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Iraq pomegranates bear grim testimony to Al-Qaeda torture

Tuesday, December 16 05:36 pm
AFP Sammy Ketz

Roses line the gravel road, palm fronds rustle in the breeze and wild flowers 
spread across the meadows where cattle graze -- the Iraqi scene would be 
charming without the stench of death. Skip related content
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    * Iraq pomegranates bear grim testimony to Al-Qaeda torture Enlarge photo
    * Iraq pomegranates bear grim testimony to Al-Qaeda torture Enlarge photo

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Under pomegranate and peach trees in an orchard in the Shiite hamlet of Albu 
Tumeh, in the very violent province of Diyala northeast of Baghdad, police with 
shovels each day dig up more twisted bodies bearing witness to the violence of 
gunmen linked to Al-Qaeda.

"They released dogs (on their victims) to make them dig their grave more 
quickly. Then they bandaged their eyes, tied up their hands and feet and shot 
them in the head," said police general Ibrahim Obeidi Salman al-Anbaki.

Two exhumed bodies lie in front of him. A very sharp crack in the skull is 
visible at the temple, the bandage covering their eyes is intact, as are the 
ties on their hands and feet. The dead men are still dressed.

In mid-August, Iraqi and US forces chased the jihadists away from the villages 
they were occupying in the region, paradoxically named "Salam", Arabic for 

Since then, 87 bodies have been unearthed, including 20 in less than a week, 
with 10 or more women and children among the total.

"There are still at least another 50, perhaps even 100," added Anbaki, wearing 
a black uniform and a beret on which is pinned a spread eagle, Iraq's military 

On May 5, 2007, Al-Qaeda fighters attacked Albu Tumeh and it fell five days 
later, says 31-year-old Hadi Hassan Abbas, a member of the hamlet's parish 

The jihadists came from the family lands further north of Izzat Ibrahim 
al-Duri, number two of Saddam Hussein and the only top lieutenant of the 
executed president yet to be captured after the US-led invasion of 2003.

They quickly overran another 13 Shiite hamlets and, with Sunni villages already 
under their control, they established an "Islamic state" for the north of the 
province with Albu Tumeh as its "capital".

The area was all the more strategic because it was close to the overwhelmingly 
Sunni Arab province of Salaheddin, another of their strongholds, and only a few 
kilometres (miles) further from Hibhib, where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, founder of 
the Iraqi wing of Al-Qaeda, was killed in June 2006.

They formed a fearsome force. "Just imagine it. There were more than 2,000 of 
them. Some of the fighters were foreign but most were Iraqi, chiefly Baathists 
nostalgic for the former regime of Saddam Hussein," General Anbaki said.

In complete impunity, the jihadists planted bombs and put up roadblocks on the 
main highways to kidnap travellers. Police and soldiers had their throats slit 
while Shiites were shot with a bullet in the head and left in communal graves.

In the village centre, a two-storey building has collapsed after an American 
bomb hit it during the recapture of the district during the summer.

"This was Al-Qaeda's courthouse, but the judges issued only one sentence -- 
capital punishment. It was the last stage before death, before the communal 
graves," said a villager whose brother managed to escape from the court before 
being killed.

Near the courthouse stand skeletons of stolen cars. "When we came back a year 
later nothing was left. Before fleeing, the jihadists blew up the houses. All 
our furniture have gone," Hadi Abbas said.

For the moment, 40 year-old Adel Wadud Mohammed Abbas is not going near his 
orchard. "I won't pick one piece of fruit while bodies are there -- it would 
taste of death," the farmer said as a scythe swung from the belt around his 
beige Arabic gown.

Copyright © 2008 AFP

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