Iraq Insurgents Kill Senior Sunni Leader

Khadim Sarhid al-Hemaiyem, the leader of Iraq’s Sunni Batta tribe, was murdered this morning by gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms.

Iraq Insurgents Kill Senior Sunni Leader (AP)

Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms broke into the home of a senior Sunni leader on Wednesday and killed him, his three sons and his son-in-law on the outskirts of Baghdad, his brother and an interior ministry official said. Khadim Sarhid al-Hemaiyem was the leader of the Sunni Batta tribe and the brother of a parliamentary candidate in the Dec. 15 election, the official Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi said. Another of the slain man’s brothers said the family has been attacked before. “A group of gunmen with Iraqi army uniforms and vehicles broke into my brother’s house in the Hurriyah area and sprayed them with machine gun fire, killing him along with three sons and his son-in law,” said his brother, Nima Sarhid Al-Hemaiyem. “His eldest son was assassinated one month ago in the Taji area, northern Baghdad, when unidentified men shot and killed him.”

Al-Mohammedawi said government forces were not involved and the investigation was focused on insurgents. “Surely, they are outlaw insurgents. As for the military uniform, they can be bought from many shops in Baghdad,” he said. “Also, we have several police and army vehicles stolen and they can be used in the raids.”

The slaying follows a big push by U.S. officials to encourage Sunni Muslim participation in the upcoming election, which will install the first non-transitional government in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Some Sunni-led insurgent groups have declared a boycott of the election and have threatened politicians who choose to participate in it.

The Batta tribe is one of Iraq’s largest Sunni tribes from the area north of Baghdad, where they are influential. Dozens of people went to al-Hemaiyem’s home, where the bodies were laid out, wrapped in blankets before the funeral.

Presuming these really were insurgents rather than rogue elements in the Iraqi military (and they could conceivably be both, as the vetting process is far from perfect) this is another in a long list of seeming blunders by their side. It makes no sense to alienate one’s own base.

Of course, to date, whatever damage they have done by killing their own seems not to have manifested in damage to their ability to sustain their reign of terror. How long that can be the case is anyone’s guess.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.