Dozens killed in Iraq violence

At least 10 U.S. troops die during weekend

October 23, 2006|By Borzou Daragahi | Borzou Daragahi,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Gunmen bombed and shot families shopping for food and gifts, executed dozens in sectarian killings and ambushed a group of Iraqi police recruits yesterday during the closing hours of Ramadan.

The violence left scores of Iraqis dead and further marred the Muslim holy month, which has been a time of incessant violence against Iraqis and American troops.

The military announced yesterday that five U.S. troops had been killed in four combat incidents around Iraq, bringing the number of Americans killed over the weekend to 10.

At least 83 U.S. troops were killed in the first 22 days of October, making the month the deadliest for Americans in Iraq since November 2005.

In the religiously mixed province of Diyala, northeast of the capital, gunmen believed to be Sunni Arab insurgents attacked 300 police recruits drawn from a Shiite Muslim militia, killing at least 13 and as many as 80 during clashes that began Saturday and continued yesterday.

The recruits, said to be members of a militia called the Mahdi Army, were to form a highway police department. But they were greeted with mortar rounds and small arms fire Saturday when they arrived at their new headquarters on the outskirts of Baqouba, the provincial capital, officials said.

At least 13 of the recruits were killed yesterday by roadside bombs and attacks. A high-ranking Baqouba official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said up to 67 more recruits were killed Saturday. Some of the bodies were rigged with explosives that were defused by U.S. troops.

Authorities declared a curfew in the area, fearing that Shiites would launch retaliatory attacks against Sunnis.

In Baghdad, authorities found at least 50 men who had been bound and shot and the bodies left in empty lots and drainage canals on the capital's outskirts.

A suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt in a busy marketplace along the capital's Palestine Street, killing at least four civilians and injuring 21. The victims were buying groceries in the minutes before the evening break of the Ramadan fast, said Lt. Ahmad Qassim of the east Baghdad police division.

Earlier in the day, a bomb in the Shorja fruit and vegetable market downtown killed at least three Iraqis and injured eight.

The attacks came as Sunni Muslims marked the beginning of the traditional feast at the end of Ramadan. Shiite Muslims are expected to begin the holiday today.

The continued sectarian and insurgent violence in Iraq was a major topic on news talk shows yesterday, with Republican and Democratic members of Congress calling for changes in the Bush administration's approach to fighting the war and building an effective Iraqi government.

"I don't believe that a shift in tactics ought to wait until after the [U.S.] election" next month, Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, told CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. "There are too many casualties there. If we have a better course, we ought to adopt it sooner rather than later."

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the leading Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Bush administration must push deeply divided Iraqi political leaders to compromise on sharing power and oil resources.

"If they don't want to do that, if they're going to have a civil war, we have to tell them, `You're going to do that without us,'" Levin said on Fox News Sunday.

Borzou Daragahi writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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