- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2007

BAGHDAD — Saddam Hussein’s cousin, known as “Chemical Ali,” and two other regime officials were sentenced yesterday to hang for slaughtering up to 180,000 Kurdish men, women and children with chemical weapons, artillery barrages and mass executions two decades ago.

Two other defendants were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the 1987-88 crackdown, known as “Operation Anfal.” A sixth defendant was acquitted for lack of evidence. Death sentences are automatically appealed.

The most notorious defendant was Saddam’s cousin, Ali Hasan al-Majid, who gained his nickname for ordering the use of mustard gas and nerve agents against the Kurds in response to their collaboration with the Iranians during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.

Witnesses testified that Iraqi government forces indiscriminately attacked women and children, burned crops, killed livestock and rounded up civilians into detention camps in a campaign to exterminate the restive Kurdish minority.

The defendants insisted that they were defending the nation against Kurdish guerrillas who had sided with Iran during the bloody eight-year war.

Al-Majid, once among the most powerful and feared men in Iraq, trembled in silence as Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa read the verdict against him and imposed five death sentences for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“You had all the civil and military authority for northern Iraq,” Judge al-Khalifa said. “You gave the orders to the troops to kill Kurdish civilians and put them in severe conditions. You subjected them to wide and systematic attacks using chemical weapons and artillery. You led the killing of Iraqi villagers. You restricted them in their areas, burned their orchards, killed their animals. You committed genocide.”

“Thanks be to God,” Al-Majid said as he was led from the courtroom.

Also sentenced to death were Sultan Hashim Ahmad, the former defense minister who led the Iraqi delegation at the cease-fire talks that ended the 1991 Gulf War, and Hussein Rashid Mohammed, a former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces.

Farhan Mutlaq Saleh, former deputy director of operations for the armed forces, and Sabir Abdul Aziz al-Douri, former director of military intelligence, were sentenced to life in prison. Taher Tawfiq al-Ani, a former governor of Mosul, was acquitted.

Saddam was among the defendants when the trial began last Aug. 21, but he was hanged four months later for his role in the deaths of more than 140 Shi”ite Muslims in the town of Dujail — the first trial against major figures from the ousted regime.

In northern Iraq, many Kurds welcomed the verdict, even though some were disappointed that Saddam did not have to face the gallows in the Anfal case.

In Halabja, where an estimated 5,000 Kurds were killed in a massive chemical attack in March 1988, a power outage prevented many people from watching the televised proceedings. But dozens gathered in cafes and restaurants that had generators to watch the verdicts.

“I would never miss this,” said Peshtiwan Kamal, 24, who was too young to remember the attacks. “I always heard from my family what those criminals did to my people. So I just wanted to see how they would take the verdict and punishment.”

A small rally was also held at a memorial garden in the Halabja cemetery.

“We thank God that we have lived to see our enemies being punished for all of the atrocities they have committed against our people,” said Lukman Abdul-Qader, head of a local organization of chemical-attack survivors.

Besides Saddam, other figures from the former regime have been executed — all in the Dujail case. They include Saddam’s half-brother and former intelligence chief, Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, who headed the Revolutionary Court that sentenced the Dujail victims to death. They were hanged in January.

Former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan was sentenced to life in prison for his role in Dujail, but was hanged in March after an appeals court decided the life sentence was too lenient.

Meanwhile, the U.S. commander of a new offensive north of Baghdad said yesterday that his Iraqi partners may be too weak to hold onto the gains.

“They’re not quite up to the job yet,” said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, noting that the Iraqi military does not even have enough ammunition.

His counterpart south of Baghdad seemed to agree, saying U.S. troops are too few to garrison the districts newly rid of insurgents.

“It can’t be coalition forces. We have what we have. There”s got to be more Iraqi security forces,” said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch.

The two commanders spoke after a deadly day for the U.S. military in Iraq. At least 12 soldiers were killed on Saturday from roadside bombings and other causes, leaving at least 31 dead for the week.

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