Humanitarian aid worker Margaret Hassan is believed to have been executed in Iraq. A video emerged yesterday that showed a blindfolded woman, apparently Hassan, being shot in the head. Al Jazeera obtained the tape but decided not to air it. The 59-year-old Hassan headed the organization Care International which has since pulled out of the country. The Irish-born British citizen had lived in Iraq for the past 30 years and was well known for her critique of US policy in Iraq. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, “It is repugnant to commit such a crime against a woman who has spent most of her life working for the good of the people of Iraq.” Hassan’s husband yesterday begged for the return of her body. It remains unknown who kidnapped or killed Hassan. A friend of Hassan, Felicity Arbuthnot, told BBC that said she had felt Hassan was “doomed” once the US assault began in Falluja.
Independent journalist Dahr Jamail is reporting that Red Cross officials in Iraq are now estimating 800 Iraqi civilians have been killed during the siege on Fallujah. Jamail quotes an unnamed Red Cross official who insisted on remaining anonymous out of fear of US military reprisal. The US military has claimed that no civilians have been killed in the city even though the city of 300,000 has recently witnessed some of the most intense fighting of the Iraq war. The military has estimated 1200 fighters have been killed.
Meanwhile the United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner yesterday called for an investigation into alleged abuses in Fallujah and elsewhere. Jose Diaz, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “The High Commissioner this morning called very clearly, all the parties to do all that they can to insure that civilians are protected while the fighting is going on and also that any report, alleged violations taking place in Falluja are thourougly investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice, be they members of the Multinational Force or insurgents.”
The UN’s call for investigation came on the same day that video emerged showing a U.S. Marine shooting dead an injured, unarmed Iraqi who was lying down in a mosque. Video of the murder has been broadcast around the world. While the military has vowed to investigate the killing, Marines interviewed by Reuters downplayed the incident and some suggested the shooting was justified. Sgt. Nicholas Graham of Pittsburg said, “I would have shot the insurgent too. Two shots to the head. You can’t trust these people. He should not be investigated. He did nothing wrong.”
In other news from Iraq, over 1,000 US troops are fighting in Mosul in an attempt to block the Iraqi resistance from taking complete control of the city. The Los Angeles Times reported mortar attacks hit three police stations in the city, several Iraqis troops and civilians were killed and the Kurdish party headquarters came under attack. The Washington Post quotes a US military commander who claims that 80 percent of Mosul’s police force is no longer showing up for work. In Ramadi, at least nine people have died in fighting between US forces and the Iraqi resistance. Fighting was also reported in Baji, Baqubah, Buhritz and Balad.
In Iraq, U.S. forces have arrested the deputy speaker of the interim Iraqi National Council in a move that raises new questions as to the sovereignty of the Iraqi government. The arrested man, Naseer Ayaef, is a leading Sunni politician who is one of the highest ranking officials in the interim government. His arrest comes less than a week after his party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, pulled out of the Iraqi government in protest of the attack on Fallujah.
The Arabic news station Al Arabiya is also reporting that the US military has held one of its correspondents for the past five days in detention. The journalist Abdel Kader Al-Saadi was picked up in Fallujah on Thursday. The arrest has limited how much Arabic TV networks have been able to cover the assault on Fallujah. The other main satellite station Al Jazeera has been officially banned from reporting in Iraq by the interim Iraqi government.
The so-called Coalition of the Willing is about to get one nation smaller. Hungary has announced it will be ending its presence in Iraq by March of next year. The country’s Parliament rejected a proposal by the government to extend the deployment of its troops beyond March 31, 2005.
In Washington, President Bush officially nominated one of his closest confidants, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, to serve as the country’s next Secretary of State. Rice said “I look forward, with the consent of the Senate, to pursuing your hopeful and ambitious agenda as Secretary of State. Mr. President, it is an honour to be asked to serve your administration and my country once again. And it is humbling to imagine succeeding my dear friend and mentor, Colin Powell.” Also on Tuesday, President Bush nominated Rice’s deputy Stephen Hadley to become the nation’s new National Security Advisor.
This news from the CIA. Just days after Newsday reported that the White House had ordered a purge of Bush critics within the CIA, the agency’s new head Porter Goss has told employees that their job is to “support the administration and its policies.” In the memo, Goss said “As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies.”
Meanwhile the Washington Post is reporting that thousands of employees and contractors inside the Department of Homeland Security have been forced to sign nondisclosure agreements that prohibit them from sharing sensitive — but unclassified information — with the public.
In news from Capitol Hill, House Republicans are preparing to overturn a House rule that bars members indicted by state prosecutors to remain in leadership positions. The Washington Post reports the rule change is designed to shield Majority Leader Tom Delay in case he is indicted in Texas. A grand jury is investigating whether Delay committed campaign finance violations in 2002 when he helped state Republicans gain control of the Texas State House. In September a Texas grand jury indicted three political operatives with ties to Delay as well eight companies who made donations to a political action committee created with help from Delay. In other news from the Hill, Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada was elected Tuesday to replace Tom Dashchle as Senate Minority Leader.
The City of Chicago opened a new surveillance command center Tuesday that will give officials the ability to remotely watch and listen to most areas of the city all the time. Stationed around the city will be 2,000 cameras and microphones that send back live feeds to the command center. The city says the system is needed to deal with emergencies but it is unclear what role it will play in policing the city.