Sunday, September 11, 2011

WORK (Iraq)

Mass Grave in Iraqi Town Held Bodies of 40 Cabbies
By Michael S. Schmidt
The New York Times, September 11, 2011
"Iraq has been so inured by years of war, terrorism and sectarian strife that what would be a horrific crime of shocking proportions in most countries has gone barely noticed here. Several days ago, a mass grave was unearthed in Dujail, a town about 35 miles north of Baghdad. That was not unusual. Iraq is littered with such graves, some from the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein, others from the sectarian bloodletting that erupted after the American invasion. Dujail, in fact, is best known for a mass killing, that of 148 of its men and boys by Mr. Hussein’s forces after a failed attempt to assassinate him there in 1982. That was the case Mr. Hussein was hanged for in 2006. But this mass grave, security officials said, was the work of a gang of killers who had kidnapped and killed 40 Baghdad taxi drivers over the last two years in order to steal their cars. The police said the crime was unprecedented as far as they knew. But one would be hard pressed to find a mention of the killings in the Iraqi news media or on the street. Asked about the killings, a member of Parliament from Salahuddin Province, which includes Dujail, offered the standard critique of lax Iraqi security. 'Those areas are not being controlled by the security forces,' said the lawmaker, Suhad Fahil Hamid al-Obedi. 'Unfortunately, we are suffering from a weakness of our security forces.' The police said that the gang had stolen dozens of taxis over the last two years, killing the drivers and burying them in Dujail.
Three suspects, including one believed to be the gang's leader, were arrested in the past week, the police said, and they described the crimes in chilling detail. Police officers said that the leader would often go to a garage in Baghdad that had many new taxis and ask for a ride to Dujail. When the taxi arrived in a very rural part of Dujail, the other gang members would be waiting. They would kill the driver, bury the body, then sell the car, according to the police account. The authorities offered no explanation for why the suspects felt they needed to kill the driver in order to steal the car. The police began investigating the case after cabdrivers from the garage reported that many of their fellow drivers were missing. The man suspected of being the ring leader was arrested several days ago while trying to take a taxi to Dujail. One might think that the cabdrivers would have noticed 40 colleagues missing sooner than two years after the disappearances began. But this is Iraq. In Babil Province, south of Baghdad, officials said 35 taxi drivers have vanished this year."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

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