Sunni party plans boycott amid attacks

Sunni, Shiite politicians targeted

July 03, 2006|By LOUISE ROUG | LOUISE ROUG,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- In the wake of the abduction a day earlier of a female legislator, the largest Sunni Arab coalition announced yesterday a political boycott even as another lawmaker dodged a kidnapping and a third survived an assassination attempt.

Shiite Muslim lawmaker Liqa Yaseen and her driver escaped kidnappers who tried to abduct her yesterday south of Baghdad, but eight bodyguards were taken hostage, authorities said.

Elsewhere in the capital, Iyad Jamaluddin, a legislator from the secular Iraqiya party, was on his way to parliament when a car bomb blew up near his convoy. Jamaluddin escaped unharmed, but some of his bodyguards were wounded, he told the satellite channel Al Arabiya.

The boycott and the apparent targeting of Sunni and Shiite politicians come at a sensitive time for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose government has tried to end sectarian bloodshed through increased security measures in Baghdad and diplomacy around the region.

However, more checkpoints and security forces in the streets of the capital have failed to prevent assassinations and kidnappings that are now nearly an everyday occurrence. Al-Maliki, a Shiite, was criticized for beginning a tour of the Middle East to shore up support among Sunni Arabs on Saturday - the same day a car bomb killed at least 77 people in a poor Shiite slum in Baghdad.

Kidnappers abducted Sunni lawmaker Tayseer Mashhadani and seven of her bodyguards Saturday at a checkpoint in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad.

"We have decided after careful consideration to suspend participation" in parliamentary sessions "until her release," said Adnan Dulaimi, head of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni Arab bloc. Dulaimi said the Iraqi government and U.S. troops are allowing criminal gangs to roam the streets of Baghdad freely "as if they are the government itself."

"We demand that the government and the American forces spare no efforts to find her," he said. "She is a woman. We have the responsibility to protect her."

Meanwhile, the Muslim Scholars Association, an influential Sunni organization, expressed harsh condemnation after a group of American soldiers was accused of raping an Iraqi woman and then killing her, along with her mother, father and younger sister.

"The rape, mutilation and killing committed by the occupation forces are crimes that shame humanity and disgrace the ... American forces," the Sunni organization said in a statement.

The U.S. military began an investigation after two American soldiers came forward with information about the deaths March 12 in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad. A U.S. military official said investigators believe that the assault was premeditated and that soldiers watched the family for a week before committing crimes punishable by death. Military investigators are trying to determine whether the bodies were burned to conceal a crime.

Muayed Fadil, mayor of the area around Mahmoudiya, said yesterday that a medical examination showed that the father, Kasim Hamza Rasheed, had been shot in the head. His wife, Fakhriya Taha Muhsen, had been shot several times, as had Hadel Kasim, the younger daughter. Abeer Kasim Hamza, the elder daughter, had been shot in the head and had burn marks on her body, according to medical records, Fadil said. Iraqi doctors had examined the bodies in March so they could issue death certificates in accordance with Iraqi law.

Mahmoudiya is located in an insurgent stronghold known as the "Triangle of Death." Last month, two Army soldiers were abducted, tortured and killed nearby. The four soldiers under investigation were from the same unit: the 502nd Infantry Regiment, which is attached to the 4th Infantry Division.

Eight Iraqis were killed and 22 wounded in the village when a car bomb exploded last night in a market. Shortly after, the market was shelled with mortars, authorities said.

Three bombs killed at least four people and injured 18 in separate attacks in Baghdad. In several neighborhoods, rebels clashed with soldiers and police.

In the Jihad neighborhood in western Baghdad, gunmen fought in the streets near a Sunni mosque into the night. In the past few weeks, problems have brewed in the area, which is home to Shiite and Sunni mosques. One resident said the violence began with sectarian killings and tit-for-tat abductions.

Police entered the Noor Sunni mosque at 1:30 a.m. yesterday, and people inside fought back, destroying several police vehicles with rocket-propelled grenades, authorities said. A suicide bomber, apparently sent to blow himself up among police, failed to detonate explosives strapped to his waist but managed to detonate a hand grenade, wounding himself and eight officers, police said. The bomber and his victims were taken to the same hospital, Iraqi officials said.

Gunmen and soldiers also fought in the western Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya, but there were no reports of casualties.

Near the northern city of Kirkuk, a suicide car bomber attacked police on the highway to Tikrit, killing one officer and injuring two, authorities said.

Louise Roug writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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