- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2006

BAGHDAD — The brother of Iraq’s Sunni Arab vice president was killed yesterday by gunmen who broke into his home, the third of the politician’s four siblings to be slain this year. Sunnis blamed Shi’ite militias and demanded a crackdown to stop the raging sectarian violence in the capital.

Authorities, meanwhile, arrested the head of the mess hall at a base where up to 400 mainly Shi’ite policemen fell ill during a Ramadan meal in what may have been the first known attempt by insurgents to carry out a mass poisoning of police.

A military spokesman, Brig. Qassim al-Moussawi, said the poisoning likely was intentional, though he did not rule out that spoiled food may have been used in the meal as part of a scheme by contractors or officers to skim money from food funds.

The policemen were having their iftar meal, which ends the sunrise-to-sunset fast during the Islamic holy month, at their base in the southern town of Numaniyah.

Also detained for questioning was the Iraqi contractor hired to provide food for the base and several other people, Brig. al-Moussawi said.

Baghdad was torn by new violence. A car bomb ripped through a market in a Shi’ite district, killing at least 10 persons and wounding 23 — an attack likely carried out by Sunni insurgents.

Gunmen also kidnapped 11 policemen in an assault on their checkpoint in Sadr City, a Baghdad neighborhood dominated by the Mahdi Army, the country’s most powerful Shi’ite militia.

The U.S. military announced that three Marines died Sunday after fighting in the western province of Anbar, a hotbed of Sunni insurgents, bringing to 32 the number of American service members who have died in Iraq this month.

The death of the brother of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi — the country’s most prominent Sunni politician — alarmed Sunnis and fueled their demands that the government crack down on Shi’ite militias.

Critics of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accuse the Shi’ite leader of hesitating on reining in the militias because many of them — like the Mahdi Army — belong to parties in his government.

Mr. al-Maliki called the killing an “ugly, terrorist crime.”

Lt. Gen. Amir al-Hashimi, a Defense Ministry adviser, was slain when gunmen wearing military uniforms broke into his north Baghdad home, Brig. al-Moussawi said.

The gunmen also abducted six of the general’s guards and a neighbor — who also is an official in Tariq al-Hashimi’s Iraqi Islamic party, party officials said.

The vice president has lost two other siblings in violence: His sister and another brother were killed within two weeks of each other in April in shootings in the Iraqi capital.

Two militiamen were arrested in the slaying of Mr. al-Hashimi’s sister, but the government did not say to which militia they belonged.

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