NewsSpecial WireIran targets Iraqi nationalists

Iran targets Iraqi nationalists

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Iran Focus: London, Oct. 13 – A prominent Iraqi politician was gunned down along with 10 of his aides on Thursday in a television station in eastern Baghdad by gunmen wearing police uniforms. Iran Focus

London, Oct. 13 – A prominent Iraqi politician was gunned down along with 10 of his aides on Thursday in a television station in eastern Baghdad by gunmen wearing police uniforms.

Gunmen raided the offices of Shaabiya satellite channel at 7 am local time and killed Abdul-Rahim Nasrallah, the leader of the National Justice and Progress Party (NJPP) and head of the channel’s board of directors, Hassan Kamil, Shaabiya’s executive director said.

Recently-established Shaabiya, which is owned by the NJPP, had in recent weeks begun test broadcasts.

Kamil said that the masked gunmen in police uniforms arrived at Shaabiya’s headquarters in Baghdad’s Zayouna District in seven vehicles and killed security guards and staff most of whom were asleep in their beds.

Two of the victims are believed to have survived the attack though one has been severely wounded.

The NJPP is a secular party which has been very vocal against Iranian meddling in Iraq.

Its leader Nasrallah was recently interviewed by an Iranian opposition satellite channel in which he condemned Iranian support for sectarian violence and defended the presence of Iran’s main opposition group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK or PMOI), in Iraq.

The several thousand-strong MeK has been based in Iraq for more than two decades. Women play a prominent role in its leadership and the group’s secretary general is a British-educated woman called Seddigheh Hosseini.

In June, Iraqi media reported that 5.2 million Iraqis had signed a declaration in support of the group’s presence in Iraq.

There has been a pattern of terrorist attacks against prominent Iraqi political personalities who have been outspoken against Iranian interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.

On Tuesday, a remote-controlled explosive device killed a prominent Shiite cleric vehemently opposed to Iran’s influence in southern Iraq.

The MeK accused Tehran of sending its agents to Iraq to carry out the terrorist attack against Ayatollah Mohammad Moussawi Qasemi, secretary general of the Islamic Unity Party in Iraq.

The bomb went off as Ayatollah Qasemi was entering his office in the town of Hella.

Ayatollah Qasemi was among a considerable number of Iraqi personalities who had signed a statement announcing their support for the MeK’s presence in Iraq.

On August 25, the Islamic Unity Party in Iraq said in a statement, “While the Iranian regime’s meddling in Iraq is taking place in the most disgusting manner by its proxy militias, taking a heavy toll from the people of Iraq, … concentrating on the expulsion of the PMOI from Iraq is only a cover for the interventions of the Iranian regime in Iraq and a means to distract public attention from more important issues. The PMOI is the antithesis and a formidable political barrier against terrorism and fundamentalism of the Iranian regime. For this reason, it is the No. 1 target of the enemy’s political attacks and negative propaganda”.

On Monday, gunmen in police uniforms killed the brother of Iraqi Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi in northern Baghdad.

Amer al-Hashemi, a Major General in the Iraqi army, was at home in Sulaikh when gunmen stormed into the house and killed him, news agencies reported.

“Gunmen in police uniforms and in 10 police cars arrested his bodyguards and then entered his house and killed him,” a police source said.

Hashemi’s sister, Meysoun, and another brother, Mahmoud, had been killed by gunmen earlier this year.

Tareq al-Hashemi’s Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest in the main Sunni political bloc in parliament, has accused Tehran of arming outlawed Shiite militias which have largely infiltrated Iraq’s Interior Ministry.

On September 30, the governor of the northern town of Soleiman-bak Mohammad Qassem Ahmad al-Bayati was killed by unknown assailants.

Soleiman-bak, near the city of Kirkuk, is situated in Saladin Province.

Al-Bayati was among 1,163 tribal leaders and sheikhs who signed a statement affirming the Mojahedin’s political refugee status in Iraq. The MeK accused Tehran of masterminding his killing.

Also in September, the spokesman for the Maram alliance, Muhammad Shihab al-Dulaymi, was gunned down in Baghdad.

Maram is the Arabic acronym for “Conference Rejecting Rigged Elections” (Mutamar Rafadi al-Intikhabat al-Muzawwara). The alliance is comprised of some 42 mainly Sunni and secular political entities including the Iraqi Accord Front, the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue and the secular Iraqi National List which is headed by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Several weeks before his assassination, al-Dulaymi appeared on the Iranian opposition satellite channel Simaye-Azadi and defended the MeK’s right to political refugee status in Iraq.

Despite a government ban, two major armed Shiite militias operate in Iraq: The Mehdi Army of firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and the Badr Organisation, which is the military wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Iraqi and United States officials routinely accuse Tehran of funding and arming both militias.

The SCIRI, now headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, was founded in Tehran in 1982. It was the brainchild of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had originally been assigned to write the council’s manifesto.

Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi was the group’s chairman for several years after its founding while Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim was appointed as the group’s spokesman. Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim, the elder brother of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, was killed in a bomb explosion in August 2003 in the holy city of Najaf.

The group still maintains strong ties with Tehran and strongly backs greater Iranian presence in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the MeK has openly charged that Tehran is systematically carrying out terrorist attacks against Iraq’s democratic forces. “Engulfed in crisis, the Iranian regime will not stop at any crime in order to advance its ominous objectives in Iraq. For this reason, it is carrying out inhumane and heinous terrorist attacks on this country’s national and democratic personalities, in particular targeting progressive clerics who oppose fundamentalism”, MeK secretary general Seddigheh Hosseini said.

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