Sunday, January 21, 2007
The Sunday Telegraph
"Palestinians living in Iraq have been warned that they will be killed by Shia militias unless they leave the country immediately.
Iraqi police say the immigrants, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, are the target of a backlash by hardline Shias, including members of the Mehdi Army led by the Shia preacher Moqtada al-Sadr.
More than 600 Palestinians are believed to have died at the hands of Shia militias since the war began in 2003, including at least 300 from the Baladiat area of Baghdad. Many were tortured with electric drills before they died.
Now the Shia militias are stepping up their campaign to drive out Iraq's 20,000 remaining Palestinians – half the estimated 40,000 living in the country at the start of the war, all of whom were welcomed by Saddam Hussein and provided with housing, money and free education.
Hundreds of Iraqis were forced to leave their homes to make way for the migrants, many of whom joined the ruling Ba'ath party.
Sheik Mahmoud El Hassani, a spokesman for the Mehdi Army, said the Palestinians had brought their suffering on themselves. He said Shias believed they were in league with Sunni extremists and al-Qaeda.
"We are sure that all the Palestinians in Iraq are involved in killing the Shia people and they have to pay the price now," he said. "They lived off our blood under Saddam. We were hungry with no food and they were comfortable with full bellies. They should leave now, or they will have to pay."
Kareem Zakia, 61, said his son, Yeha Ahmed, was kidnapped and killed in the Karada area of Baghdad two weeks ago. "The kidnappers called me and told me that they had taken my son because he came from Palestine and all the Palestinians support the Sunni terrorists. I found my son's body the next day with many holes in his belly made by a drill."
He ordered his two other sons to leave with his wife and two daughters, but neighbouring Jordan refused to allow them to cross the border – as it has with many Palestinians trying to flee Iraq.
Ahmed Mahmood, 26, a Palestinian in Baladiat, said he had paid a ransom of nearly £3,000 to free his brother, Murad Mahmood, 38.
The kidnappers in Sadr City, a Shia area of Baghdad, told him where to collect his brother, but he arrived to find he had been killed.
"We found him dead with signs of torture on his body," Ahmed said. "They called us the next day and said, 'We killed your brother because all the Palestinians in Iraq love Saddam Hussein and this is what will happen to you and all your families'."
Captain Sary Farhan, a police spokesman, said people had been arrested for the killings but later released.
"All these criminals belong to Shia militias and were released a few days after. They have strong backing in the government," he said. Police report Iranian weapons have been taken from arrested militia members.
The Iraqi interior ministry says 7,700 police officers have been sacked for suspected membership of death squads. Of those, 665 are in jail awaiting trial."