Car bomb kills 17 south of Baghdad

6 Iraqi officers found slain

senior judge assassinated

results of Jan. 30 elections slated to be released today

February 13, 2005|By Liz Sly | Liz Sly,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - As insurgents continued their bloody campaign to derail Iraq's progress toward democracy, 17 people died in a car bombing south of Baghdad yesterday, and the bodies of six police officers were discovered in Mosul, bringing the casualty toll in a violent week to more than 150.

The car bomb apparently targeted a police convoy passing a hospital in the town of Musayyin, 35 miles south of Baghdad, but instead killed mostly civilians arriving to work at the hospital, officials said.

The six Iraqi soldiers had been shot in the head and left on the streets of the insurgent-infested city of Mosul, where dozens of members of Iraq's fledgling security forces have been slain in similar fashion in the past few months.

In other violence, a senior judge was assassinated in the southern town of Basra. Taha al-Amiri had been a senior prosecutor during the rule of Saddam Hussein and may have been targeted by Shiites seeking revenge for the persecution they suffered under the Baath Party regime.

Uptick in attacks

The latest attacks leave little doubt that any hopes that Iraq's election would undermine the insurgency were premature. Altogether, at least 296 people have died in insurgent-related violence in the nearly two weeks since the voting.

Of those, 97 have been killed in the past three days, as the pace of the violence rose even before Iraqis found out the results of their historic election.

Most of the attacks have been aimed at Iraq's fledgling security forces, but several have also targeted Iraq's majority Shiite community, raising fears that the Sunni-led insurgency is trying to disrupt the political process by sparking a bloody civil war.

On Friday, 12 Shiite worshipers died in a bombing at a mosque north of Baghdad, and 11 died in a drive-by shooting at a Baghdad bakery in a Shiite neighborhood, the latest in a series of attacks against ordinary Shiites.

A powerful coalition of Shiite parties, the United Iraqi Alliance, appears headed for a majority in the election, and Shiite leaders say they are urging their followers not to retaliate for the attacks against them.

But if the violence continues, it will become difficult to restrain Shiites, warned a top cleric with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the leading party in the alliance.

"They are acting with restraint because their religious leaders forbid them to retaliate," said Sheik Humam Hamoudi, who acts as the supreme council's liaison with the Shiite coalition. "We are trying to persuade our people that civil war will kill democracy and that it is not to our benefit to fight."

But Sunni leaders will also have to help, he said.

"We are seeking the support of Sunni religious leaders to reject this violence, and, thanks be to God, some of them have done that. But not all," he said.

Election results

Officials said yesterday that final results of the election would be released today.

Farid Ayar, a spokesman for the election commission, said on Al-Arabiya television yesterday that the commission would meet this morning to finalize some unspecified issues and then announce the final figures in the afternoon.

"We will give three days to verify the results, hear any disputes, and then they will be officially declared final," Ayar said. "All the numbers will be announced tomorrow."

Voters last month chose a 275-member National Assembly and ruling councils in the country's 18 provinces.

Iraqis living in Kurdish-ruled areas of northern Iraq also elected a new regional parliament.

Partial returns released early last week showed a Shiite Muslim-dominated ticket endorsed by the Shiite clergy running first among the 111 candidate lists. A Kurdish coalition was running second.

The ticket headed by pro-U.S. interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi was running a distant third.

The new assembly will elect a president and two vice presidents, who then will choose a prime minister, who will form a government subject to the legislature's approval.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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