War-related civilian deaths continue to decline in Iraq

But tensions rise over arrests of dozens linked to key Sunni

December 01, 2007|By Tina Susman | Tina Susman,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD -- Civilian deaths from war-related violence showed another substantial decline in November, according to figures released yesterday, but political tensions heightened after U.S. and Iraqi forces detained the son and several associates of a leading Sunni Arab lawmaker.

The legislator, Adnan Dulaimi, said the detentions during overnight raids at his office and home were an attempt to silence his criticism of the Shiite-led government. Dulaimi heads the main Sunni bloc in parliament, the Iraqi Accordance Front, or Tawafiq.

"This is an attempt to get me and Tawafiq to soften our stance," he said after his son, Makki, along with a security guard and dozens of associates, were taken into custody following a slaying and the discovery of a car bomb on his block.

A U.S. military statement said Dulaimi's residence was being guarded by Iraqi security forces, who had asked him to remain inside "for his own security."

The raids came a day after Tawafiq's 44 members of parliament joined other politicians in boycotting the legislative session to derail Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's attempt to appoint new Cabinet ministers. The walkout denied parliament the quorum needed for a vote.

There was no indication that the detentions were linked to the boycott, but together the incidents illustrated the floundering state of political reconciliation at the national level. With violence decreasing, U.S. officials say, this is the time for lawmakers to set aside their differences and pass legislation aimed at stabilizing the country.

The civilian death count for November, released by the Iraqi government, showed another drop: 530 Iraqis were killed in bombings and other war-related violence compared with 758 in October. The toll was 884 in September.

The number of U.S. troops killed in November was 38, the same total as in October, according to the independent Web site icasualties.com. A U.S. soldier died yesterday in a roadside bomb blast in Diyala province, the military said, bringing to at least 3,882 the number of U.S. forces killed in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003.

Both U.S. troop and Iraqi civilian deaths have declined steadily in the past few months. November's civilian toll was less than half the total in June, when the last of an extra 28,500 U.S. troops arrived in Iraq to quell sectarian warfare and insurgent violence. That month, 1,227 civilians were reported killed.

The civilian numbers come from Iraq's Health Ministry, the only Iraqi government outlet providing such casualty counts.

The U.S. statement and Iraqi security force officials said Dulaimi's offices and home in Baghdad's Adil neighborhood were searched after the slaying late Thursday of a guard working at a checkpoint nearby.

A U.S. military statement described a confusing chain of events that began with U.S. and Iraqi security forces responding to a report of the killing. A car that witnesses linked to the death was found outside Dulaimi's office compound, leading troops to enter the compound and arrest several guards.

The troops discovered a car bomb outside the compound, and one of the detained security guards was found to have keys to the vehicle, according to the U.S. statement.

Another raid was then carried out on Dulaimi's family residence, less than a quarter-mile from the office, and dozens more people were detained.

Tina Susman writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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