Coalition Forces Detain Self-Proclaimed Mayor of Baghdad
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 27, 2003 Coalition forces detained Mohammed Muslim Al Zubaidi today near the Coalition Civil Military Coordination Center, according to U.S. Central Command officials.
Elements of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, took Al Zubaidi into custody because he obstructed coalition efforts to get Iraqis back to work and exercised authority he did not have, officials said in a press release.
Al Zubaidi appeared unannounced in Baghdad in the wake of the coalition seizure of the Iraqi capital and the destruction of the former regime. In a media statement he issued on April 17, Al Zubaidi proclaimed himself mayor of Baghdad and further claimed he was sponsored by the Iraqi National Congress and selected by an executive council representing clerics, Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, academics and writers. Then on April 20, Al Zubaidi began issuing letters to the managers of public services such as power plants and banks in Baghdad directing them not to operate unless they had received documents from him authorizing operations.
Without authority, he purported to fire legitimate, licensed and competent power company employees and in their stead placed his deputy Al Ubaidi in charge of power. He then appointed other persons to operate water, power, sewage and bank facilities in Baghdad. Al Zubaidi and Al Ubaidi attempted to exercise authority in the region not representative of the interests of the people in Baghdad, while obstructing the normal means of governance for their own self-interests, officials said.
Barbara Bodine, Organization for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance representative for the central region in Iraq, said that Al Zubaidi was not the mayor of Baghdad, since he had not been elected and had not been recognized by the interim coalition authority administering Iraq.
Coalition officials met with Al Zubaidi and informed him that he had no authority. Although he acknowledged his lack of authority, he continued to subvert coalition authority attempts to restore public services by replacing people who were working with the coalition with his own people, CENTCOM officials said.
Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of Coalition Forces Land Component Command, delivered a letter to Al Zubaidi April 23, warning him that he was misrepresenting himself. The letter directed him to move out of the Palestine Hotel, well away from coalition forces, and cease his efforts to subvert the coalition's restoration of services.
McKiernan also issued a proclamation reaffirming to the citizens of Iraq that coalition forces are committed to improving the security situation and repairing damaged infrastructure. Along with encouraging Iraqis to return to work, the proclamation also made clear that the coalition alone retains absolute authority within Iraq.
In the proclamation - distributed in handbills, through radio programs and in person - McKiernan warned that "those that choose to wield power without the express authority of the coalition will be considered unfavorably by the coalition" and that "failure to abide by these instructions will be viewed as criminal behavior."
Al Zubaidi did not follow McKiernan's directive. He instead moved across the street into the Sheraton Hotel and continued his subversive actions. He was detained and then removed from Baghdad to prevent his continued misrepresentation of his authority as the mayor of Baghdad, officials said.
Coalition forces also detained about seven members of Al Zubaidi's organization. Five have been released; the others were held at an internment facility in Iraq. Officials have made no decision on the next step to ensure Al Zubaidi does not interfere with the restoration of Iraq.
Al Zubaidi's efforts to take political and personal advantage during this transitional period in Iraq's move to a representative government made it necessary for coalition forces to act decisively against him, CENTCOM officials said. The coalition will continue to move decisively against any individual or group exercising or claiming political authority outside the coalition.
The coalition is committed to ensuring that the people of Iraq elect their own future political leaders in Iraq, officials said, and will work to ensure there is no interference with the Iraqi people's moves toward self-governance and reconstruction.
Until an Iraqi government is formed, the coalition is the only legitimate government authority in Iraq.
(Based on a U.S. Central Command release.)