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18 Strangled To Death, 50 Taken Hostage In Iraq

From Saudi-owned
Reuters:

Bodies found garroted in Iraq; 50 held hostage

By Lutfi Abu Oun

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The bodies of 18 men — bound, blindfolded and strangled
— were found in a Sunni Arab district of Baghdad, apparent victims of the
sectarian turmoil gripping
Iraq that threatens the formation of a coalition government.

Gunmen wearing the uniform of Iraqi police commandos seized about 50
employees from the offices of a security company on Wednesday, police
sources said. An Interior Ministry source said he was unaware of any
official police operation in the area.

Iraq’s Shi’ite interior minister, a hate figure for many Sunnis who accuse
him of condoning death squads, escaped an apparent assassination attempt
when a roadside bomb blasted his convoy. Minister Bayan Jabor, however, was
not in his car.

The bombing of an important Shi’ite shrine in Samarra on February 22 has
pitched Iraq toward civil war, unleashing reprisal sectarian killings and
deepening the mutual suspicion between the country’s majority Shi’ite
Muslims and minority Sunnis.

The violence has complicated faltering efforts to form a government of
national unity three months after elections. Iraqi leaders, struggling to
agree on who should hold the top posts, are due to meet President Jalal
Talabani on Thursday to decide on a way forward. Parliament is supposed to
meet by Sunday.

The dumping of bodies bearing signs of torture and killed execution-style is
a feature of the violence. The 18 bodies discovered by U.S. troops in
western Baghdad late on Tuesday had all been garroted and had their hands
bound with plastic ties, police and hospital officials said.

The victims, a mixture of middle-aged and young men in civilian clothes,
carried no identifying papers, police said.

A policeman at the Yarmuk hospital morgue pointed to their clothing and long
hair as an indication some may have been religious extremists linked to al
Qaeda. Reuters reporters who saw the bodies said many appeared to be Iraqis.

Police sources said only one had so far been identified by a relative. He
was a guard at an oil refinery in southern Baghdad.

The policeman at the hospital said many of the bloodied bodies appeared to
have been beaten while some had small burn marks, suggesting they were
tortured before being killed.

Senior officials, aware of the potential for sectarian anger if it becomes
clear all are either Sunni or Shi’ite Muslims, made no formal comment on the
religious identities of the dead.

The U.S. military said a patrol found the bodies after receiving reports of
a suspicious vehicle on the side of the road. Iraqi police said the bodies
were dumped near the Amriya district, a stronghold of Sunni insurgent
groups.

MINISTER’S CONVOY ATTACKED

Sunnis have accused the Shi’ite-led government’s police and other security
forces of abducting and killing Sunni civilians — an accusation Interior
Minister Jabor and the police deny.

Interior Ministry vehicles normally used to transport Jabor and his aides
were attacked as they left the ministry on Wednesday to fill up at a nearby
petrol station.

A roadside bomb completely destroyed one car in the convoy, killing two and
wounding five, a police source told Reuters.

It follows the assassination of the top Iraqi general, a Sunni, in Baghdad
by a sniper on Monday.

More than 500 people have been killed since the Samarra bombings, according
to the most conservative official figures.

Despite the daily bombings and shootings there is a relative lull in the
violence and officials have said the immediate crisis seems to be over —
for the time being at least.

But the U.S. ambassador conceded on Tuesday Iraq could still descend into
civil war, saying Americans "opened Pandora’s Box" when they toppled
Saddam Hussein in 2003 and another incident like that in Samarra could push
it to the brink of war again.

Eight people, including four policemen were killed in bombings in Baghdad
and the western town of Falluja on Wednesday. The bodies of two people were
found bound and blindfold and shot dead in eastern Baghdad, police said.

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been deeply involved in negotiations to
form a new government, held talks on Tuesday with Iraq’s most powerful
Shi’ite political leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, to discuss the government and
security situation.

Sunni and Kurdish parties refuse to accept Shi’ite Prime Minister Ibrahim
al-Jaafari should stay on. His critics say he has failed to bring security
or prosperity during the year in which he has served as interim premier.

The impasse led the governing Shi’ite Alliance to call for Sunday’s opening
of parliament to be postponed. Talabani is due on Thursday to formally
announce a date for parliament to convene after meeting political leaders.

I can see going on killing rampages and taking hostages if your elected
leader hasn’t brought peace prosperity in a year.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, March 8th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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