Additions to the dance card for April 9, 2006.
From the Times (UK) Online:
IRAQI pilots who flew in Saddam Hussein’s air force are being targeted by armed militias in an apparent witch-hunt against veterans who fought in the war against Iran two decades ago.And the band plays on.
According to official military statistics, 182 former pilots and 416 senior military officers had been killed by the beginning of January 2006 as part of the campaign. At least 836 pilots and high-ranking military officials have fled to neighbouring Arab states.
A delegation of more than 1,000 members of the former military elite — mainly from the Sunni minority — appealed recently to President Jalal Talabani to intervene to end the attacks.
The officers and their families have accused Iran of inciting Iraq’s Shi’ite militias to carry out acts of vengeance. The organised nature of the attacks has reinforced their claims that elements within the Iranian-backed government are behind the attacks
The individual killings, meanwhile, continue. A 57-year-old man, who declined to be named, described last week how he and two former pilots, Major-Generals Qathem Chaloob and Suad Bahaa al-Deen, were kidnapped last month during late afternoon prayers when 30 men, dressed in black, raided a mosque in Baghdad.
In front of a police checkpoint, the three men were dragged away by the armed kidnappers. According to the man, he and his companions were beaten, abused and tortured before the pilots were separated from other civilian captives.
In another incident last month, gunmen wearing uniforms of Iraq’s interior ministry of commandos raided a private security company in the centre of Baghdad, kidnapping more than 35 employees.
At least 20 of those abducted were former high-ranking Sunni pilots in Saddam’s air force. Witnesses said the kidnappers were armed and they arrived in a large convoy of military vehicles, backed up by two trucks mounted with heavy machineguns. They have not been seen since.
The interior ministry has denied involvement in the daylight raid, but ministry sources alleged that the gunmen were from its major crimes unit.[emph added]