Iraqi police say rocket ignited key oil refinery

December 11, 2007|By Ann M. Simmons | Ann M. Simmons,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD -- Seven inmates were killed yesterday when mortar shells slammed into an Iraqi Interior Ministry jail in the capital, Iraqi security officials said. A few miles south, fire broke out at one of Iraq's main oil refineries, a possible case of sabotage.

There were conflicting reports about the cause of the blaze, but police said a Katyusha rocket hit a gas tanker. More than 450 attacks have been carried out against Iraq's oil installations or industry employees since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, according to analysts who monitor security issues related to energy. Attacks occurred Friday and Saturday in the northern oil hub of Baiji.

Police, meanwhile, announced the arrest of four suspects in the weekend assassination of a popular police chief in the southern Iraqi province of Babil.

The arrests came a day after Maj. Gen. Qais Mamouri and two of his bodyguards were killed in Hillah, capital of the predominantly Shiite Muslim province, when a bomb hit his convoy.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, a colonel and two policemen were yesterday when gunmen opened fire on their convoy. In Baghdad, the manager of the Rashad hospital for mental and psychiatric diseases was gunned down while driving home.

The continuing violence was the latest reminder of the dangers Iraqis still face. On Human Rights Day yesterday, an annual international event, some Iraqis said they felt only slightly better off than when Saddam Hussein ruled the country.

Key concerns include the treatment of detainees, growing violence against women and the fear of speaking one's mind on political issues for fear of sectarian retaliation.

"Before 2003 there were [human rights] violations, but not like the violations we are seeing today," said Omar Jaboori, human rights adviser to Vice President Tariq Hashimi, who has been a critic of the treatment of detainees.

Jaboori said about 32,000 people were being held by Iraqi security forces. The number being held by U.S.-led coalition forces is 25,500, according to the U.S. military.

Said Arikat, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, said in a written response to questions that "marked improvements" had been made in the past few months on the status of detainees in Iraqi prisons, "resulting from efforts by the judicial authorities to streamline and speed up the review of detainees' cases."

Ann M. Simmons writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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