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More Carnage As Iraq´s Ethnic Tensions Ignite

 
Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
05/06/2005 01:11 PM
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More Carnage As Iraq´s Ethnic Tensions Ignite
MORE of Bush´s ´success´...

More Carnage As Iraq´s
Ethnic Tensions Ignite
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
The Independent - UK
5-6-5


Burnt wreckage on the road marks the place in south Baghdad where insurgents poured fuel over a bullet-riddled police car with the driver dead or badly wounded still at the wheel and set it on fire.

The attack took place yesterday at about 6am in the al-Shebab district of the capital as police in their blue-and-white patrol cars were setting up a checkpoint. By the time the shooting had ended, a further nine policemen had been killed, adding to the total of 616 killed so far this year. Another two policemen were wounded.

The battle is typical of the fighting between insurgents and Iraqi security forces raging across Iraq every day but it is sparsely reported even when many are killed.

Local people, none of whom wanted to be named, said the police often set up checkpoints close to the al-Darwish roundabout. Al-Shebab is a lower middle-class neighbourhood where many people have clerical jobs working for the government. It is not known for political militancy and has a mixed Shia and Sunni population but it is easy to reach from hardcore insurgent towns such as Mahmoudiya and Latafiyah on the southern outskirts of Baghdad.

The lightly-armed police do not seem to have had much of a chance. A few hours later, there were bloodstains and a few copper cartridge cases from a Kalashnikov on the concrete pavement in front of a shop dealing in real estate. The owner was stoically sweeping up broken glass. He pointed to a dozen holes where bullets punctured the metal door of his shop, dug chunks out of a wall and ripped through the green sofa on which his clients normally sat.

"We were all very frightened when we heard the shooting," said a neighbour in a long brown robe who witnessed the attack. "I came out as soon as it was over and found one policeman dead in the street. There was another one hit in the side who was crawling along and I tried to help him."

On the other side of the highway, he saw gunmen pour fuel over a police car with a man inside it.

By one account, the insurgents had a heavy machine gun mounted on a truck - much more powerful than anything used by the police. Others fired from cars. The ambush site is just by an open space used for parking buses and lorries that would have provided cover for gunmen.

The war in Iraq is changing from one between the insurgents and the US army towards one between the guerrillas and the Iraqi army and police. By the end of next year, the US hopes to have trained 300,000 Iraqi soldiers and police.

The fighting has an increasing sectarian edge with most of the new recruits being Shia or Kurds. The officer corps of the old army under Saddam Hussein was more than three-quarters Sunni.

The policemen shot down in the al-Shebab district were not the only people to die violently in Baghdad yesterday morning. Eleven young men were killed and six wounded when a suicide bomber struck at an army recruitment centre.

"While we were standing in line, a man walked past, right up to the heavily guarded entrance gate as if he wanted to ask the guards a question," Anwar Asfi, who was standing at the end of the line, said. "Suddenly an explosion occurred and I was knocked over."

Another police officer died and six wounded in an assassination attempt on an official when a car blew up in Ghazaliyah district.

Ethnic divisions are also deepening in northern Iraq. The Army of Ansar al-Sunnah claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb outside a police recruiting centre in the Kurdish city of Arbil on Wednesday saying it was revenge for the Kurdish peshmerga fighting alongside US troops.

* A US Marines corporal who was videotaped shooting an apparently injured and unarmed Iraqi in Fallujah last year will not face a court martial, the Marine Corps has said. The corporal, who was not named, said he shot three insurgents in self-defence. Astatement from the Marines said the corporal "could have reasonably believed the AIF [anti-Iraq forces] ... posed a threat".

©2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.

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Anonymous Coward
12/08/2005 10:16 AM
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Re: More Carnage As Iraq´s Ethnic Tensions Ignite
In the last 9 days, 269 people have been killed in Iraq. That´s 30 people/day. So by this time next year 10,950 more will have been killed. That´s assuming a constant kill rate.

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