Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Iraq: The War We Won, Continues. Mission Accomplished.
July 11, 2006
50 Killed in Baghdad as Iraqi Violence Worsens
By KIRK SEMPLE
BAGHDAD, July 11 — More than 50 people were killed in Baghdad on Tuesday in violence that included a double suicide bombing near busy entrances to the fortified Green Zone, scattered shootings, mortar attacks, a series of car bombs and the ambush of a bus with Shiite mourners returning from a burial.
Tuesday’s killings, many of them apparently executed with sectarian vengeance, raised the three-day death toll in the capital alone to well over 100, magnified the daunting challenges facing the new government and deepened a sense of dread among Iraqis.
Many of the attacks, particularly those in neighborhoods primarily populated by one religious group or another, bore the hallmarks of sectarian militias, both Sunni Arab and Shiite. Militias now appear to be dictating the ebb and flow of life in Iraq, and have left the new government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and his American counterparts scrambling to come up with a military and political strategy to combat them.
Mr. Maliki has a new security strategy for Baghdad, where the sharp rise in violence over the past few months has been felt most acutely. The plan, which was implemented a month ago and features a constellation of new checkpoints, does not seem to have curbed the mayhem. “The security plan did not succeed,” Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish legislator, told reporters on Tuesday. “There must be solutions for this situation, which is out of control.”
Also on Tuesday, Wisam Jabir Abdullah, an Iraqi diplomat posted in Iran who was on vacation in Baghdad, was kidnapped from his home by gunmen, the Interior Ministry official said.
The worsening security crisis in Baghdad and several neighboring provinces, which many Iraqis are saying feels like a low-grade civil war, prompted lawmakers on Tuesday to summon the interior and defense ministers to address Parliament on Thursday, according to Jalal Adin al-Sagheer, a senior official in the country’s largest Shiite political bloc.
During the current spike in the violence, Mr. Maliki has been restrained in his comments. On Monday, he made an appeal for national unity during a speech in Iraqi Kurdistan, and during a news conference in Erbil on Tuesday, he dismissed the notion that the country was descending into civil war.
“I don’t see the country falling into a civil war despite the regrettable activities of certain people who ignore that Iraq is united,” the prime minister said, according to Agence France-Presse. “The security services are still in control of the situation.”
He added, “We have the capacity, if necessary, to impose order and suppress those who rebel against the state.”
Mr. Maliki also issued a brief statement decrying the attack on the Shiite mourners. Efforts to seek additional comment from his office on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
At least another eight people were slain in insurgent attacks outside the capital, including the wife of a provincial governor, who was killed by a bomb while treating patients at her gynecology clinic. But Tuesday’s violence was largely concentrated in Baghdad.
The country’s largest Sunni Arab bloc said that in the interest of promoting calm, it would end its 10-day boycott of Parliament. Sunni legislators suspended their participation on July 2 after a colleague, Tayseer Najah al-Mashhadani, was kidnapped. Many Sunni Arabs have blamed the abduction on the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to the militant cleric Moktada al-Sadr. Mr. Sadr and his deputies, however, have denied any involvement.
A Sunni Arab leader, Alaa Makki, said in a telephone interview that the bloc’s decision to participate once again was influenced by Mr. Sadr, who on Sunday issued an appeal for harmony and the convening of a special meeting of Parliament to address the sectarian bloodshed.
The concession and the hope of broad political collaboration come as many Iraqis sink deeper into despair.
“I think the violence in Iraq will never stop,” Rasha Adnan, 26, an unemployed business manager in Baghdad, said in a telephone interview late Tuesday, echoing comments of many other residents during the past few days. “It will only rise.”
The sudden surge in violence began Sunday morning when a group of Shiite gunmen appeared on the streets of a predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhood in western Baghdad and began executing people. This vigilantism appeared to come as retribution for the bombing of a Shiite mosque the day before, and astonished Iraqis even in the current climate of relentless violence. It was then followed by what seemed to be retributive car bomb attacks against another Shiite mosque on Sunday.
Estimates of the number of killings in Baghdad on Sunday range from at least 30 to more than double that number. And at least 30 died in violence on Monday, officials said.
In Tuesday’s most deadly attack, two pedestrians wearing vests made of explosives blew themselves up near a restaurant outside the walls of the Green Zone, within a few hundred yards of three busy entrances, Iraqi and American officials said. Soon after the initial blasts, a hidden bomb was detonated nearby, adding to the carnage, the American military said. Some Iraqi authorities said the third explosion was caused by a car bomb.
At least 15 Iraqi civilians and one Iraqi police officer were killed in the blasts, and four people were wounded, according to the American military command.
In Internet posting, two prominent insurgent groups claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq said it was behind the two suicide bombings, according to SITE Institute, which monitors jihadist postings on the Internet. The Islamic Army in Iraq claimed in a separate posting that it was responsible for the third explosion, which it said was a car bomb, according to a translation provided by SITE.
The parallel claims raise the possibility of a coordinated strike between the two groups, though they do not have a history of working together and, moreover, are thought to be rivals. The Mujahideen Shura Council is a radical jihadist group associated with Al Qaeda, while the Islamic Army in Iraq is led by former Baath Party members, who are considered more secular and have no history of suicide attacks, according to Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute.
The Islamic Army said it had struck in revenge for the rape and slaying of an Iraqi girl in Mahmudiya, a crime for which five American soldiers have been charged and a sixth man, a recently discharged American soldier, has been arrested.
According to SITE, this attack appeared to be the first suicide operation by the Islamic Army.
In a predominantly Sunni Arab area of Dawra, a district in southern Baghdad, gunmen ambushed a bus carrying Shiite mourners from the holy city of Najaf, where they had buried a relative, government officials and family members said. The gunmen pulled 10 people from the bus and executed them, according to an Interior Ministry official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
An hour earlier, in Taji, north of Baghdad, gunmen ambushed another bus, killing one person and wounding five, the ministry official said. It was unclear whether the two bus attacks were related.
Two mortar grenades hit a Shiite mosque in Dawra, killing 9 and wounding 11 civilians, the Interior Mnistry official said.
In other violence, a family of five — a father and mother and their grown daughter and two teenage sons — were found beheaded in a predominantly Sunni Arab sector of Dawra, according to an official at Yarmouk Hospital, the main medical facility in western Baghdad.
The police and hospital officials also reported that four car bombs around Baghdad killed at least 7 people and wounded at least 18.
Gunmen raided a company’s offices in the upper-middle-class Mansour neighborhood, killing three employees and wounding three, officials said.
According to the official at Yarmouk Hospital, five bodies were discovered early Tuesday in Jihad, the neighborhood where dozens of people were reportedly executed by marauding gunmen on Sunday. It was unclear when the victims had been killed.
Violence also inflicted casualties outside Baghdad.
In Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, the wife of the governor of Salahuddin Province was killed by a time bomb that detonated as she was treating patients, according to Agence France-Presse, quoting local police. The governor’s wife, Ameera al-Rubaie, a gynecologist, was killed and four of her patients were wounded, the police said, according to the wire service.
In Baquba, north of Baghdad, the mayor of the Um Al Nawa district was assassinated by gunmen, the ministry official said. In the Shiite holy city of Karbala, a drive-by shooting killed two workers in the central market, according to the Interior Ministry official.
An engineer and his bodyguard were assassinated on their way to work in Kirkuk on Tuesday morning, according to Col. Adel Zain Alabdin of the Iraqi Police. A car bomb in Mosul killed two and wounded four, the police said.
Iraq’s minister of human rights, Wijdan Michael, said in a telephone interview that a government commission had been formed to study the possibility of scrapping a law that granted American troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution. The prime minister said last week that he was considering whether to seek the abolishment of the rule in light of the revelations that American military personnel have come under investigation in connection with a number of recent killings of unarmed Iraqis.
In the trial of Mr. Hussein, the judges heard the closing arguments of two defendants, Abdullah Kadhum Ruweed and his son, Mizher Abdullah Ruweed, two local Baath Party officials from Dujail, a predominantly Shiite village. Mr. Hussein and seven co-defendants are accused of torturing and executing 148 men and boys in the village in 1982 after a failed assassination attempt on him.
The chief judge adjourned the trial until July 24 to resolve a boycott by the lawyers representing Mr. Hussein and three other key co-defendants, none of whom appeared in court.
A high-level official at the Iraqi High Tribunal announced Tuesday that Judge Jamal Mustafa, the tribunal’s president, died earlier in the day in a hospital in Amman.
Reporting for this article was contributed by Qais Mizher, Hosham Hussein and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times from Baghdad, Iraqi employees of The Times from Kirkuk and Mosul, and Razzaq al-Saiedi from New York