Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Iraqi Defense Minister: "Al Jazeera Is A Channel For Terrorism"

Iraq minister brands Al-Jazeera a 'terror channel'.

DUBAI (AFP) - Iraqi Defence Minister Hazem Shaalan branded the popular Arabic-language satellite television Al-Jazeera a "channel of terrorism", in a newspaper interview.

That brought a sharp reaction from the broadcaster, which expressed its "utter outrage" at what it said was an "unsubstantiated allegation".

"Al-Jazeera is a channel of terrorism. That is clear and we say openly and without hesitation: Al-Jazeera is a channel of terrorism," Shaalan was quoted by the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat as saying.

The Qatar-based station, which has been banned from reporting in Iraq since early August, has frequently been accused by US and Iraqi authorities of inciting violence by screening "exclusive" videotapes from Islamic militants, including Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Despite the ban, the 24-hour news channel is often first to announce breaking news from the war-ravaged country, including kidnappings and beheadings of foreign hostages as well as statements from militant groups.

Shaalan charged that Iraqi "terrorist" Omar Hadeed, who he alleged has links to Al-Qaeda, is a brother of Al-Jazeera's office director in Iraq, Hamed Hadeed.

He also said the journalist was receiving videos showing beheadings in the restive Iraqi city of Fallujah from his brother.

Al-Jazeera has denied that its Iraq director has any relationship with Omar Hadeed.

Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Friday that Omar Hadeed is a former bodyguard of Saddam Hussein and a top aide to Iraq's most wanted man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and that he led the battle against US and Iraqi forces in Fallujah.

"We consider him a terrorist for attacking and killing national guard forces as well as multinational forces," said Shaalan. ...

"Let God curse all those who terrorise Iraqi citizens and children of Iraq, be they journalists or others. The day will come when we will take (measures) against Al-Jazeera other than by words," the minister warned.
UPDATE: Al-Zarqawi underling [Omar Hadid] emerges as force behind Fallujah insurgency.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - (KRT) - A mid-30s Iraqi electrician whose religious fervor drew suspicion from Saddam Hussein's agents long before U.S. forces invaded Iraq became the most-feared man in Fallujah during the city's six months under insurgent control.

While U.S. official pronouncements about rebel leaders have focused on Jordanian terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, rebel fighters and others who escaped the U.S. assault on Fallujah say the real power there was wielded by Omar Hussein Hadid, technically al-Zarqawi's underling but in fact the Iraqi face that allowed al-Zarqawi to remain there.

"Inside Fallujah, Omar was the leader. Even Abu Musab couldn't say no to him," said a mufti, or spiritual adviser, who sat on the council that directed the insurgents in Fallujah. Now hiding in Baghdad, the cleric spoke to Knight Ridder on condition of anonymity.

"If Abu Musab didn't cultivate the support of Omar, he never would've been allowed to stay in Fallujah," the mufti said. ...

The 1991 Gulf War ushered in a new religious conservatism in Iraq, and Hadid was excited about the shift from secular Arab nationalism. He found a mentor in a fellow Iraqi dissident named Mohammed al-Issawi who reportedly had fought the Russian government alongside Muslim Chechen rebels.

Together Hadid and al-Issawi campaigned against "sins" they saw in their city, threatening owners of beauty parlors and music stores. In the mid-1990s, Hadid terrified townspeople by blowing up Fallujah's only cinema, the mufti recalled with pride. It never reopened.

Baath Party security forces eventually stormed al-Issawi's house and killed him. As the story goes, a dying al-Issawi vowed revenge in a message written on the wall in his own blood. Hadid, then in his 20s, decided he would be the avenger.

"That day was the seed of everything going on with Omar today," said Lt. Col. Yasser Aftan, a former Fallujah police officer who participated in the raid on al-Issawi's home.

In retaliation for his friend's death, Hadid allegedly helped murder a senior official of Saddam's Baath party in Fallujah, then disappeared. Saddam's government tried him in absentia and sentenced him to death by hanging.

By then, however, Hadid had fled to northern Iraq, where Kurdish rebels associated with the militant group Ansar al Islam had reportedly granted him refuge, according to Hadid's family and friends. ...

"I asked Omar once how he could bear to do it, how he could hold himself together when he slaughtered another human being," said one of Hadid's cousins, a 28-year-old man who gave his name only as Abu Nour. "He laughed and swore he'd never personally beheaded a hostage. He said he chose men who don't have hearts to do the actual killing. He said it's a battle, so everything is permissible."


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