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Badr threatens to take up arms against former Saddam loyalists

Daily Star staff

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The former military wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq threatened Tuesday to take up arms against former Saddam Hussein loyalists if they make gains in Thursday's legislative elections. The blunt warning by the Badr Organization contradicted earlier remarks by the head of SCIRI, Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, in which he said his group's former militia was ready to help with election security. The threat also comes as Iraqis abroad cast the first ballots in their country's election of postwar first full-term Parliament.

"If Baathists regain power, we will take up arms against them just as we did against Saddam Hussein," warned Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Badr, that many say still wields weapons.

His comment was aimed at Iyad Allawi, a former member of Saddam's ruling Baath Party who later broke with the movement and plotted a failed CIA-backed coup against the then dictator.

Making a last campaign stab, Hakim warned against possible fraud, while meeting with tribal chiefs from the south.

Hakim also said "the Badr Organization is ready to mobilize 200,000 of its men in all parts of Iraq so they can play a role in defending Iraq and Iraqis."

Tuesday marked the end of a campaign marred by assassinations, the latest of which was the murder of Sunni candidate Mizher al-Dulaimi in the troubled western city of Ramadi.

Allawi is seen as the candidate most likely to draw off Shiite votes from the SCIRI-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, the main Shiite choice in the election.

Allawi, who heads a largely secular list that encompasses Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds, is appealing for the middle ground, urging Iraqis away from a religious vote.

Allawi has accused militias, mainly Badr, of trying to assassinate him and of being behind abductions and torture uncovered by discoveries of secret police jails.

Four U.S. soldiers were also killed in a bomb attack on their patrol northwest of Baghdad, the military said. No other details were immediately available.

In Iraq, more than 1,000 Sunni clerics issued a religious edict, or a fatwa, urging their followers to vote this time.

"We call upon all the Iraqi people, and this is a fatwa from more than 1,000 Iraqi scholars who are urging Iraqis to vote," "We hope, God willing, that Iraqis will not miss the opportunity to vote and to avoid being marginalized," Sheikh Ahmad Abdel-Ghafour al-Samaraie said on Al-Arabiyya television.

The Islamic Army in Iraq, one of the most prominent insurgent groups, said it would not attack polling stations but vowed to continue its war against U.S.-led coalition forces.

"To the heroes of the Islamic Army in Iraq: Orders have been issued to avoid polling stations centers to preserve the blood of innocent people," the statement posted on an Islamist Web site said.

Outside Iraq, voting was in full swing in 15 countries where exiles have settled since fleeing the former Saddam dictatorship or the rampant violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

In the U.S., there were eight polling places for an estimated 240,000 Iraqi-Americans eligible

to vote, including two places in Detroit where an estimated 150,000 people were eligible.

Suhad Turayhi, a spokeswoman for the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, said she expected twice as many exiles to cast ballots at the Skokie, Illinois, polling place, compared to the roughly 6,000 ballots cast in January's vote.

Electoral officials said voters turned out in Australia, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates with no logistical or security problems reported.

Iraqis in Australia were the first expatriates to vote.

But early turnout was light. "It's not fantastic, as usual on day one, but the tradition of the Iraqi people is to leave it until the last day," Qassim Abboud, spokesman for the vote organizers, told Australian Associated Press.

There are around 100,000 Iraqis living in Australia and about 11,000 eligible voters are expected to take part.

In Damascus there was only a trickle of voters at one of the 11 polling centers across the country but organizers were enthusiastic.

Security was tight around polling venues in Jordan with police setting up roadblocks to keep traffic away. Guards used metal detectors to check all those entering the vote centers.

Turnout was moderate among Iraqi exiles in Iran. Organizers said about 81,000 Iraqis were eligible to vote in Iran. - Agencies

:: Article nr. 18667 sent on 14-dec-2005 01:35 ECT


Link: www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&article_id=20753

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