Thursday, June 28, 2007

US Shielding Culture Minister From Arrest?

Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty
Baghdad, IRAQ: A picture dated 24 June 2007 shows Iraqi Sunni Minister of Culture Asaad Kamal al-Hashemi attending a ceremony in Baghdad to honour journalists who were killed in acts of violence in Iraq.

US Shielding Culture Minister From Arrest?
South American Contractors Reportedly Barred Iraqi Police From al-Rashid Hotel

As'ad Kamal al-Hashemi, the culture minister being charged with acts of terrorism for a 2005 attack on Iraqi MP Mithal al-Alusi which killed his two sons, has been in hiding since Iraqi security forces raided his house in attempt to arrest him on Monday night.

Now Mithal al-Alusi is charging the US embassy with shielding Hashemi from arrest. As Eli Lake reports for the NY Sun:

Mr. Alusi said the wanted man, As'ad Kamal al-Hashemi, had fled to al-Rashid Hotel inside the American-protected international zone in the center of Baghdad. Iraqi national police on Tuesday went to this location, only to be told by the South American mercenaries guarding the al-Rashid compound that they could not enter the grounds of the hotel where Mr. Hashemi was staying. Mr. Alusi then called the office of the American ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, to ask the Americans to order the guards to allow the national police to enter the premises. He was, in so many words, refused.

"I called Ambassador Ryan Crocker's office today and yesterday and they did not give any kind of answer. They are playing with us. They say this is an Iraqi issue, we are not going to be involved. And normally this is a very good attitude, but not when it stops us from arresting terrorists," Mr. Alusi said.

According to Lake, an American officer close to the situation reported that US troops had been ordered by Petraeus to accompany Iraqi forces serving the arrest warrant on Hashemi Monday, but the Pentagon ordered them to turn back en route.

Lakes writes, "On the way to his home, the GIs were ordered to turn around after the Pentagon decided no Americans should be involved in the arrest. 'The order was overturned in Washington,' the officer said."

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