Prashant Rao, AFP
Last updated: 27 May, 2011

Head of Iraq anti-Baath committee gunned down

Iraqi security forces were on Friday hunting the killers of Iraq’s controversial anti-Baath committee chief, who was shot in the head while on his way home in east Baghdad the previous evening.

The brazen shooting came little more than a year after Ali al-Lami made headlines by banning a swathe of would-be MPs in Iraq’s March 2010 election, a poll in which he himself was a candidate.

Lami, the executive director of the Justice and Accountability Commission (JAC), was shot dead while being driven home, a colleague and security officials said. His killers used pistols with silencers.

“Yes, it’s true,” Entifadh Qanbar, a friend of Lami’s who ran with him on the same political slate in a March 2010 parliamentary election, told AFP.

“He was going from Palestine Street to his house in east Baghdad. His brother was driving. He was followed carefully by a car, then he was intercepted.

“He was shot in the head with silenced pistols, and pronounced dead in the hospital about 20 minutes after that, at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) tonight (Thursday).”

Qanbar described the murder as “a very well-planned operation,” noting that Lami’s brother escaped unharmed. Lami leaves a wife and six children.

An interior ministry official and a senior counter-terrorism officer, both speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the murder.

Ali Saif Hamad al-Lami, born in Baghdad in 1964, refused to join executed dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath party during the dictator’s rule. In February 2010 he told AFP he had been detained by the regime several times before it was overthrown in the 2003 US-led invasion.

In particular, he was arrested following the unsuccessful post-Gulf War revolt by Shiite Muslims against Saddam’s regime in 1991, and after mourning ceremonies for revered Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr. On the latter occassion, he said, he was held for three years.

Lami held Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mathematics.

The JAC that he headed from February 2004 banned several hundred would-be MPs from taking part in Iraq’s March 7, 2010 parliamentary election because of their alleged ties to Saddam’s party.

The body came in for sharp criticism over its membership — Lami and chairman Ahmed Chalabi, along with Qanbar, ran for parliament on the Iraqi National Alliance slate, a collection of Shiite religious parties. While Lami and Qanbar were unsuccessful, Chalabi won a seat.

The row over the bans and the apparent conflict of interest dominated the election campaign, raising questions about the JAC’s legal status and the ultimate fairness of the vote.

The process also heightened political tensions in a country that was engulfed by deadly sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007. Iraq’s government said last year it was looking to reform and reconstitute the committee.

Meanwhile, in separate violence in and around Baghdad and in central Iraq on Thursday, nine soldiers and policemen were killed in several attacks, security officials said.

In the town of Garma, close to the former Sunni rebel bastion of Fallujah, a roadside bomb struck a car carrying three senior policemen, killing all of them, according to a police official in Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

The car’s driver was also seriously wounded in the attack.

Fallujah was the site of fierce fighting in 2004 between US forces and Sunni insurgents and has long been a rebel bastion, although the area, and Iraq more broadly, has seen a dramatic drop in violence in recent years.

And in the central Iraqi city of Samarra, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed three policemen and wounded another, the provincial operations command said.

A suicide bomb in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, killed two soldiers, while gunmen shot dead police Colonel Khader Mohammed in the centre of the city.

Violence in Iraq is significantly less than in 2006 and 2007 during a brutal sectarian war, but attacks remain common. A total of 211 people were killed in violence in April, according to official figures.