- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

BAGHDAD (AP) - The Iraqi government accused local, Arab and international media on Monday of trying to provoke sectarian violence, as the military filed a lawsuit to shut down operations of a major Arab newspaper and television station for allegedly misquoting a spokesman.

Also Monday, an American soldier was killed by an armor-piercing bomb south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. It was seventh combat death suffered by U.S. forces in Iraq since Friday.

The government media office said some news organizations have launched “a coordinated campaign against the Iraqi government” with recent reports of strife between U.S.-allied Sunni paramilitary fighters and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government.

The accusations follow attacks against Sunni paramilitaries, known as Awakening Councils or Sons of Iraq, and arrests of some of their leaders on what the government insists are valid criminal charges. The groups include ex-insurgents who turned against al-Qaida and joined forces with the Americans. Some of their leaders claim the government is trying to marginalize them despite their contribution to improved security.

“These attempts by some media to depict wanted persons as heroes targeted by security forces, and the attempts to provoke the hateful sectarian strife with the aim of damaging Iraqi unity, do not only distort the message of the media but also make us wonder about the true goals of these campaigns and the groups behind them,” a media office statement said.

The statement did not name any specific media organization. But Iraqi authorities often have been criticized for imposing media restrictions since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Tension between the government and the councils boiled over last month when a local Awakening group in central Baghdad launched a two-day uprising after the arrest of their leader. The government and the U.S. military said there was evidence he was involved in subversive and criminal activity.

The military announced a lawsuit seeking to shut down the Iraq operations of Al-Hayat, a major London-based Arabic language newspaper, and Al-Sharqiya television station. It alleged they falsely reported that orders had been issued to arrest ex-detainees recently released by the U.S.

Both outlets quoted Iraq’s military spokesman last week as saying the names and photos of the released detainees had been distributed to checkpoints with orders to arrest them as part of an investigation into recent bombings in Baghdad.

Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi insisted he only said ex-detainee files would be reviewed.

Al-Hayat issued a correction on its Web site on Monday, saying the information it reported did not come from al-Moussawi but rather another unnamed official.

Al-Moussawi told The Associated Press the correction by Al-Hayat was not enough and both organizations needed to issue statements acknowledging the false attribution.

Al-Sharqiya said al-Moussawi’s statement was “not worthy of a response,” according to a statement read to The AP by a Dubai-based editor, who refused to identify himself.

In August 2004, the government closed the Baghdad news office of Al-Jazeera television, accusing the station of inciting violence. The office is still closed, but the station operates in the Kurdish-ruled area of the north.

Iraq also closed two privately owned TV stations in November 2006 for broadcasting protests over Saddam’s death sentence.

Meanwhile, an al-Qaida front group claimed responsibility for two attacks, including a suicide truck bomb in Mosul that killed five U.S. soldiers Friday _ the largest number of American combat deaths in a single blast in more than a year.

In statements posted Monday on a militant Web site, the Islamic State of Iraq also claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack Saturday in the town of Jbala, about 35 miles (50 kilometers) south of Baghdad, that killed nine Awakening Council members.

The claims could not be independently verified. The Islamic State is an al-Qaida-led coalition and has often been linked to suicide attacks.


Associated Press writers Chelsea J. Carter and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide