Papers suggest Hussein used chemicals on Kurds

December 21, 2006|By Borzou Daragahi and Said Rifai | Borzou Daragahi and Said Rifai,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Documents presented in court yesterday suggest that Saddam Hussein's government deliberately targeted Iraqi civilians with chemical weapons during a late 1980s counterinsurgency operation meant to stamp out a Kurdish rebellion.

Hussein, who is facing charges of genocide against the Kurds, contends that his so-called Anfal campaign was a justified attempt to defend the country against Iranian invaders and their agents in Iraq.

But prosecutors pointed yesterday to a document that apparently shows that government officials knew that the chemical weapons would have little effect on Iranian troops. Iran and Iraq fought a brutal eight-year war that ended in 1988.

"Most Iranian agents in the targeted area have the necessary equipment and medical kits to protect themselves from a `special ammunition' attack," said a letter signed by Col. Farhan Mutlaq Jabouri, a military intelligence officer standing trial as one of Hussein's six co-defendants.

In a separate case, Hussein was sentenced to death last month in the killings of 148 Shiite Muslims in Dujail in the 1980s. While an appellate court reviews that verdict, the Anfal case continues.

Hussein's Anfal campaign was meant to crush an insurgency by Iraq's rebellious Kurds, an Iraqi minority that allied with Iran during the war. Prosecutors and human rights activists say 180,000 Kurds might have been killed in Anfal, which means "the spoils of war." The seven defendants face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for their roles in the Anfal campaign.

Prosecutors allege that there was scant evidence that any of the victims of the chemical weapons, which included sarin gas and mustard agent, were Iranians.

One document presented yesterday described the case of a mentally disabled man who was shot to death and beheaded by Iraqi soldiers in a town that had been hit with chemical weapons. He was later described as an Iranian agent.

Other papers showed that the military was obsessed with getting the most bang for its buck with the chemical weapons, often referred to as "special ammunition" in official records.

One set of documents, signed by military intelligence chief and defendant Sabir Abdul Aziz Douri, provided detailed damage assessments of mustard agent, compared the advantages of artillery and aerial bombardment for delivering chemical weapons, and gave advice on weather conditions ideal for chemical attacks.

Douri and Jabouri protested that they were mere intelligence officers who provided information and that they had had no role in the attacks.

But the prosecutor said the intelligence officers' information-gathering and advisory roles were more than enough to make them accessories to war crimes.

Borzou Daragahi and Said Rifai write for the Los Angeles Times.

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