Blind athlete abducted in Baghdad

Blasts kill at least 11

35 bodies found

November 02, 2006|By Ken Ellingwood | Ken Ellingwood,LOS ANGELS TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Gunmen stormed a Baghdad sports club yesterday and kidnapped a coach and a member of a national team for blind athletes, while authorities discovered more than 30 bodies in the capital amid persistent sectarian violence.

U.S. military officials announced the death in combat of a soldier a day earlier in the Anbar province of western Iraq, raising to at least 104 the number of American fatalities in October. A statement issued by the military said the soldier was assigned to the Regimental Combat Team 7.

Meanwhile, bombings and mortar attacks in different areas of Baghdad killed at least 11 people, and the toll from a bomb attack on a pre-wedding gathering a night earlier climbed to 23.

Violence by armed groups in the capital has continued despite a high-profile campaign by U.S. and Iraqi forces to establish order. Many of the killings and kidnappings are part of a wider sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni militias that has convulsed Iraq since the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra in February.

In yesterday's kidnapping, gunmen in pickup trucks seized the two men during broad daylight. One of the abductees, Khalid Najim Deen, coached the "bell ball" team for the blind and seeing-impaired. The other victim was a 33-year-old player, Esam Khalaf.

In bell ball, players seek to roll a ball with a bell inside past defenders into a goal. The Iraqi team was training for a tournament for the blind in Malaysia.

Qahtan Nuaiemi, who heads Iraq's committee that sponsors Olympics for the disabled, said the incident underscored the brutality of the current violence. "Whether they were disabled or not, they are not safe from the hands of those who want to harm Iraq," he said.

Sports officials and coaches have fallen victim to a number of killings and kidnappings in recent months. Gunmen abducted an Olympic soccer player and the head of Iraq's Olympic committee and fatally shot a former national volleyball player.

In other Baghdad violence, separate bombings targeted a police patrol and a wholesale market, leaving seven people dead and more than 20 injured. Also, a pickup truck loaded with explosives blew up, apparently prematurely, causing a thunderous blast that killed the three people inside. A mortar round killed a police officer in west Baghdad.

In addition, 35 bodies were recovered throughout Baghdad yesterday, all with signs of execution-style killing. Some carried torture marks.

Ken Ellingwood writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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