Jihadists have reportedly captured and killed the judge who sentenced former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to death as the US confronts the threat of civil war in the country.
Al-Mesyroon reports that Raouf Abdul Rahman, who sentenced Hussein to death in 2006, was killed by rebels as revenge for ordering the death of the 69-year-old. His death has not been confirmed by the Iraqi government.
Jordanian MP Khalil Attieh wrote on Facebook page that Rahman, who had headed the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal during Hussain’s trial, had been arrested and killed.
“Iraqi revolutionaries arrested him and sentenced him to death in retaliation for the death of the martyr Saddam Hussein,” he said.
It comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged “intense” support for Iraq against the “existential threat” of the major militant offensive pushing toward Baghdad from the north and west.
Flying in from Jordan, Mr Kerry met with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders on Monday to urge a speeding up of the government formation process in order to face down the insurgents.
The United States’ “support will be intense, sustained, and if Iraq’s leaders take the steps needed to bring the country together, it will be effective,” Mr Kerry told journalists in Baghdad.
But the danger to Iraq, he said, is dire.
“It is a moment of decision for Iraq’s leaders,” Mr Kerry said. “Iraq faces an existential threat and Iraq’s leaders have to meet that threat.”
During their talks, Mr al-Maliki also emphasised the danger of the crisis, telling Mr Kerry it “represents a threat not only to Iraq but to regional and international peace”.
Iraqi security forces are struggling to hold their ground in the face of an insurgent onslaught that has seized major areas of five provinces, displaced hundreds of thousands of people and sparked fears the country could be torn apart.
Mr al-Maliki’s security spokesman said on Monday “hundreds” of soldiers had been killed since the insurgents launched their offensive on June 9.