Security in Iraq termed `a failure'

July 12, 2006|By BORZOU DARAGAHI | BORZOU DARAGAHI,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Sectarian gunfights, mosque bombings and executions of unarmed civilians continued to roil the country as night fell yesterday, leaving at least 35 more Iraqis dead and 45 wounded in the capital alone.

The days-long upsurge in clashes between Iraq's majority Shiite Muslims and once-dominant Sunni Arabs, despite a monthlong security clampdown in Baghdad, has upended the city's 6 million residents. It has also outraged lawmakers, who have summoned the civilian heads of the police and army to the parliament tomorrow for answers.

"The security has deteriorated in a serious and unprecedented way," Kurdish lawmaker Saadi Barzanji said in a televised session of parliament, which convened yesterday in Baghdad's heavily protected Green Zone. "The security plan has proven to be a failure."

Much of yesterday's violence was centered on the poor, religiously mixed districts of southern and southwestern Baghdad, including the troubled Dora district, already under extra security and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

At least 100 Iraqis have been killed in the capital since the bombing of a Shiite mosque in the Jihad district of southwestern Baghdad on Saturday night.

Clashes between Shiites and Sunnis also broke out last night in the provincial capital of Baqouba, with authorities unable to stop the fighting or determine casualties between rocket-wielding insurgents and Shiite militiamen guarding a small mosque.

In one of yesterday's most vicious incidents, gunmen in Dora ambushed a bus carrying Shiites mourners from the holy city of Najaf, where they had buried a relative. The gunmen pulled 10 people from the bus and executed them, beheading one family member, government and hospital officials said. Two people were injured.

Police said they later killed the gunmen in a shootout. But chaos continued through much of Baghdad's southern edge, which abuts the dangerous stretch of countryside called the "triangle of death," where three U.S. soldiers were ambushed and killed last month.

The Muslim Scholars Association, an organization representing Sunni clerics, said that Shiite militiamen attacked four Sunni areas in Dora and mortar shells struck a local market. Police say they caught 17 militiamen with the help of armed neighborhood vigilantes.

In the nearby Sadiya neighborhood, three Iraqi soldiers were killed and seven injured when an explosion, apparently caused by a car bomb, went off near a house being used to quarter members of an Iraqi army battalion. Four mortar rounds landed around a nearby Sunni mosque.

Insurgents in the area also abducted an Iraqi diplomat who serves in Iran. Wisam Jasim Abdullah Awadi, a Shiite, had returned from Tehran to vacation at his parents' home in a southern Baghdad neighborhood when he was taken at gunpoint.

Elsewhere in the capital, armed men stormed the office of a Sunni-owned company in the Mansour neighborhood, killing eight employees and injuring three in execution-style shootings, hospital and police officials said.

Two and possibly three explosions outside the main entrance to the Green Zone killed five people and injured 11, police and hospital officials said. U.S. military officials gave a higher casualty count, saying in a news release that the explosions killed 16 Iraqis, including a police officer, and injured four.

A car bomb exploded in the middle-class Shiite district of Karada, killing three and injuring seven, all civilians along a busy commercial street of grocery stores and automotive supply shops. And a roadside bomb exploded in southeastern Baghdad, setting a fuel tanker ablaze and killing two passers-by and injuring 15.

The Muslim Scholars Association also claimed gunmen with possible ties to Shiite militias stormed through western Baghdad, attacking three mosques and causing an unspecified number of casualties among civilians and security guards.

The violence broke out despite the deployment of 50,000 Iraqi soldiers and 8,000 U.S. troops as part of a Baghdad security plan implemented by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki nearly a month ago.

Borzou Daragahi writes for the Los Angeles Times. Wire services contributed to this article.

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