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FOB BERNSTEIN — The Iraqi Army (IA) reconciled more than thirty people in the Salah ad-Din province with technological help from 25th Infantry Division Soldiers, March 31.
Through a process that guarantees a wanted man will not be arrested unless he is guilty of murder, shaykhs and other local leaders convinced friends and family who have warrants out for their arrests to come here to reconcile their differences with the Government of Iraq.
“This reconciliation is a great opportunity for those people who are wanted but innocent; some are wanted for real crimes, but some of these men never did anything wrong,” said Shaykh Sami Husayn Abdulla al-Bayati, Muftul tribal leader.
Sami widely publicized the reconciliation event before it took place by distributing flyers and passing the word on to everyone he knows. “My people are very happy and enthusiastic about this,” he said. “They wanted to come here. All they have to do is give their name and have a photo taken and their name will be cleared.”
The 25th ID Soldiers helped the IA with security and biometric and fingerprint scans. Soldiers also scanned Iraqi identification cards and entered them into a database that the IA will keep for future use.
Spc. Charles Wagner was busy all morning entering identification documents right alongside Iraqi Soldiers. “This just provides extra clarification of who they are and adds documentation to say they’ve come in and reconciled,” said Wagner. “I can see that these guys are just trying to get on with their lives; what happened in the past, happened in the past.”
Shaykh Shokr Murshed Toama al-Bayati, who leads the people of the Thahab village, has attended five reconciliation events in the past. “We wish for this whole area to become peaceful again,” said Shokr. “We don’t want even one person left as ‘wanted.’ Then everyone can have a peaceful life in Iraq.”
Some attendees of the reconciliation event were wanted for petty crimes such as theft. Others insisted they were falsely accused of crimes they never committed.
“I’m one of the people who was accused of being a terrorist, but it was for personal reasons,” said Shaykh Salih Jassem Mohammad from Dibbaj. “Most people are here because of malicious gossip that went around several years ago. I have four wives and twenty sons and daughters – I would never take the risk of being a terrorist.”
The U.S. Army is working with the government of Iraq in Salah ad Din to develop better forensics techniques and teaching them that solid physical evidence is an important part of gaining convictions in court.
Tim Lorenzen, a Law Enforcement Professional who works with the STB, has arranged for local police to attend specialized forensic training at Contingency Operating Base Speicher near Tikrit. Iraqi Police are scheduled to learn the importance of crime scene photography, fingerprinting and accurate witness statements, as well as having the opportunity to train one-on-one with Lorenzen.
“People came to me to ask about this reconciliation,” said Salih. “I brought a lot of people. They were all comfortable because they see that Coalition forces are working with the Iraqi Army. Everyone knows they [the Iraqi Army] can be trusted now.”