Attacks in Iraq leave dozens dead

At least 79 killed in bomb, rocket and gun violence around country

October 08, 2006|By Saif Rasheed and Borzou Daragahi | Saif Rasheed and Borzou Daragahi,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Everyone stayed quiet.

The gunmen ordered witnesses to stand aside and remain still as they dragged the shopkeeper known as Abu Ammar away yesterday afternoon.

The victim didn't say a word, though he squirmed and tried to break free.

"Stay where you are," one of the gunmen, a clean-shaven man in his 20s, wearing a black bulletproof vest and holding an assault rifle, quietly told the frozen passers-by. "Don't move."

The eight plainclothes kidnappers didn't even raise their voices when one of them smashed the shopkeeper's bespectacled face with the butt of an assault rifle. They shooed away a shop employee beseeching them to take along a small plastic bag, possibly filled with the 50-ish victim's medicines, stuffed him into one of two white sport-utility vehicles without license plates and drove away from the Colors stationery shop.

Drivers watching from their cars turned their heads and continued on their way. Pedestrians took hold of their loved ones and proceeded on with their errands.

It was business as usual in Iraq, where at least 79 people were killed yesterday in bomb, rocket and gunfire attacks around the country.

The victim at the two-story shop, known for its high quality, wide selection and pricey wares, was probably the target of a kidnapping for ransom.

Police in Baghdad alone discovered the bodies of 51 gunshot victims, some shot dead on the streets and others abducted, blindfolded and brutalized before being shot execution-style and dumped in desolate lots.

The 3 p.m. kidnapping was pulled off in central Baghdad's Karada neighborhood, one of the city's safest, less than a mile away from military forces stationed in the Green Zone, a few hundred yards from Iraqi police checkpoints, and the armed security details of political parties and Western contractors. It put on view the enormous challenge of restoring security to a country coming undone by multiple layers of violence.

Iraqi sports fans yesterday also were mourning Nasser Shamil, the 37-year-old former captain of the Iraqi volleyball team, who was shot and killed Thursday night at his goldsmith shop in a Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad. At least two more Iraqis were killed by roadside bombs aimed at passing Iraqi police and U.S. vehicle convoys.

Among the 51 bodies found in Baghdad, two were fished out of the Tigris River, both with bullet wounds to the head and signs of torture. Another five, found blindfolded, handcuffed and shot execution-style, were discovered in a garbage dump 10 miles east of the capital.

To stanch the capital's violence, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced last week the creation of neighborhood security committees composed of community leaders. But the plan remains on the drawing board and has yet to be put into practice, politicians said.

U.S. and Iraqi officials struggled to contain violence beyond the capital.

A car bomb targeting an army checkpoint in the northern city of Tall Afar killed 14 Iraqis and injured 13.

At least three people were killed and three were injured in mortar and bomb attacks in the mostly Shiite city of Hilla, south of Baghdad.

Clashes between police and insurgents in downtown Samarra, north of the capital, led to the death of two officers and a child caught in the crossfire.

Saif Rasheed and Borzou Daragahi write for the Los Angeles Times.

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