Iraqi official loses job after jail abuse


BAGHDAD, IRAQ -- The Iraqi official responsible for investigating human rights abuses and corruption by the Interior Ministry's police forces said yesterday that he had been removed from his post after a scandal at a detention center where about 169 prisoners were tortured.

Nori Nori, the ministry's inspector general, is the first senior ministry official to lose his job since U.S. forces entered the bunker-like facility Nov. 13 and found abused detainees. The ministry, awaiting the results of a joint Iraqi-U.S. inquiry, has reported no action against the jailers.

Interior Minister Bayan Jabr ordered Nori reassigned Monday, a ministry official said. Nori confirmed that in a telephone interview but would not elaborate.

U.S. officials considered Nori an ally who tried to reform a ministry heavily influenced by Shiite Muslim militias. His authority gave him access to the ministry's records and power to call its officials to account, but human rights groups said he was ineffective.

An aide said Nori had complained to colleagues that he was not allowed to enter the detention center to investigate the abuses, which have hurt a Shiite coalition that leads the government as it campaigns for Dec. 15 parliamentary elections amid a Sunni Arab-led insurgency.

In an interview last month, before the abuse scandal, Nori said he was encountering resistance as he tried to carry out his oversight functions. He spoke openly about extrajudicial killings by police squads but was more restrained when another ministry official joined the conversation.

Results of a joint Iraqi-American inquiry into the detention center ordered by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari was to be made public this week. But Jafari's spokesman said it has been delayed by a death in the family of the inquiry panel's Iraqi chairman.

Separate attacks by gunmen yesterday claimed the life of a candidate for the National Assembly and seriously wounded an adviser to Iraq's defense minister. Ahmed Daraji, a tribal leader who was running on the ticket of a secular coalition led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, was killed along with his son and a police captain as the three men left a campaign meeting in the southern city of Amarah.

Four U.S. soldiers were reported killed Wednesday, three from hostile action and one in a traffic accident. The deaths raised the U.S. death toll to 85 in November, one of the deadlier months for U.S. forces in more than two years of clashes.

Several hundred masked insurgents swept through the main streets of Ramadi, set up roadblocks and fired mortar rounds at the U.S. military base and the governor's office. They dispersed a few hours later within the city of 200,000, an insurgent stronghold in western Al Anbar province.

Police said four mortar rounds fell near the U.S. base. There were no reported injuries.

U.S. and Iraqi forces launched an operation in Al Anbar province Wednesday, sending more than 2,000 soldiers and Marines into Hit and surrounding towns to track down insurgents ahead of the election.

Richard Boudreaux writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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