Bremer Names Former Anti-Saddam Activist as New Governor of Najaf
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 6, 2004 A former prisoner of the Saddam Hussein regime who returned to Iraq from exile last year has been appointed as the new governor of Najaf province, coalition administrator Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III announced today in Baghdad.
Emphasizing that Iraqi authorities and the coalition are cooperating to reaffirm the rule of law and to restore order to the middle Euphrates area, Bremer said Adnan al- Zurufi's appointment will enhance that cooperation.
Bremer said he appointed Zurufi as Najaf's governor now because the difficulties and sufferings of the people of the middle Euphrates region can't wait for the turnover of sovereignty on June 30 and national elections in January.
"He is the right man for the job at this time," Bremer said. "A sports hero as a youth, Governor Zurufi showed his love of justice as the head of an anti-Saddam student organization. This led to his imprisonment and escape from Saddam's jails. He participated in the 1991 Iraq intifada, and was eventually forced into exile. He returned to Najaf in April last year."
Zurufi, a member of the Bani Hassan tribe, earned a degree in Islamic law at Alfik College, the Islamic jurisprudence college, in Najaf.
"Governor Zurufi's attachment to Najaf and his proven willingness to fight for justice will serve the people well as he administers the government," Bremer pointed out.
Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is believed to be in the city of Najaf, and has continued to incite his followers to violence. Iraqi authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Sadr in connection with the murder of a prominent Shiia cleric.
"The contrast between Governor Zurufi's love of justice and the behavior of another individual in the middle Euphrates could not be more stark," Bremer said. "Over the past few months, one man and armed elements under his control have spread lawlessness, fear and economic paralysis, especially in Najaf and Karbala."
Bremer said the lawless elements are attempting to advance the interests of one group at the expense of everyone else, and they've engaged in armed attacks to accomplish their goals.
"They've occupied and looted public and private property by force of arms," Bremer noted. "These armed bands have fired mortars from the courtyard of the mosque in Kufa. They've stored arms and munitions in the mosques of Iraq's holy cities. They have operated outside the rule of law by conducting their own courts and prisons. This must stop."
Sadr has threatened that coalition troops will face suicide attacks if they attack the holy city of Najaf. "We will resort to suicide operations, and we will be human time- bombs," Sadr told his followers during prayers in Kufa, outside Najaf, where he was thought to be holed up at that time.
Bremer said the people of the middle Euphrates are eager for a return to normal life, and he promised that they will have it. "There is no room in the new Iraq for the kind of lawless, self-interested behavior we have seen over recent weeks," he said.
The coalition is providing the civil authorities, Iraqi police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps with the authority and resources necessary to restore security and revive the regional economy, he noted.
"Additionally, we want to work with local authorities to establish zones in and around the holy shrines where only licensed weapons are carried by specially trained police," Bremer said. "No individual is above the law. No group is beyond the law. That is why we encourage Najaf's community leaders to come forth with proposals to bring matters to a reasoned and just resolution."
Establishment of lawful tranquility requires Sadr and his armed followers no more and no less than what is required of all citizens, Bremer said. "First, (Sadr) must face Iraqi justice for the crime of which he has been accused," he continued. "And second, his armed followers must disarm, as must the members of all such groups."
Bremer said the people of the middle Euphrates have asked the coalition for help, and help will be provided. "We will do all we can," he said, "but only Iraqis can provide the leadership necessary to reinstate and maintain the rule of law."