U.N. issues sober report on Iraqi deaths

U.S. military expects attacks to further escalate during Ramadan

September 21, 2006|By Louise Roug

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The United Nations issued a somber report on civilian deaths in Iraq, even as at least 71 people were killed or found slain yesterday in the country.

Meanwhile, a top U.S. military spokesman said attacks against U.S. troops have recently increased, as have killings by death squads that target civilians. He also said that U.S. commanders expect violence to escalate further during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend.

The United Nations reported yesterday that 3,009 people were killed in Iraq during August, a slight decrease from July's toll of 3,590. The report warned that although the numbers decreased at the beginning of the month, they escalated again by month's end.

The current level of violence, the report said, "is challenging the very fabric of the country."

These past few weeks have been bloodier than usual in the capital, with a torrent of execution-style killings coming despite a U.S.-led crackdown. But even as U.S. commanders have focused on Baghdad, attackers also have struck in northern and western parts of the country in what appears to be a coordinated campaign.

Yesterday in Samarra, a suicide car bomber crashed into the home of a tribal leader who had recently denounced al-Qaida. The blast killed 11 people but not the leader himself. Forty others were injured, according to authorities.

In the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, gunmen assassinated a government employee on his way to work, authorities said.

Seven people were killed in attacks in Diyala province, northeast of the capital, Agence France-Presse reported. Two civilians were killed in separate bombings in southern Iraq.

Attackers also inflicted heavy casualties in the capital.

A suicide bomber driving a truck detonated his explosives near a checkpoint in the Dora neighborhood of southern Baghdad, killing three people and injuring 11. A roadside explosion targeting a U.S. patrol in eastern Baghdad killed one civilian. Separate mortar attacks on a checkpoint and a house injured eight people, according to police.

Two U.S. soldiers died in noncombat incidents in Baghdad in the past two days, and a third was shot and killed in northeastern Baghdad yesterday, the military said in a statement.

Police recovered 46 bodies in and near the capital. Some of the bodies bore signs of torture. Many were blindfolded, handcuffed and had been shot, authorities said.

Iraqi security forces, especially police and special forces affiliated with the Interior Ministry, are widely believed to be infiltrated by Shiite militias and have been accused of being behind many of the execution-style killings. But U.S. commanders said yesterday that they had scant evidence that ministry personnel were behind the death squads.

"Initially, there were a lot of allegations that death squads were not only coming out of Ministry of Interior forces but also organized by the Ministry of Interior," Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, who is in charge of training Iraqi police, told reporters during a news briefing.

The U.S. military has "not identified any Ministry of Interior personnel as a part of the death squad members and leaders that we have picked up," he said.

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the senior military spokesman in Iraq, said there has been an increase in bombing attacks against U.S. troops after a Sept. 7 statement by al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Ayyoub al-Masri.

Caldwell said the military expected an increased flow of foreign fighters into Iraq during Ramadan, which in past years was a period of increased violence.

Louise Roug writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Killed in Iraq

As of yesterday, at least 2,690 members of the U.S. military have died since March 2003.

Identifications

Sgt. James R. Worster, 24, Broadview Heights, Ohio; died Monday from a nonhostile incident in Baghdad; assigned to the 10th Combat Support Hospital, 43rd Area Support Group, Fort Carson, Colo.

Pfc. Jeffrey P. Shaffer, 21, Harrison, Ark.; died Sept. 13 from an explosive in Ramadi; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Germany.

[Associated Press]

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