Armed men depose mayor of Baghdad

City Council head leads ouster, replaces rival with member of Shiite militia

August 10, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Scores of armed men entered Baghdad's municipal building during a blinding dust storm Monday, deposed the city's mayor and installed a member of Iraq's most powerful Shiite militia.

The deposed mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, who was not in his offices at the time, recounted the events in a telephone interview yesterday and called the move a municipal coup d'etat. He added that he had gone into hiding for fear of his life.

"This is the new Iraq," said Tamimi, a secular engineer with no party affiliation. "They use force to achieve their goal."

The group that ousted him insisted that it had the authority to assume control of Iraq's capital city and that Tamimi was in no danger. The man the group installed, Hussein al-Tahaan, is a member of the Badr Organization, the armed militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The militia has been credited with keeping the peace in heavily Shiite areas in southern Iraq but also accused of abuses such as forcing women to wear the veils demanded by conservative Shiite religious law.

"If we wanted to do something bad to him, we would have done that," said Mazen A. Makkia, the elected City Council chief who led the ouster Monday and who had been in a lengthy and unresolved legal feud with Tamimi.

"We really want to establish the state of law for every citizen, and we did not threaten anyone. This is not a coup."

Makkia confirmed that he had entered the building with armed men but said they were bodyguards for him and several other council members who were with him. Makkia is a member of a Shiite political party that swept to victory during the across-the-board Shiite successes during January's elections.

Tamimi, the deposed mayor, was appointed by the central government and held ministerial rank. He was originally put in place by L. Paul Bremer III, the top American administrator in the country until an Iraqi government took over in June 2004.

Baghdad is the only city in Iraq that is its own province, and the City Council had previously appointed Tahaan as governor of Baghdad province, with some responsibilities parallel to Tamimi's.

But the mayor's office was clearly the more powerful. That proved to be a painful thorn in the side of Makkia, who believed that the council, which he controls, should hold sway in Baghdad.

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