At least 63 civilians, 4 U.S., 4 British troops killed in Iraq

November 14, 2006|By Alexandra Zavis | Alexandra Zavis,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A suicide bomber boarded a minibus and blew himself up yesterday in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood of the Iraqi capital, killing 20 people and injuring 18, police and hospital officials said.

It was the latest sectarian salvo to shake the foundations of Iraqi society and government. At least 43 other Iraqis were reported killed in bombings, shootings and other violence across the country.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces raided a mostly Shiite neighborhood on the northwestern edge of Baghdad late yesterday, trading gunfire with followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraqi police said.

U.S. jets rumbled overhead, firing rockets. At least six people were killed and three injured, according to police. Iraqi forces helped cordon off the area but did not participate in the raids, they said. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.

U.S., British deaths

Insurgents continued to take a toll on U.S. and British forces.

The U.S. military reported the deaths of four soldiers, bringing to at least 31 the number of troops killed in Iraq this month. Two died and two were injured yesterday when a roadside bomb exploded in Baghdad, the military said. Two more were killed and two injured in a Sunday suicide car bombing in Salahuddin province, north of the capital.

Four British troops were killed and three wounded the same day, when an explosive device hit a boat patrolling the Shatt al Arab waterway, the military said. It was the first time British forces near Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, were targeted in this way, a spokesman said.

The bomb in Baghdad's northeast Shaab neighborhood ripped through a busy intersection where Nasir Hawi was selling cigarettes and soft drinks.

"There was a huge explosion that shook and dropped everything in my booth," said Hawi, 35, propped up in bed in a crowded emergency ward, his head wrapped in bloodied bandages. "I saw more than six cars ablaze and several people, including women in abayas, on the ground."

He sorrowfully listed five acquaintances killed in the blast, including a security guard and fellow vendors.

"This area has witnessed several other explosions," he said. "But always the victims are innocent people who are trying to make a living. May Allah curse the perpetrators of such deeds."

Many bodies were charred beyond recognition, hospital staff said.

Torture victims

Elsewhere in and around Baghdad, the bullet-riddled bodies of 28 men, many cuffed, blindfolded and bruised, were found, police said. Thirteen were in a mostly Shiite east Baghdad neighborhood, 10 in a Sunni-dominated western part of the city and five in Mahmoudiya, south of the capital.

To the north, in Mosul, a camera operator for Iraq's independent Al-Sharqiyah television station was gunned down as he left his home, a journalists' association reported. Mohammed Ban, 58, was the second journalist from his company to be killed in two weeks.

At least 89 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count based on statistics kept by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Thirty-five support staffers, including drivers, interpreters and guards, have been killed.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, faces mounting U.S. and domestic pressure to rein in the sectarian violence, root out corruption and improve services.

He told lawmakers Sunday that he planned major changes to his Cabinet and a crackdown on militias blamed for many of the killings, including al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and a force operated by key members of the Shiite political bloc that helped put him in power.

Government spokesman Ali Dabbah declined to specify which of the Cabinet's 37 positions would change hands but said al-Maliki "is concentrating on service ministries, security and some state ministries."

The Iraqi Parliament's main ethnic and religious blocs have been asked to submit three candidates for each post under discussion, but al-Maliki wants final say over who joins his government, Dabbah said.

He declined to specify when the new Cabinet would be announced.

The composition of the current government, which draws in Shiites, Sunni Arabs, Kurds and other groups according to an agreed formula, took months to determine.

Alexandra Zavis writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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