Saturday, August 26, 2006

You didn't ask who told them the body was in the river

Mrs HusseinThis grandmother led a cold-blooded mission to avenge the death of her son. Nine men were executed. Paul McGeough reports.

THE lined face peers from shrouds of mourning black. Wabila Felehi Hussein is a 50-year-old grandmother, and her life is imploding.


Even a short time spent with this family reveals the grandmother's towering strength. Until now, all the blood-letting has been laid at the door of organised insurgency cells, religious militias, death squads that operate within the national security forces and tribal gangs. But this woman is being hailed by thousands as the Shiite mother who spectacularly - and brutally - avenged her son's death.


"We searched for 10 days before someone told us that Muthanna's body had been dumped in the river at Arabjabour [which is inside the Triangle of Death]. I asked the police to get him back. They said it was too dangerous. The Iraqi Army and the Mahdi Army [a Shiite militia] refused to recover him, so I had to do it myself."

Her adult sons - Adel, Saad and Mohanad - feared for their lives, so she organised 16 other men, guns and cars. Saad explains how finally she shamed them into action, threatening to go alone if they would not go with her.

As the convoy set out for Arabjabour, Wabila Felehi was in the first of five cars. The family was armed with borrowed weapons - three rocket-propelled grenade launchers, a few AK-47s and a handful of pistols.


… after fleeing Hoorijab, the mother set her sons working their mobile phones, calling the few who they could still trust in Hoorijab to get the name of the alasa who might have given Muthanna's name to the insurgency. "They got the name of the son of a local tribal sheik who lived near their house," he says. "When she sent the boys, she insisted he must be brought back to Sadr City alive, because no one was to be killed unless they had proof of their involvement in Muthanna's death.

"He was interrogated and gave up nine more names. Eight of them were abducted and brought back for interrogation … and then they killed them with guns, knives and by bashing some of them. Adel killed six; Saad killed three."

So then, if this is democratic Iraq, Wabila Felehi Hussein is unimpressed with the new Middle East. But as she slip-slapped her hands in disgust, she was contemptuous. "This is not democracy … we have no stability, no future. It would be better if we all were dead … get me out of Iraq."

Tears streaming down her face, she hit bottom. "We were happy when the Americans came. They lifted the Saddam darkness, but now they have led us into a new, blacker darkness."

Full story here. Go read.


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