Detained Iraqi Shi'ite militia chief threatens to kill politicians
A captive Shi'ite militia leader arrested in Iraq has made threats on leaders of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's political group. He was arrested after his group fired mortars into Saudi Arabia. He claims that they will be killed unless he is released within 24 hours.
The claims were made by Wathiq al-Battat during a brief phone call with Reuters on a mobile phone. He claimed to have been given the phone by a sympathetic prison guard. He also claims he was being held without charge in solitary confinement in a small cell, with no access to lawyers or his family.
Six weeks after his Iranian-backed al-Mukhtar Army fired six mortar bombs from southern Iraq into the Saudi desert, Battat was detained in Baghdad.
Al Battat claims that the attack was a warning to Saudi Arabia to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs.
During his threatening phone call from his cell on Monday evening, Battat said his Mukhtar Army would start killing members of Maliki's State of Law bloc running in April elections unless he is freed in 24 hours.
"The Mukhtar Army is giving them 24 hours," he said. "If I am not released all State of Law's candidates will be killed...one by one. Their homes and their headquarters will be targeted."
He also claimed that State of Law figures serving in the present government would be targets as well.
Iraqi officials were not available for comment.
Battat, whose voice is recognizable to Reuters, said he was keeping his identity from Sunni Muslim militants detained in the same prison. He requested that his location not be shared.
"I am not a terrorist. I do not have a feud with the state or its institutions and I will not target the police or army.
"My targets are al Qaeda and the takfiri country which exports terrorism to neighboring countries," he said, referring to Saudi Arabia. Opponents of Sunni agenas often refer to them as takfiris which is known to mean “those who condemn others, including Shi'ites, as apostates”.
Battat accused the authorities of detaining him in specific efforts to create a "sectarian balance" after they recently detained Sunni lawmaker Ahmed al-Alwani. He was arrested in the city of Ramadi in December during a raid in which Alwani's brother and several bodyguards were killed.