor told Mr. Bremer that his people wanted “only justice, not vengeance.”

Dr. Rafid Faqer al Husseini, a urologist whose two uncles are missing, expressed gratitude to the U.S. Marines accompanying Mr. Bremer for providing protection, food and water, and for their offer to build an on-site monument to the dead.

Mr. Bremer also visited a nearby site where Saddam had built an elaborate presidential palace, with huge ornamental canals, atop a massive mound of earth that gave him a panoramic view of Babylon.

Mr. Bremer marveled at the 2,700-year-old wall reliefs depicting animals revered as gods by the ancient Babylonians. They were alongside still clearly visible cuneiform writing.

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