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Saddam's Principal Defense Lawyer Slain in Baghdad

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

We're tracking several casualties of war this morning. We begin in Baghdad, where one of Saddam Hussein's lawyers was found dead today. He was abducted from his home, and his body dumped on a Baghdad street.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay reports on the third lawyer from the defense team to be killed.

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

Unlike the other lawyers defending Saddam, Khamis al-Obeidi chose to ignore threats and continue to live in Baghdad. His home is in Dora, one of the most volatile Sunni-dominated neighborhoods in the capital, where Iraqi policeman are often too afraid to tread.

Officials say Obeidi was taken from his home by men dressed in police uniforms. His body was found shot to death on a street in a neighborhood called Bernuk(ph) in eastern Baghdad, near the Shiite slum of Sadr City.

At first, police were going to place him along with other bodies they hadn't identified. Part of their grisly daily routine is colleting dumped bodies and bringing them to Baghdad's morgue. But someone recognized his face from television coverage of the trial. He was one of the main lawyers defending Saddam and his brother-in-law, Barzan al-Tikriti.

Saddam's chief lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, blamed the killing on the Interior Ministry, which has been infiltrated by Shiite militia strongly opposed to any kind of support for the former Iraqi leader.

Sunni Arabs ruled Iraq during Saddam's regime. Many have fled the country, while others who remain make up the bulk of the insurgency responsible for scores of deadly attacks against Shiites. Last October, a dozen masked gunmen abducted defense lawyer Saadoun al-Janabi from his Baghdad office. He was killed only days after the opening session into the trial of Saddam and seven others on charges of crimes against humanity. Nearly three weeks later, another defense lawyer was shot and killed in an ambush in Baghdad, in broad daylight.

It's been one of the defense team's most pressing complaint to the Iraqi tribunal trying Saddam: the need for better protection because of the constant danger.

Two other bodies were recovered this morning in Baghdad. Both unidentified. Both showing signs they'd been tortured.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jamie Tarabay
After reporting from Iraq for two years as NPR's Baghdad Bureau Chief, Jamie Tarabay is now embarking on a two year project reporting on America's Muslims. The coverage will take in the country's approx 6 million Muslims, of different ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and the issues facing their daily lives as Americans.
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