Allawi blames US for recruit massacre
By Sam Dagher in Baghdad
October 28, 2004  (must register to view original article)

Iraq's interim Prime Minister has blamed the US-led military in Iraq for the slaying of 49 unarmed army recruits and three drivers on Saturday.

"I think it was because of gross negligence by some elements within the multinational forces," Iyad Allawi told the country's interim parliament on Tuesday.

"The killings represent the epitome of what could be done to hurt Iraq and the Iraqi people."

Dr Allawi characterised as a "dangerous precedent" the ambush and killing of army basic-training graduates as they were on their way from the Kirkush base near the Iranian border to their homes in the south.

Nassir al-Shadershi, an MP, had earlier accused authorities of failing in "their obligation to protect our own security forces". The deaths are being investigated.

The chief spokesman for US-led foreign troops in Iraq, Brigadier-General Erv Lessel, was not available for comment on Dr Allawi's remarks, but an aide said: "Obviously the training of Iraq's security forces is critical, so we will continue our partnership with the Iraqi government to mature the [Iraqi security forces]."

Dr Allawi on Tuesday also asked the United Nations to send troops to help secure elections scheduled for January and voiced concern over a manpower shortage in the Iraqi police.

Meanwhile, the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has said the controversy over 342 tonnes of high explosives that disappeared from a site in Iraqi will probably amount to no more than a tempest in a teapot.

Mr Rumsfeld told a radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio, that the story reminded him of reports about wide looting at the Iraqi national museum after the invasion, which later proved to be exaggerated because many of the national treasures had been hidden before the war by museum curators.

He said the US military had destroyed more than 240,000 tonnes of weapons and captured another 160,000 tonnes in Iraq.

"And what's going on now is a detailed investigation of precisely this situation," he said.

Mr Rumsfeld said he believed the missing explosives could still be found, because US troops had been finding them hidden in hospitals, in schools, "all across that country, buried in some instances".

White House officials reasserted on Tuesday that the powerful explosives, mainly HMX and RDX, could have disappeared from a vast Iraqi military complex while Saddam Hussein was in power, saying US soldiers did not find the explosives when they visited the complex on April 10, 2003, the day after Baghdad fell.

But the unit's commander said on Tuesday that his troops had not searched the facility and had merely stopped there for the night on their way to Baghdad.

Colonel Joseph Anderson, of the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, said he did not learn until this week that the site, known as Al-Qaqaa, was considered highly sensitive, or that international inspectors had visited there shortly before the invasion in 2003 to inspect explosives that they had tagged during a decade of monitoring.

In Iraq yesterday, British soldiers began moving north from the southern city of Basra towards Baghdad. About 850 British troops are expected to deploy just south of the capital to free up US forces fighting in the rebel-held city of Falluja and elsewhere.

An opinion poll in the London newspaper The Guardian yesterday found 61 per cent of Britons disapproved of the decision.

Days of bloodshed
Recent attacks in Iraq, as outlined by the Interior Minister, Falah al-Naqib:

*92 suicide car bombings, killing 567 since June.

*152 people reported kidnapped in September. Eleven of those were rescued by police, 16 paid a ransom, 31 were released by their kidnappers and one was found dead. He did not give their nationalities.

*645 attacks on government institutions in August, killing about 147 people, and 120 in September, killing about 193.

Agence France-Presse, The New York Times, Reuters