‘Security forces’ rob Baghdad academics

WHEN Iraqi soldiers and police smashed their way into Mohammed al-Jabouri’s home on the first day of Baghdad’s latest security crackdown last week, he did not imagine they would steal the family’s life savings.

The security forces separated the men from the women and then ordered Jabouri’s wife to give them a suitcase filled with jewellery and £20,000 in cash. When she argued they threatened to shoot her. Then they destroyed the furniture and broke the windows of the cars in the garage.

“The same militiamen who used to raid our areas in the past are now conducting the security crackdown, using this as a chance to attack us further,” Jabouri said.

Later the same night, security forces raided a compound containing the homes of 110 university professors and their families. Professor Hameed al-Aathami described what happened: “They dragged us out of our beds as we slept with our wives and children, took us outside, bound our hands and blindfolded us. They beat, cursed and insulted us.”

Dr Salah Bidayat, the dean of the school of law, fired two shots from his licensed gun in the air to get the soldiers’ attention. “They caught him, lay him on the ground and proceeded to beat, kick and curse him in the most aggressive manner and when he explained we were teachers and professors they told him you are all a bunch of asses and terrorists,” Aathami said.

“They gathered all the men in the centre of the compound and proceeded to their homes, where they broke furniture, stole money, mobile telephones and jewellery as we sat outside listening to our women and children scream and cry,” he said.

“It was very hard for us to go through this. This is the security crackdown they have been bragging about. There is no such thing as a security plan; it is all an attempt to rid the country of the few remaining educated and decent people,” said Aathami, who is planning to leave Iraq as soon as he can.

Baghdad’s latest security offensive was intended to regain neighbourhoods from Shi’ite militiamen and Sunni insurgents. Many believe the advance publicity surrounding the crackdown allowed many militiamen to escape.

American and Iraqi military yesterday reported a drop in violence in Baghdad since the start of the security offensive. They attributed the success to increased troop presence but also to a decision by Sunni and Shi’ite militants to lie low. Sources close to Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army, confirmed that he had fled Iraq for Iran at dawn on February 8 with 27 senior aides.

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