30 bodies found in Baghdad during neighborhood probe

Police were looking in area once under militant control

November 18, 2007|By Doug Smith | Doug Smith,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD -- A least 30 bodies were discovered in an unfinished west Baghdad house yesterday as police and area resident groups probed neighborhoods they said until recently were under the control of militants from al-Qaida in Iraq.

Also yesterday, the Iraqi government credited Iran with helping to rein in Shiite militias and stemming the flow of weapons into Iraq, helping to improve the security situation.

The Iraqi government's spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, also said that the Shiite-dominated government was making renewed efforts to bring back Sunni Arab ministers who have been boycotting the government.

Speaking about Iran, he said that that government had helped to persuade the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to ask his Mahdi militia to halt attacks. Al-Sadr ordered his militia to stop using weapons in early September, and officials say that has helped improve stability.

Al-Dabbagh's comments on Iran echoed those of the U.S. military here, who in recent days have gone out of their way to publicly acknowledge Iran's role in helping to slow the flow of weapons into the country.

Al-Dabbagh was the first Iraqi official to say publicly that Iran had used its influence with al-Sadr to discourage him from using his militia for armed attacks.

Iraqi police described the grave site in the heavily Sunni Muslim Hur Rijab section of the Dora neighborhood as a grisly scene of decomposed bodies wrapped in black plastic.

The bodies, some bearing identification and others not, appeared to be mainly Shiites. They were transported in numbered bags to the Kadhimin mosque in a Shiite portion of Dora, police said.

The discovery was made during a joint operation by police and members of the Awakening Council of Sunnis who have turned against the militant group and are cooperating with authorities. A source for the Interior Ministry said police were searching for bombs when they were drawn to the deserted house by a foul smell.

A mass grave containing at least 22 bodies also believed to be victims of sectarian killings was discovered Nov. 6 by joint Iraqi-U.S. forces in a Sunni area near Tharthar Lake northwest of Baghdad.

In August, police in Baqubah found about 60 bodies buried on the northwestern outskirts of the city in conflict-heavy Diyala province. Authorities believe they, and other victims previously found in mass graves, were killed by the Iraq government more than a decade ago when it was run by Saddam Hussein.

Some other mass graves described during the trial that led to Hussein's execution have not been unearthed.

Also yesterday, a reporter for the independent TV station Al Baghdadiya was reported kidnapped in the capital.

The station's manager, who asked not to be named, said Muntathar Zaidi, who disappeared Friday, presented balanced news with a focus on national unity and humanitarian subjects.

He said Zaidi's brother reached his cell phone and was told by the person who answered to forget about him. There has been no further contact with the abductors, he said.

Doug Smith writes for the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times contributed to this article.

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