Geneva – The Iraqi security forces killed 20 civilians, including four women and at least 12 children, on Thursday, when they raided a home in Jableh, north of the Babil Governorate in central Iraq, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement expressing complete shock.
Initial data indicate that the security forces carried out a horrific massacre using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and heavy firearms without proportionality, in a family dispute without security dimension, contrary to the first official narrative that linked the incident to confronting terrorism.
This crime calls for an immediate, independent investigation to find out the details of what happened, identify the perpetrators, and bring them to justice.
At about 3 p.m., a security force backed by dozens of military vehicles surrounded a rural house belonging to resident Rahim Al-Ghuriri. Then, clashes erupted between the security force and Rahim. The force used heavy firepower, including heavy machine gun fire and several RPGs.
The clashes went on for four hours and left 20 civilians killed, including Rahim, his wife, six of his sons and daughters, his daughter-in-law, and a number of his grandchildren. Twelve children were killed.
The victims who were identified: Rahim Al-Ghuriri, his wife Yusra Ahmed, their children (Salam, Karim Rahim, Firas, Ayoub, Ibtisam and her two children, and Diana and her four children), Salam's wife Shaima Hilal, and their children (Abdullah, Saad, Anoud, and Anwar).
A state of confusion and contradiction marred the official narrative of the details of what happened. A security telegram reported, “At about 3 p.m., after receiving information from the Jableh intelligence that there were two wanted men in the Al-Rashid area in the home of Rahim Kazem Iyadah Al-Ghuriri, the Jableh intelligence detachment left to the relevant place. When the force arrived, the owner of the house opened fire on the intelligence detachment. The latter sent an appeal to the SWAT forces detachments, who came to the place and surrounded the house, and clashes took place with its owner.”
“The owner of the house shot two security men, and at 7 p.m., the clashes ended. After that, as the force entered the house, all members of the family were found dead,” the telegram said.
In turn, the Security Media Cell (governmental) said two suspects of terrorism in Jableh were pursued, and after surrounding them, they opened indiscriminate fire on the security forces, injuring several officers.
In a subsequent statement, the cell said that “the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces ordered the National Security Agency to investigate the case in coordination with the Court of Appeal of the Babil Governorate,” and that “a number of officers and persons were arrested in connection with this incident, for which the investigation is still ongoing.”
Later, the Governor of Babil, Hassan Mandeel Al-Sariawi, said in a press conference that it was a “criminal, not a terrorism, incident,” noting that the accused was wanted to Baghdad's courts.
“Investigative procedures are underway. We have initial details, but they are kept confidential” to preserve the crime scene, he said.
The governor added that the accused “was not wanted [to the authorities in Babil], but had had an arrest warrant against him under Article 406. The judicial order issued against him recently was from Baghdad courts, and the police tried to implement this order in Babil.”
“The intelligence called for support from the security forces, and there was an exchange of fire. The security forces were later surprised, after entering the incident scene, that there were a number of victims,” he said.
On the other hand, eyewitnesses confirmed that Rahim's house was targeted with heavy fire power and several RPGs.
Rahim's sister stated that her brother "was not wanted on terrorism charges, and that the matter was a family dispute, as he had two married daughters who were staying at his home after each had a dispute with her husband. As a result, the large security force came, and a clash took place. But the security force used heavy firepower without any proportionality.”
She accused her brother's brother-in-law, who belongs to the security forces in Baghdad, of bringing the force after a family dispute, and this is against the first official narrative that he was wanted on terrorism charges.
Forensic officers confirmed the use of medium weapons and RPGs on house, which led to the deaths of those in it.
In a related development, Iraqi media reported that Iraqi Minister of Interior, Othman Al-Ghanimi, decided Friday to dismiss Babil’s police chief and ordered the formation of a specialized investigative committee to interrogate the force that carried out the attack.
The contradiction that prevailed in the official narratives of the incident and attempting to present it as a security treatment of a terrorist cell indicates an intention to justify or cover up the disproportionate use of force.
The formation of an independent investigation committee is necessary to reveal the details of the horrific crime and ensure that those involved in it are brought to justice.
The security authorities that provided misleading leaks about the motives and details of the crime in an attempt to reduce it or cover up what happened should also be investigated.
The Iraqi authorities should take urgent measures to ensure that law enforcement forces and agencies are not used for the personal interests of some influential parties or individuals, away from the principles of law in arrest and execution.