Death of Iraq Envoy's Cousin Probed
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The US military has launched an investigation into the killing of a relative of Iraq's ambassador to the United States. Samir Sumaidaie, key Sunni supporter in the US, a former Governing Council member and interim interior minister, says US Marines in the Anbar province shot his cousin in cold blood earlier this week. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Novarro has the story from Baghdad.
LOURDES GARCIA-NOVARRO reporting:
Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie says on the 25th of June the Marines conducted a series of raids on villages near the Al Anbar town of Haditha and the American military base at Haditha Dam. Among them was the village of al-Shaikh Hadid, the ancestral home of his family. He says at around 10 AM US Marines came to the home of his cousin.
Mr. SAMIR SUMAIDAIE (Iraqi Ambassador to the US): They knocked on the door. The family were assembled inside. Mohammed himself opened the door and greeted them pleasantly. The family had nothing to hide and nothing to fear, so they were relaxed.
GARCIA-NOVARRO: Mohammed was the ambassador's cousin's son, a young, shy 21-year-old engineering student. Sumaidaie says the Marines took him into the next room to question him, then the mood quickly turned. Mohammed's brother Ali was dragged and beaten. According to the ambassador, the families say they heard a thud and they never saw Mohammed alive again. An interpreter with the Marines told the family that Mohammed was dead.
Mr. SUMAIDAIE: A single bullet had penetrated his neck and he was in a pool of blood. He was unarmed, that's for sure. He was not hostile and he had absolutely no connection with terrorists. Indications are that he was killed absolutely in cold blood.
GARCIA-NOVARRO: Sumaidaie was not there. The account was given to him by his family. But speaking from his UN office in New York, he says he believes the Marines were striking out at the people in the village due to attacks on their base.
Mr. SUMAIDAIE: Groups of marauding terrorists drive into these villages and fire mortar rounds into the American base and withdraw. The Americans then come and rough up the people in the area, ask for intelligence, ask for information. Marines get frustrated and do not believe the villages and, you know, the people in the community are telling them the truth. Tempers flare and maybe some people are killed.
GARCIA-NOVARRO: After requests by the media, the Marines issued a statement on Friday. In part, it reads, `The events described in the allegations roughly correspond to an incident involving coalition forces on that day in that general location. Therefore, a military inquiry has been initiated to review the circumstances and the facts surrounding the incident.'
Sumaidaie says the death of his young cousin has not changed his commitment to Iraq's government or the US military presence in the country, but he says those responsible must be brought to justice. The US military says the investigation will take several weeks.
Lourdes Garcia-Novarro, NPR News, Baghdad.