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Authorities Resort To Saddam-Era Laws To Detain 'Street People'
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 20, 2008

BAGHDAD, IRAQ--On Wednesday, Iraqi and U.S. occupation officials began turning to pre-invasion laws to remove beggars, homeless people, and people with disabilities from the streets of Baghdad.

The announcement by the Ministry of the Interior came three weeks after two women walked into crowded animal markets when explosives they were wearing were remotely detonated. Nearly 100 people died in the February 1 blasts.

Early news accounts described the women as having "mental disabilities" while later reports said they had Down syndrome. Authorities said the women were probably selected by the terrorist group al-Qaeda in Iraq because they would not question why they were being loaded down with bombs, and because they could move around the streets without drawing suspicion.

On Wednesday, U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said the women likely did not have Down syndrome. Both, however, had been recently treated for schizophrenia and depression at local mental institutions.

Now investigators are trying to determine whether terrorists somehow gained access to hospital and institution records to recruit the women.

On Tuesday, authorities announced that beggars, homeless people and people with disabilities would be rounded up, removed from the streets, and arrested -- to protect them from being used by terrorists as weapons to kill others. Those found to have broken the law are to be jailed. Those found to have intellectual or psychiatric disabilities are to be shipped off to mental institutions. Some will be allowed to stay with families if they agreed to remain inside their homes.

The BBC reported that the actions are being carried out under laws that prevailed at the time of former Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein.

Several news sources reported that very few people were detained on Wednesday, presumably because word got out about the sweeps.

"We couldn't arrest anybody because they were not available," said Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf. "But we will continue our campaign."

"These people with mental defects can cause a lot of damage if they are left on the streets and taken advantage of by al-Qaeda," Khalaf said. "Their proper place is in the hospitals."

"US: Bombers Didn't Have Down Syndrome" (Associated Press)
"Iraqi police detain street people" (BBC News)
"Disabilities And The "War On Terror" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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