BAGHDAD — Several hundred Iraqi police recruits were being treated Monday in an outbreak of severe food poisoning that triggered a mutinous episode in southern Iraq, and the capital was shaken by the assassination of a vice president's brother.
Officials in Numaniya, about 80 miles southeast of Baghdad, said disorder broke out at a military base there Monday, the day after the recruits became ill. Angry recruits stoned the car of their commander.
Authorities said they had not yet established that the food poisoning, which broke out Sunday evening, was intentional. However, several people connected with the base dining facility were arrested, including the food supplier, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Khasim Mosawi said in a televised news conference.
Some local officials feared that the poisoning reflected a new and more frightening form of terrorism in an area that has been relatively free of violence. But a security official who requested anonymity said he thought the recruits were poisoned by meat served after its expiration date.
About 350 of the recruits remained in two local hospitals Monday, officials said.
The recruits began to collapse in pain Sunday while doing field drills after eating the large evening meal that breaks the day's fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
"I thought someone hiding somewhere was sniping at them with a silencer," said a base security official who would give only the name Ali.
Soldiers who did not eat the evening meal were not sickened, officials said.
Several members of the Wasit provincial council and the mayor of Numaniya, who asked not to be named out of fear for their safety, said they had received complaints from soldiers about abuse by Col. Amer Flaih Hasoon Dulaimi, commander of the 1,800-member national police brigade.
They said the colonel publicly reproached the recruits after they celebrated the birth date of one of the 12 Shiite Muslim imams with a meal and the singing of religious anthems.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, armed men arriving in a convoy of about 10 vehicles stormed the house of Amer Hashimi, killed him and his guards and kidnapped his son. Hashimi was the eldest brother of Tariq Hashimi, one of Iraq's two vice presidents and a top-ranking Sunni Arab politician.
Some of the attackers wore uniforms, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said.
Amer Hashimi was the third sibling of the vice president to be slain. Their sister, Maysoon Hashimi, was killed with her driver in April, two weeks after a brother, Mahmoud Hashimi, was killed while driving with friends.
Amer Hashimi was an officer in Saddam Hussein's army, and a year after the Iraqi leader was toppled by the U.S.-led invasion he became the army's chief of staff, a post he held from April to August 2004. He and four subordinates were dismissed under suspicion of aiding the insurgency.
Sunni political leaders said they held the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki responsible for the killing because it had failed to bring Shiite Muslim militias under control. The militias have been widely accused of carrying out killings of minority Sunnis.
"What makes us wonder is why they make promises about the militias that they can't fulfill?" said Saleem Abdullah of the Iraqi Accordance Front. "Every time we think there is a solution, it disappears."
The genocide trial of Hussein resumed Monday after a nearly two-week recess. During testimony, a Kurdish woman accused the deposed government of burying her family alive after destroying her village, rounding up men, women and children and herding them into camps where they were tortured and left hungry and exposed to the elements.
"I want you to ask Saddam Hussein a question," the woman said while testifying from behind a curtain in a heavily protected Baghdad courtroom. "What was the guilt of the women and children?"
The woman, 13 at the time of a large-scale counterinsurgency operation carried out by Hussein's forces in 1988, added: "I know what happened to my family. They were buried alive."
Hussein's defense attorneys again boycotted the trial, objecting to the court's decision to remove the first judge in the case, who was widely perceived by Shiites and Kurds as too lenient toward the former president and the defense.
In addition to four witnesses, the prosecution presented identification cards of Kurdish victims of the campaign, discovered in mass graves in southern Iraq. Though Iraqi security forces tried to seize the cards during the roundup of suspects, some victims managed to hide them on their person and smuggle them to their graves, giving forensic scientists valuable clues in building the case.
In other developments Monday:
* The U.S. military reported the deaths of three Marines. They were killed by hostile fire Sunday in Al Anbar province in western Iraq.
* Parliament set a vote for Wednesday on implementation of a federal system to transfer power from Baghdad to the provinces. Lawmakers will be choosing from among four plans.
* Disturbances continued in the southern city of Diwaniya, where the U.S. Army said it killed 30 militants in a gun battle early Sunday, said Sheik Abdul-Razaq Nadawi, manager of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr's office in the city. He said American forces raided a mosque in an attempt to arrest Sheik Khudair Ansari, a leader of the Sadr movement in the city. The U.S. troops withdrew after clashing with worshipers, several of whom were injured, he said.
* Besides that of Hashimi, at least 35 violent deaths were reported in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.
* Eleven Iraqi soldiers were reported kidnapped in a dawn raid on a checkpoint in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, a stronghold of Sadr's.
Times staff writers Borzou Daragahi, Saif Hameed, Saif Rasheed and Raheem Salman in Baghdad and special correspondents in Kuwait, Baghdad and the Iraqi cities of Baqubah, Mosul and Najaf contributed to this report.