Iraqi official Jabr relieved of duties

Iraqi official Jabr relieved of dutiesBy Paul Martin
December 23, 2005
Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, overseer of two detention centers raided by U.S. troops in the past two months, has been relieved of his duties, according to a former Iraqi special forces commander at the ministry.

The interior minister is being investigated in connection with abuse of prisoners, torture and killings carried out by his officers, Gen. Muntazar Jasim al-Samarrai, the former special forces chief, told The Washington Times in a telephone interview from Amman, Jordan.

The general said he has taken up residence in Jordan after fleeing Iraq because of death threats.

Mr. Jabr is being brought to a ministry building daily for questioning by U.S. investigators, Gen. al-Samarrai said.

Mr. Jabr, who until shortly before his appointment in May had been a senior commander in the Iranian-trained Badr forces, has not officially been arrested, but is confined in Baghdad’s highly fortified green zone.

The American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, has made it clear that the current interior minister could not retain his post in any new government formed in the wake of last week’s elections.

"The selection of the minister of interior will be very important. You can’t have someone sectarian. You need to have someone who has the confidence of all communities," he said.

Mr. Jabr is closely identified with the militant religious wing of Iraq’s majority Shi’ite community.

Gen. al-Samarrai also reported that the officer in charge of the detention centers, Tahseer Nasr Lawandi, has been arrested. Mr. Lawandi is purported to be an Iranian intelligence colonel granted Iraqi citizenship and promoted to general in recent months.
Mr. Lawandi had been working directly under the Kurdish deputy minister for the criminal intelligence service, Gen. Hussein Kamal, and was known throughout the ministry as "The Engineer." Among his duties was to run interrogations at a facility in Aryan, where U.S. forces freed at least 166 prisoners who, they said, showed severe signs of torture or starvation or both.

Gen. Samarai said in The Times early this month there were several other detention centers where torture was routine, but which so far U.S. forces had not raided.
An official investigation was ordered by the Iraqi government.

One of the current governments key components is the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which runs the Badr forces and has strong links to Iran.
Under recent legislation, militias were to have been disarmed and merged into official security forces.

A preliminary report was to be made public just before the elections, but its publication was blocked by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, according to political sources. At a press conference, Mr. al-Jaafari promised the report would be finalized "very soon."