Friday, November 25, 2005

Report #29 on the Era of Peace

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From the Mail & Guardian Online

Suicide bomber kills 30 Iraqi mourners

Baghdad, Iraq

November 21, 2005

At least 30 people were killed on Saturday when a suicide bomber ploughed his car into a tent full of Shi'ite mourners and blew himself up, pushing the death toll of two days of violence in Iraq to over 130.

At least 200 people, mainly Shiites, were wounded in the string of bombings.

The incident took place in Abu Saydah, 100km northeast of Baghdad. It was also not far from Khanaqin, a Kurdish town where 78 Shi'ite worshippers died when suicide bombers blew themselves up among their victims on Friday as they prayed in two mosques.

The surge of bombings comes less than four weeks before general elections to elect a government for four years, the final step in the political transition following the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein in April 2003.

Police said the bomber detonated his car in a tent set up on a public square by an Shi'ite family to receive condolences after the death of a relative. About 40 people were wounded.

Mourners traditionally erect a tent outside their home to receive condolences.

Earlier on Saturday, 13 died and 40 were hurt, all of them civilians, when a car bomb exploded in a busy Baghdad market.

A second blast, which targeted a police patrol in the centre of the capital 90 minutes later, left three policemen and two civilians wounded.

Insurgents also killed two policemen and a passerby in an attack on a checkpoint in Baquba, 60km northeast of Baghdad, police said. Three more policemen and two civilians were wounded in the attack which involved small arms and rocket fire.

And the US army said five soldiers were killed and another five wounded in two roadside bomb attacks on patrols near Baiji, 200km north of Baghdad.

Iraqi police said one of their number was killed and four others wounded in the same attack, which was on a joint patrol.

In addition to the mosque bombings on Friday, six people died and 40 were hurt in explosions when a minibus and a truck attempted to ram their way into a Baghdad hotel frequented by foreign journalists.

Meanwhile, the speaker of Parliament, Sunni Hajem al-Hassani called on Saturday for a parliamentary commission of enquiry into reports of detainee abuse by the Shiite-dominated interior ministry.

The parliament's human rights' committee should monitor the government's investigation of the case, he said.

The case came to light a week ago when US forces discovered some 170, mostly Sunni detainees, in an underground lock-up at an interior ministry complex in Baghdad.

The US military said the detainees were "in need of food, water and medical treatment".

Hassani also called for committee members to be allowed to visit prisons and detention centres and report to Parliament on the condition of detainees.

Some 200 people demonstrated in Baghdad on Saturday against torture and called for the government to resign.

Around 200 people took to the streets of the northern city of Mosul following Friday prayers, calling for an international probe of alleged abuse.

United Nations human rights chief Louise Arbour has also called for an international investigation.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, the US military said Iraqi forces have thwarted a planned attack on the Italian embassy.

An Iraqi army patrol arrested five insurgents on Tuesday "who had been planning an attack on the Italian embassy in Baghdad," said a statement, adding that two vehicles destined to be used in the attack were also seized.

The Iraqi defence ministry announced on Tuesday that its troops had dismantled a cell plotting to "kill an ambassador" in Iraq, without elaborating.

Italy has about 3 000 soldiers in southern Iraq and has promised to keep them there until the end of 2006.

US President George Bush, speaking in South Korea, vowed there would be no US pull-out from Iraq until Iraqis "are strong enough to defend their freedom".

"We will never back down, and we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory," he told a crowd of US servicemen and their families.

Bush's comments came after the US House of Representatives held one of its most bitter debates on the war before overwhelmingly defeating a bill calling for an immediate withdrawal.

"In Washington there are some who say that the sacrifice is too great, and they urge us to set a date for withdrawal before we have completed our mission. Those who are in the fight know better," Bush said.

"We will fight the terrorists in Iraq, and we will stay in the fight until we have achieved the victory our brave troops have fought for."

And in Cairo, Iraqi leaders gathered for Arab League-sponsored talks aimed at ending sectarian strife, amid mixed expectations and continued jostling over inclusion in the discussions of former supporters of Saddam.

The talks are designed to lay the basis for a reconciliation conference in Baghdad. - AFP


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