The Media Line, NY
Dec 31 2007


2007: The Year of the Assassination


Written by Yaniv Berman & Rachelle Kliger
Published Monday, December 31, 2007



Among the dead (left to right) Bashiir Noor Gedi, Antoine Ghanem,
Hrant Dink and Benazir Bhutto.
The year 2007 ended in the Middle East on a dramatic note, with the
assassination of Pakistani opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto.
Bhutto's killing by a gunman last Thursday was no isolated
assassination.

This year was marked by a number of political killings, which could
shape the political future of the region and affect the rest of the
world.

Pakistan

Bhutto's murder has already thrown Pakistan into political turmoil.
The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) estimates that the parliamentary
elections, originally scheduled for January 8 2008, will be postponed
for at least three months.

Sher Jan Marri, 32, a prominent Pakistani politician of the ruling
Pakistan Muslim League, was shot to death on October 10. Unidentified
attackers on a motorbike ambushed his car and fled after shooting
him. Marri was the former deputy mayor of Kohlu district, where
tribal rebels have been active.

A car carrying tribal elders associated with the Pakistani government
was the target of a motorcycle bomb in Sui on March 7. One of the
elders was killed and 12 others injured. The perpetrators have not
been identified. Experts have pointed their finger at local Taliban
operatives.

On February 9, six members of the PPPwere killed when unidentified
gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in Attock. The attack may relate
to the parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2008.

Two days earlier, a Pakistani Intelligence Bureau official, Naza
Muhammad, was killed when suspected Taliban gunmen on motorcycles
shot him in his car.

Lebanon

In Lebanon, a spate of politically motivated assassinations has
continued since the murder of former prime minister, Rafiq Al-Hariri,
in February 2005.

Lebanon lost two lawmakers in political assassinations this year:
MP Walid Eido, 65, killed in a car bomb in Beirut along with his son
Khalid and eight others on June 13. Eido represented the anti-Syrian
Al-Mustaqbal (The Future) Party, headed by Sa'ad Al-Hariri, Rafiq
Al-Hariri's son. Eido was a prominent critic of the Syrian-backed
Hizbullah.

MP Antoine Ghanem was assassinated in a bombing in Beirut's Christian
neighborhood Sin Al-Fil on September 19. Ghanem represented the
Kataib party, which lost another of its members, Pierre Gemayel, in
an assassination in November 2006.

Ghanem was considered an anti-Syrian legislator. In September 2004 he
voted against extending the term of Syrian-backed Lebanese President
Emile Lahoud.

Ghanem actively participated in the Cedar Revolution after
Al-Hariri's assassination in 2005.

Not only politicians were targeted in Lebanon.

Brigadier General Francois Hajj, a senior Lebanon Army commander, was
killed in a bombing in a Beirut suburb on December 12. Hajj had been
named a possible replacement for army commander Michel Suleiman, who
is expected to be elected the next Lebanese president.

Hajj was active in fighting Hizbullah control in southern Lebanon and
had fought against the Islamist Fatah Al-Islam organization.

Syria is largely believed to be behind these assassinations in
Lebanon as it seeks to eliminate opposition in the neighboring
country. Damascus denies all involvement in the killings.

Also in Lebanon, on April 26, Ziad Ghandour, 12, and Ziad Qabalan,
25, were kidnapped and murdered in Sidon. The crime was described as
revenge for the killing of 'Adnan Shamas, a 29-year-old Shi'ite,
during the anti-government demonstration in January 2007. The Shamas
family denied involvement in the murder. Qabalan and Ghandour's
fathers were both members of Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist
Party.

Iraq

Brigadier-General. Qeis Al-Mamouri, Chief of Police of Babil
Province, was killed on December 9, when five successive roadside
bombs exploded hitting his armored vehicle. The attack occurred 45
minutes after Major-General Rick Lynch, commander of Task Force
Marne, a combined U.S.Iraqi force responsible for Babil, completed a
press conference in Baghdad praising Al-Mamouri.

"I see amazing momentum on the local level. Let's focus in on General
Qeis of the Babil police. He is Iraqi, and if you are anti-Iraqi, he
is anti-you," General Lynch told a group of reporters the same day.

Six days earlier, Major General Fawzi Muhammad Hussein, was killed by
gunmen in Baghdad's Al-Jami'a district. Hussein was a senior adviser
to Interior Minister Jawad Al-Bolani, a Shi'ite who was unaffiliated
with any of the Shi'ite parties.

The governor of Al-Muthana Province, Muhammad 'Ali Al-Hassani was
killedby a roadside bomb on August 20, in an attack that Iraqi
officials called the result of an internal power struggle with a
rival Shi'ite armed group, the Mahdi Army. Al-Hassani was a member of
the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, one of Iraq's main Shi'ite
parties. He was the second governor of this powerful party to be
killed within 10 days.

On August 11, the governor of Qadisiyya Province,Khalil Jalil Hamza,
and his police chief, Major General Khalid Hassan, were killed by a
roadside bomb. The two were returning to the provincial capital,
Diwaniya. Qadisiyya has been the site of battles between the police
and the Shi'ite Mahdi Army.

The Councilor of Faouja City, Sami Naib Al-Jumeili, was killed on
April 21 in a drive-by shooting outside his home. Suspicion fell on
Al-Qa'ida, which was orchestrating terror attacks against politicians
cooperating with American and Iraqi officials.

Algeria

On February 6, the mayor of Benchoud, Algeria, was assassinated
outside his home. No one claimed responsibility for the attack but
the Al-Qa'ida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (QOIM) has been
active in the area.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan has seen a spate of attacks against high profile figures:


Mawlawi Fazel Ahmad Muslim, a top security council official for the
Kamdesh and Barikot districts, was killed by unidentified attackers
on April 30 when traveling between the two.

Abdol Manan, a Daman Province council member, was killed in his home
on February 27. It is unclear who was responsible for the attack.

Fatanah, the daughter of former Afghan president Borhanoddin Rabbani,
and her husband were attacked by unidentified gunmen in Kabul on
January 27. Fatanah was injured, but her husband was killed in the
attack.

Mawlawi Muhammad Islam Muhammadi, an MP from Samangan, was killed by
unidentified attackers on his way to a mosque in Kabul on January 26.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Ahmad Shah Wakilzada, the deputy chief of the Nurestan Provincial
Council, was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen while traveling
in Nangraj on January 15. No one has claimed responsibility for the
killing.

Bangladesh

A Bangladeshi public prosecutor, Hyder Hussein, was shotdead by
suspected members of the Jama'at Al-Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB)
Islamicist group in Jhalakathi on April 11. Hussein, presided in a
case against JMB members suspected of killing judges in Jhalakathi.

On January 6,two politicians were killed in Kushtia. Afaz Uddin, a
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) activist and Abu Daud of the
Jama'at-e-Islami Party. Members of the Purbo Banglar Communist Party
(PBCP) were suspected of carrying out the attack.

Somalia

Neither has the media emerged unscathed from the chaos. In Somalia,
where the government has been fighting Islamists for over a year,
seven journalists were slain in 2007. At least three of them were
deliberately targeted, supposedly because of their coverage, which
angered some parties to the conflict.

Mahad Ahmed Elmi from Capital Voice and Ali Sharmarke from HornAfrik
were killed in Mogadishu in two separate attacks on the same day,
August 11.

Elmi was shot in the head four times at close range. Sharmarke was
killed after attending Elmi's funeral that day. His car was hit by a
remotely detonated landmine.

Bashiir Noor Gedi, the acting manager of Radio Shabelle, was
assassinated outside his home in Mogadishu on October 19. The station
had been attacked and threatened in the past by both government
forces and Islamists.

Turkey

In Turkey, managing editor of the Turkish-Armenian Agos newspaper,
Hrant Dink, was shot dead outside his Istanbul office on January 19.
He had previously received death threats for his articles on the mass
slaughter of Armenians in the early twentieth century. Armenians say
these killings constitute genocide, whereas Ankara rejects this
definition.

Beyond the killings

Beside the politically motivated bloodbath witnessed in many Middle
Eastern countries, their regimes also impose restrictive laws and
political arrests are part of daily life. In Egypt, Iran, Bahrain,
and other states, political activists are picked up from the streets
and incarcerated, usually without trial.

In Pakistan, according to many analysts, the month-long state of
emergency imposed in November 2007 clearly sought to hamper proper
democratic processes.

And there are those who would argue that the execution of former Iraq
dictator Saddam Hussein and other officials from his regime could
also constitute an assassination.