- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

BAGHDAD - Gunmen killed the brother of the chief prosecutor in Saddam Hussein’s genocide trial yesterday, as the former president called in an open letter for Iraqis to forgive their American enemies and stop sectarian killings because the country’s “liberation is at hand.”

The letter appeared to be an effort by Saddam to cast himself in the role of a statesman who could reconcile and rebuild a nation now torn by intensifying sectarian bloodshed between Shi’ites and Sunnis, continuing attacks by Sunni insurgents and worsening economic problems.

The letter seems to argue that the tide may be turning against U.S.-led foreign troops and the Shi’ite-dominated government they support.

“The hour of liberation is at hand, God willing. But remember that your near-term goal is confined to freeing your country from the forces of occupation and their followers, and not to be preoccupied in settling scores,” Saddam wrote in the Arabic-language letter.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained in Jordan, was dictated to his attorneys during a meeting over the weekend.

Court officials said yesterday that a verdict and sentence would be handed down Nov. 5 in the first trial against Saddam, for the killings of 148 Shi’ite Muslims from the town of Dujail after an assassination attempt against him in 1982.

Many fear the sentence which is widely expected to be death by hanging will further inflame sectarian animosities across Iraq, where Saddam remains popular among pockets of the once-dominant Sunni Arab minority.

The sectarian violence continued yesterday. Sunni Muslims fled across the Tigris River, trying to escape a four-day rampage of sectarian fighting in their Shi’ite-dominated home city of Balad north of Baghdad. At least 91 persons have died, all but 17 of them Sunnis.

Also yesterday, staggered car bombs hit a Shi’ite funeral in Baghdad, killing 15 persons mourners as well as rescuers who arrived before the second explosion. It was the deadliest attack in violence across the country yesterday that claimed at least 60 lives.

Two U.S. soldiers were killed in fighting north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said, bringing to 12 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since Friday.

The Balad fighting exploded Friday with the discovery of the headless bodies of 17 Shi’ite workers in an orchard near the city, 50 miles north of Baghdad.

The slaying of Imad al-Faroon, brother of the top prosecutor in Saddam’s second trial, added to the fears of sectarian violence. Mr. al-Faroon was fatally shot in front of his wife at his home in Baghdad.

His brother is chief prosecutor Muqith al-Faroon, a Shi’ite overseeing the case against Saddam on charges of crimes against humanity for a military campaign that killed thousands of Iraqi Kurds during the Iran-Iraq war.

Imad al-Faroon worked as a legal adviser to Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi exile who returned to a prominent position in the early days after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam.

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