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Iraq Transition

Gunmen kill Hussein co-defendant's lawyer

Assassinations raise questions over resumption of trial



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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Gunmen shot and killed a lawyer for one of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants on Tuesday, Iraqi police told CNN.

He is the second lawyer involved in the trial to be assassinated within the past month. The killings are raising questions whether the trial over alleged crimes against humanity can be resumed as planned later this month.

Adil Muhammed al-Zubaidi was killed when three gunmen in a red Opel shot at the car he was driving in Baghdad. His passenger, another of the lawyers involved in the trial, was hurt. (Watch Aneesh Raman's report from Baghdad on the attack -- 1:40)

He had represented ex-Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, one of Saddam's longtime aides, in the Dujail case -- the first trial of alleged crimes against humanity by the former regime.

It was not immediately clear whom the injured attorney, Thamer Hamoud Hadi al-Khuzai, was representing in the case. (Special Report)

Police said there were no security guards with the lawyers when they were fired on at about 1 p.m. (5 a.m. ET) in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Adil.

The attack came nearly three weeks after another attorney in the case was killed.

Sadoon Janabi was shot in the head not long after he was kidnapped from his office on October 20. (Full story)

He had been representing Awad Hamad Bandar, the former chief judge of Hussein's Revolutionary Court.

He was killed the day after the trial of Hussein and his seven co-defendants began.

The defendants face charges related to events in Dujail in 1982, when more than 140 residents were sentenced to death following a failed assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein.

Janabi had refused any protection from the government and willingly appeared on videotape of the October 19 court proceedings, according to Dr. Laith Kubba a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Kubba condemned Janabi's assassination and said "the Iraqi government is committed to protecting the judges, the witnesses, lawyers, and all those who are involved in the trial of Saddam Hussein, and will not be deterred from pursuing the trial."

Abdul Haq al-Ani, the legal adviser for Saddam Hussein's daughters, called the killings "a real catastrophe."

"The trial cannot take place while lawyers are being assassinated," al-Ani said. (Read: Experts say trial may have to be moved)

The hearing is scheduled to be resumed on November 28.

Bomb factory found

U.S. forces uncovered a bomb-making factory and a weapons store on the fourth day of an operation to wrest control of the western Iraq town of Husayba from insurgents Tuesday.

Iraqi soldiers joined U.S. personnel working street-to-street and house-to-house to flush out rebels in the area near the Syrian border.

U.S. Marines assigned to "Operation Steel Curtain" also found the corpse of a man who had been bound, gagged and shot in the head on the southern outskirts of the town, a military news release reported.

"This is strong evidence of the murder and intimidation campaign the al Qaeda in Iraq-led terrorists waged in Husayba against anyone the insurgents felt were a threat or non-supportive of their aims," military spokesman Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool said.

Sporadic gunfire could be heard in the south of the town, reported CNN producer Arwa Damon, embedded with U.S. forces for the mission.

The military found 43 mortar rounds packed into a pick-up truck near tanks full of propane and detonators.

A sniper position was also discovered at a youth center.

"Operation Steel Curtain" is the latest in a series of U.S.-led operations in northwest Iraq.

U.S. commanders say the Syrian border region has been used by foreign fighters heading to Iraq and smuggling in weapons and add that Husayba has been taken over by insurgents and used as a command center.

The latest operation with about 3,000 U.S. personnel and 550 Iraqi soldiers is one of the largest since last year's battle to retake Falluja from insurgents.

An Iraqi garrison will remain in the area to prevent the return of insurgents as has happened after previous operations.

"The Iraqi army is building permanent locations in these areas," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, a U.S. military spokesman, said.

So far, one Marine and 36 insurgents have been reported killed during "Operation Steel Curtain."

Marine Lt. Col. Dale Alford said about 180 "military-age males" had been brought in for "secondary questioning" after having been stopped on the streets. Most will be released, he said.

In other developments:

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday that Iraqi troops were performing "exceedingly well" in the latest assault.
  • Five U.S. soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment have been accused of beating detainees in Iraq, the U.S. military said Monday. (Full story)
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