Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Holy city bomb kills 45; Armed robbers hit Baghdad bank
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- More than 14,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq in the first half of this year, an ominous figure reflecting the fact that "killings, kidnappings and torture remain widespread" in the war-torn country, a United Nations report says.
Killings of civilians are on "an upward trend," with more than 5,800 deaths and more than 5,700 injuries reported in May and June alone, it says.
The report, a bimonthly document produced by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, covers May and June, and includes chilling casualty figures and ugly anecdotes from the insurgent and sectarian warfare that continues to rage despite the establishment of a national unity government and a security crackdown in Baghdad.
The report lists examples of bloody suicide bombs aimed at mosques, attacks on laborers, the recovery of slain bodies, the assassinations of judges, the killings of prisoners, the targeting of clergy -- all incidents dutifully reported by media over these three-plus years of chaos in the streets.
The U.N. agency says it has been made aware since last year of the targeting of homosexuals, "increasingly threatened and extra-judicially executed by militias and 'death squads' because of their sexual orientation."
The intolerance propelling the anti-gay prejudice extends to ethnic and religious minorities and others whose manner of dress doesn't meet the standards of religious extremists.
"On 28 May, an Iraqi tennis coach and two of his players were shot dead in Baghdad allegedly because they were wearing shorts. Similar threats are said to be made to induce men to conform to certain hair styles or rules regarding facial hair," the report says.
Women face intolerance -- and violence -- as well.
"In some Baghdad neighborhoods, women are now prevented from going to the markets alone. In other cases, women have been warned not to drive cars or have faced harassment if they wear trousers. Women have also reported that wearing a headscarf is becoming not a matter of religious choice but one of survival in many parts of Iraq, a fact which is particularly resented by non-Muslim women."
Academics and health professionals have been attacked, spurring them to leave the country or their home regions, causing a brain drain and a dislocation in services.
"Health care providers face difficulties in carrying out their work because of the limited supply of electricity and growing number of patients due to the increase in violence," the report says.
Kidnappings have been part of the chaotic Iraqi scene since the insurgency began, with many hostages killed even after a ransom is paid. The abductors are not only motivated by sectarianism or politics; organized crime appears to be involved with some of the kidnappings.
"On some occasions, sectarian connotations and alleged collusion with sectors of the police, as well as with militias, have been reported to UNAMI. Although there are no reliable statistics regarding this phenomenon, because Iraqis often are afraid to report such crimes to the police, the kidnappings are likely a daily occurrence," the report says.
For children, the "extent of violence in areas" other than the Kurdish region "is such that likely every child, to some degree, has been exposed to it," it says.
"In one case the body of a 12-year-old Osama was reportedly found by the Iraqi police in a plastic bag after his family paid a ransom of some 30,000 U.S. dollars. The boy had been sexually assaulted by the kidnappers, before being hanged by his own clothing. The police captured members of this gang who confessed of raping and killing many boys and girls before Osama," the report says.
"Civilian casualties resulted mainly from bombings and drive-by shootings, from indiscriminate attacks, in neighborhood markets or petrol stations, or following armed clashes with the police and the security forces," the report says.
"Civilians were also targeted or became unintended victims of insurgent or military actions.
"Terrorist acts against civilians have been aimed at fomenting sectarian violence or allegedly motivated by revenge and have targeted members of the Arab Shia and Sunni communities, including their cultural symbols, as well as markets in Shia neighborhoods."
Figures from the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad and the Ministry of Health show that the total number of civilians killed from January to June was 14,338.
In late June, the Ministry of Health "acknowledged information stating that since 2003 at least 50,000 persons have been killed in violence and stated the number of deaths are probably under-reported." the report says.
"The Baghdad morgue reportedly received 30,204 bodies from 2003 to mid-2006. Deaths numbering 18,933 occurred from 'military clashes' and 'terrorist attacks'" between April 5, 2004, and June 1, 2006.
The report also notes the probes by the United States into the alleged killings of 24 civilians in Haditha by U.S. troops as well the deaths caused by military operations throughout the country.
At least 45 people were killed and 60 others wounded Tuesday morning when a suicide car bomber detonated in a busy Kufa marketplace where day laborers gather, Iraqi police said.
The attack took place around 7:30 a.m. near a Shia shrine.
Kufa is considered a holy place by Shia Muslims and is just outside Najaf, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms on Tuesday stole 1.24 billion Iraqi dinars (about $675,000) from Rafidain Bank in western Baghdad early Tuesday afternoon, Iraqi emergency police told CNN.
An in the northern city of Kirkuk, a roadside bomb killed six policemen, Kirkuk police said. Another police officer was wounded in the incident, which occurred at 11:30 a.m. in Hawija.
On Monday, in a coordinated attack in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, at least 40 people were killed and wounded dozens, and small-arms fire killed a U.S. soldier in the capital.
The incidents took place as Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence festers in and near Baghdad.
The killing of a U.S. soldier on Monday -- which occurred at 12:55 p.m. (0955 GMT) in western Baghdad -- brought the number of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq war to 2,548. The soldier was from Multi-National Division Baghdad.