Police End Iraqi Embassy Occupation
Police told reporters they freed the hostages and arrested five militants in a rescue mission that took only about five minutes. Spokeswoman Christine Rother said the five hostage-takers did not resist arrest, and said no shots were fired during the police operation.
Officials said the group, which called itself the Democratic Iraqi Opposition of Germany, initially took four staff members as hostages, including Iraqi First Secretary Shamil A. Mohammed, the embassy’s highest-ranking diplomat.
Police said the militants had threatened embassy workers with weapons, but did not specify what kind of weapons were used. There were no immediate details about how the attackers got into the embassy, which German police normally patrol.
Two of the hostages — one male and one female ? were taken from the scene hours earlier to be treated for minor injuries; one person was injured from an apparent pepper spray attack, while the other was in shock. The injuries came around the time the dissidents forced their way into the building, police spokesman Carsten Graefe said.
Although Rother had said two hostages were released after the police rescue raid, Graefe later said he could not confirm that figure.
After seizing the embassy, the dissidents released a statement saying the move was a “peaceful and temporary” demonstration demanding the overthrow of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
“We are taking over the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin and thereby take the first step toward the liberation of our beloved fatherland,” the group said.
The Iraqi National Congress, the country’s main opposition party in exile, condemned the embassy occupation. It said the new opposition group was probably created a couple months ago and did not represent Iraq’s larger opposition movement.
Mohammad Al-Douri, Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters in New York that Tuesday was “the first time we have heard about this [group].”
“Certainly they have been pushed by somebody else, some government perhaps,” he said. “We don’t know. But it seems like that.”
Earlier, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in Baghdad called the occupation an act of “terrorist aggression” by mercenaries of the Israeli and U.S. intelligence services.
The embassy siege comes after German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder renewed his criticism of a possible U.S. intervention against Iraq. Schroeder told a German newspaper earlier this month the Middle East needs “new peace, not new war” and said anything else could worsen the world economic crisis.