Even the mundane is perilous in Iraq

Forces aid trash collectors fearful of bombs

July 30, 2006|By JEFFREY FLEISHMAN | JEFFREY FLEISHMAN,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Yesterday, as on many days, Iraqi army and police forces patrolled in trucks and Humvees with cracked windshields and bullet nicks, hunting militants and giving cover to trash collectors who feared bombs tucked in milk cartons, soda cans and crumpled newspapers.

"The terrorists exploit any chance to inflict civilian casualties," said Iraqi Brig. Gen. Qasim Moosawi. "They target the water supply, electricity, infrastructure, everything, including the trash. They look for any gap to kill as many civilians as they can."

The trash patrol is another duty for Iraqi security forces in a city where hidden dangers burst with incredible speed and viciousness from alleys and street corners. At least 316 Baghdad municipal workers have been killed in the past six months. Garbage collectors are often targeted, including six blown up by exploding garbage bags in a predominantly Sunni northeast neighborhood known as Raghiba Khatoon.

Moosawi said that sometimes soldiers and police officers help collect the trash, using their trucks and equipment to clear piles of bags from neighborhoods that have only a few hours of electricity each day.

"The municipality doesn't have enough vehicles to cover the whole city," he said. "Besides, the quantity of garbage is a lot, so we have to help."

Meanwhile, sectarian killings continued across the country yesterday.

In Muqdadiya, northeast of Baghdad, 11 bodies were found scattered throughout the city, including two police officers and nine members of a Shiite tribe. Five civilians were killed and 22 injured in two car bomb attacks in the northern city of Kirkuk.

The western regional commander of the Iraqi Border Protection Force, Brig. Gen. Jawad Hadi Selawi, was shot and killed while driving alone in his car in Karbala, about 50 miles south of Baghdad, according to police.

Fifty gunmen surrounded and rained mortars on a small predominantly Shiite neighborhood in Baqouba, where violence has increased markedly between Sunni and Shiite tribes. The militants fought with police, and skirmishes rang through the streets.

In Samarra, where the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in February ignited sectarian hostilities, a Sunni cleric was slain.

Iraqi and U.S. forces have been unable to stop the incessant violence and often suffer casualties themselves. Four Americans were killed over two days, including three Marines in the Sunni stronghold of Anbar province, according to a military statement released yesterday.

Iraqi sports officials announced that Akram Ahmed Salman, the national soccer coach, submitted his resignation Friday. Coaches and athletes have been under intense pressure since the July 13 killing of the country's wrestling coach and the subsequent kidnapping of 30 sports officials. About 10 have been freed.

In an attempt to gain control of a worsening security atmosphere, the United States is planning to increase the number of troops in Baghdad from 9,000 to 13,000, including members of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Joint squads of American and Iraqi soldiers will attempt to flush militants and sectarian death squads from lawless neighborhoods.

Jeffrey Fleishman writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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