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Sunni Clerics OK Election Participation at Baqubah 'Peace Day'

By Sgt. Kimberly Snow, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAQUBAH, Iraq, Jan. 20, 2005 – Baqubah residents heard a religious order approving of Sunni Muslims participating in Iraq's Jan. 30 national assembly election at a "Peace Day" observance here Jan. 18.

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Government officials from Iraq's Diyala province gathered Jan. 18 to host Peace Day at the Diyala provincial government building in Baqubah. (Seated, left to right): 32nd Iraqi Army Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Haad Ibrahim Ali Mohammad Al Timimi, Diyala Province Military Advisory Committee President Mohammad Hamad Al Obaydi, Diyala Gov. Abdullah Hassan Rashid al-Jburi, Diyala Police Chief Col. Adel Muhlan Ghidan. Provincial Joint Coordination Center President Brig. Gen. Tahseen Tawfiq Jassen Al Haialy stands as a local sheikh offer the opening prayer. Photo by Sgt. Kimberly Snow, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Local government leaders, sheiks, clerics, former Baathists, and other Diyala province residents gathered here for an event aimed at quelling violence in the province and encouraging participation the upcoming elections.

The event, hosted by Diyala Gov. Abdullah Hassan Rashid al-Jburi, drew a crowd of about 150. On hand were 32nd Iraqi Army Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Haad Ibrahim Ali Mohammad Al Timimi, Diyala Police Chief Col. Adel Muhlan Ghidan, Provincial Joint Coordination Center President Brig. Gen. Tahseen Tawfiq Jassen Al Haialy and Diyala Province Military Advisory Committee President Mohammad Hamad Al Obaydi, who were available to field questions from attendees.

In hopes of separating them from hardened terrorists, local insurgents were encouraged to attend and were offered an opportunity to apply for amnesty for all crimes except murder. About 50 took advantage of the opportunity and signed pledges of nonviolence.

Haialy read a Fatwa a religious order during the meeting signed by a group of Sunni religious leaders of Diyala which reversed their position on upcoming elections, approving Sunni participation.

U.S. Army Col. Dana J.H. Pittard, 3rd Brigade Combat Team commander, also attended the event and addressed the gathering. "Sign the forms, talk to Iraqi security forces, and then be peaceful. That is all that is being asked of you," he said. "We are temporary guests in your great country, and we will leave when all is secure or when we are asked."

The event ended on a positive note when Pittard, as a symbol of goodwill, extended a peace offering in the form of a handshake to a local sheik with whom multinational forces have had strained relations. The sheik accepted and pledged to work together toward peace in Diyala.

(Army Sgt. Kimberly Snow is assigned to the 196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA local sheikh speaks to the panel of government officials gathered during a Peace Day event held Jan. 18 at the Diyala provincial government building in Baqubah, Iraq. Photo by Sgt. Kimberly Snow, 196th MPAD, USA  
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