- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 5, 2005

BAGHDAD — Saddam Hussein will face trial on 12 charges of crimes against humanity, a spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister said yesterday as the government acknowledged that its forces might have targeted innocent Sunni Muslims in its latest counterinsurgency drive.

Authorities in the northern city of Mosul announced the arrest of another leader of the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist organization and its Ansar al-Sunnah affiliate, the second in seven days.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, interviewed by CNN during a visit to Washington, said Saddam’s trial should begin within two months and would have a positive “impact on the security situation” in Iraq.

“There should be no objection that a trial should take place within that time,” Laith Kuba, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said. “It is the government’s view that the trial of Saddam should take place as soon as possible.”

The spokesman said prosecutors had narrowed their case against Saddam to a dozen well-documented charges.

A list of complaints supplied by the tribunal consists of charges that include the gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja, where an estimated 5,000 people were killed and 10,000 others were injured in March 1988.

In Baghdad, Mr. Kuba said there had been improvements in the performance of the security forces, “but members of the army and police do cause mistakes, which do happen.”

There were also some claims that “soldiers took advantage and helped themselves to cash and other items. One doesn’t rule it out. I think the army needs more disciplinary measures in these cases,” Mr. Kuba said.

In recent days, Sunni Muslim organizations had complained of the arrests of innocent Sunnis, the minority that dominated the country during Saddam’s rule and are thought to form the backbone of the violent insurgency.

The government hopes to blunt the insurgency by including Sunni Arabs in the political process and getting them involved in drafting Iraq’s new constitution.

Although the government has not provided fresh figures on the number of Iraqis arrested in the operation, the Interior Ministry said last Thursday that 700 people had been detained.

The U.S. military said Friday that it had detained at least 200 more during a two-day sweep south of Baghdad in an area known as the “Triangle of Death.”

The worst mistake occurred on the second day of Operation Lightning, when U.S. forces arrested and later released the leader of Iraq’s largest Sunni Arab political party. Mr. Kuba said that about 200 other people had been released so far.

In Mosul, authorities said they had captured the financier of the al Qaeda in Iraq’s cell in that northern city.

Mutlaq Mahmoud Mutlaq Abdullah, also known as Abu Raad, was arrested on May 29 and is considered a key facilitator and financier for a militant identified by the alias Abu Talha, the purported head of Abu Musab Zarqawi’s terror cell in Mosul.

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