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A Day in the Life of Najaf's Police Chief By: Michael Georgy
The Washington Times | Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Militants had just kidnapped and dragged his ailing 80-year-old father through the streets. They also beat his brothers until they collapsed. Forty of his men were killed and several were beheaded. 

It's tough being the police chief of Najaf — the Iraqi city that is sacred to millions of Shi'ites and a battleground pitting Shi'ite militia against U.S. Marines and Iraqi police and national guardsmen.

"They told me that I could go in the place of my father," said Chief Ghalib al-Jezairy who is high on the militant hit list. As he spoke late Monday night his father was still being held. 

The stress and exhaustion showed on the face of the man who is trying to keep morale high in a police force facing thousands of supporters of firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. 

Many are holed up inside the sacred Imam Ali shrine in anticipation of a major U.S. offensive. 

But they still have time to roam the streets, some hoping to fire assault rifles or rocket-propelled grenades at Iraqi police officers, who say they are in dire need of more flak jackets and heavier weapons. 

"What they did to my father was inhuman. He is a dying old man. They beat my brothers until they fainted," Chief al-Jezairy told reporters as the sound of mortars being fired could be heard in a nearby cemetery that has turned into a battle zone. 

They beheaded one of his relatives and Sheik al-Sadr's Mahdi's Army militants have gouged out the eyes of some of his officers and boiled them in water, he said. 

"Do Iraqi police behead people?" he asked. "This is barbaric. They enter people's homes, and they kill the relatives of policemen. 

"Thirty minutes ago, someone else was slaughtered," he said at the concrete Najaf police station where a fresh batch of detained men were being processed. 

The police lot was occupied by impounded buses used by the Mahdi's Army, a militia bent on removing U.S. forces from Najaf and the rest of Iraq and ousting their Iraqi allies. 

High barricades of earth-filled bags attached to wire mesh are used to try and keep the Mahdi's Army and suicide bombers out of the station. The smell of munitions cordite was still fresh in the air hours after a nearby attack. 

Hundreds from the police force have been killed across Iraq in bombings, shootings and beheadings. The police force has been struggling with security along with other Iraqi forces since the Americans granted sovereignty to Iraq on June 28. 

Few police cars are seen far away from the station. 

"Many police have been beheaded and burned," Chief al-Jezairy said of a force that is on the receiving end of every size of mortar bomb and armor-piercing grenades, as well as machine-gun fire. 

A few days ago the police captured about 300 militants. But more and more Iraqis are signing up for the Mahdi's Army, hoping to become martyrs in a country where young men facing high unemployment have few options. 




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