BEIRUT

Middle East

US citizen sentenced to life in Iraqi prison

An Iraqi tailor sews a national flag at his worshop in Baghdad on September 20, 2012. AFP/ PHOTO / SABAH ARAR

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi court has sentenced an American citizen to life in prison on charges of assisting al-Qaida and financing terrorist activities in Iraq, according to a government statement.

The Interior Ministry said Omar Rashad Khalil, 53, was recruited by al-Qaida in Iraq in 2005. Khalil, an architectural engineer, is of Palestinian descent and entered Iraq in 2001, the ministry statement said.

The ministry released excerpts from a confession it said Khalil made in which he admitted to receiving money from a Syrian man in the United Arab Emirates to pay for terror attacks.

Also known as Abu Mohammed, Khalil was sentenced by Baghdad's central criminal court on Wednesday. Iraqi government officials could not immediately be reached for more details Thursday.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Frank J. Finver, said embassy officials were aware of the reports and were checking them. He declined immediate comment.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Justice Ministry said six people convicted on terrorism charges were executed on Thursday, bringing the number of executions since the beginning of this year to 102. The ministry statement had no further details and did not identify the six.

The increase in government-sanctioned executions in Iraq has raised concerns among international human rights observers about whether the defendants are receiving fair trial. Iraq has shrugged off calls to abolish the death penalty.

Also Thursday, police and health officials said five bystanders were killed and 13 people wounded in a morning car bombing in Baghdad.

The explosives-packed car went off in the upscale Sunni-dominated Mansour district, two police officers said. The blast narrowly missed a passing convoy of employees working for an unidentified security company. Three policemen at a nearby checkpoint were among those wounded in the attack, the officers said.

A medical official in a nearby hospital confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Violence has dropped in Iraq since the height of insurgency a few years ago but militants still launch deadly attacks nearly every day. The Sunni-dominated al-Qaida in Iraq has for years sought to undermine Iraq's Shiite-led government with large-scale attacks that target security forces and Shiites almost every month.

 

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