“There will be no safe haven for outlaws even in holy places, because human life is holier. We will drive out all those trespassing on the dignity of man.”
On Tuesday, Lieutenant-General Abboud Gambar, commander of the joint Iraqi forces in Baghdad, appeared on television to warn: “All those who breach the terms of this decree will be judged under the law on terrorism.”
The first measure announced was the closure of Iraq’s borders with Iran and Syria, both of which have been accused of allowing weapons and extremists to enter the country.
A senior Iraqi security official said the frontiers were closed late on Tuesday.
Three crossing points to Syria and four to Iran will reopen after 72 hours with reinforced security measures. Others will stay shut indefinitely.
In addition, weapons permits will be suspended for everyone in Baghdad except Iraqi and US-led security forces and registered private security firms.
The city’s nightly curfew will also be lengthened.
Al-Sadr in Iran?
US military officials say they believe Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia leader who leads the Mahdi Army militia, has fled Iraq in advance of the security crackdown in Baghdad.
|A combined military and police force has been
empowered to impose restrictions [Reuters]
US intelligence officials say al-Sadr is in Tehran, but a senior aide to the cleric told the AFP news agency on Wednesday that he was “still inside Iraq and working normally”.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s nothing,” Nassar al-Rubaie said of the claims.
Lt-Gen Gambar will command a combined police and military force and be empowered to crack down on rogue security force units in Baghdad.
He said the decree authorises him to “impose necessary restrictions in all public places and centres and clubs and organisations and unions and businesses and institutions and offices to protect citizens and people who work.
“Searches will be done on public streets, and precautionary measures will be applied on packages, mail, messages and communications and telecommunications equipment.
|The US military announced last week that the
Baghdad security operation had begun [AFP]
“Security forces will be authorised to block or search public or private property … [and] will have the right to impose travel restrictions on individuals or vehicles.”
Furthermore, Gambar said, Iraqis living in housing belonging to displaced persons will be given two weeks to leave or face eviction.
His address suggested that the Iraqi authorities plan to exercise wide powers while waging the crackdown.
Gambar said he would report to al-Maliki weekly.
A criminal court will hold emergency hearings on cases such as murder, theft, rape, kidnapping, damaging public property and the possession and transfer of arms and ammunition, he said.
In other news, CNN on Wednesday broadcast footage showing a man it said was an American soldier who was seized by masked men in Baghdad last year.
|A soldier checks a car in Baghdad [Reuters]
The undated and soundless video, which CNN said was posted on a website run by a Shia group, showed the man identified as US army Sergeant Ahmed Qusai al-Taie reading a statement.
The Iraqi-born US soldier was reported missing on October 23 last year after he left the heavily guarded Green Zone without his superiors’ permission in order to visit his wife at a family home in Baghdad.
CNN said the man’s family had confirmed it was al-Taie.
“His uncle told CNN that this was the first proof of life provided since his kidnapping,” CNN said.
US forces in Iraq have assigned a specialist unit to track down and rescue al-Taie, who is believed to have been taken by Shia fighters based in the Sadr City district of eastern Baghdad.