Sunday, May 07, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, MAY 7, 2006 A Shiite mosque is seen through a piece of shrapnel-riddled metal following a car bomb attack in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, Sunday, May 7, 2006. (AP Photo) Note: I had a hard time choosing a photo today. It's been a very violent day and there are plenty of gory photos of victims and voyeuristic photos of the bereaved. I felt they were invasive so I didn't post any. What do others think about this issue? (There are times when people are clearly asking for their injured loved ones to be photographed, but none of these were like that.) Bring 'em on. Update: British authorities now say that 5 troops (unspecified detachment) were killed in Basra helicopter shoot-down on Saturday. Yesterday that number was usually given as 4 OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS (Reuters) - A car bomb near the central bus station in the Iraqi Shi'ite holy city of Kerbala killed 21 people and wounded 52 on Sunday, police said. The dead were all civilians. Three car bombs hit Baghdad (AP): 45 executed men found, mostly in Baghdad(AFP). "A few hours before the Karbala bombing, Iraqi police found the bullet-riddled bodies of 45 men killed in apparent sectarian attacks, an interior ministry official said. He said 28 bodies were found in Baghdad's western Kharkh area, while another 15 were recovered from the eastern Rusafa district. Two other bodies were found in Madan, south of Baghdad. 'All men were handcuffed and shot in the head,' he said." An average day -- see LA Times story below AP Dispatch adds several other incidents. WAPO story has detail on Azamiyah bombing, and additional incidents: Update: As of 11:00 am Eastern Time, NPR is reporting that the Baghdad morgue has received 63 bodies of civilians today. NEWS, COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Sectarian Killings Surge in Baghdad. Louise Roug of the LA Times, relying on information from administrators of the central Baghdad morgue and compiling such other information as she can, finds that most victims are Sunni Arabs. I recommend reading the whole thing. We see a lot of assertions here about whether most of the victims of sectarian violence are Shiite or Sunni, but Roug provides a lot of credible data to show that Shiite death squads acting under official color are responsible for the majority of targeted killings of civilians. Excerpt:
More Iraqi civilians were killed in Baghdad during the first three months of this year than at any time since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime — at least 3,800, many of them found hogtied and shot execution-style. Others were strangled, electrocuted, stabbed, garroted or hanged. Some died in bombings. Many bore signs of torture such as bruises, drill holes, burn marks, gouged eyes or severed limbs. Every day, about 40 bodies arrive at the central Baghdad morgue, an official said. The numbers demonstrate a shift in the nature of the violence, which increasingly has targeted both sides of the country's SunniShiite sectarian divide. In the previous three years, the killings were more random, impersonal. Violence came mostly in the form of bombs wielded by the Sunni Arab-led insurgency that primarily targeted the coalition forces and the Shiite majority: balls of fire and shrapnel tearing through the bodies of those riding the wrong bus, shopping at the wrong market or standing in the wrong line. Now the killings are systematic, personal. Masked gunmen storm into homes, and the victims — the majority of them Sunnis — are never again seen alive. Such killings now claim nine times more lives than car bombings, according to figures provided by a high-ranking U.S. military official, who released them only on the condition of anonymity. snip But even the grim morgue statistics — 3,472 violent deaths in Baghdad from January through March — do not present the full picture of the violence in the capital. That number does not include those killed in bombings or during gunfights between insurgents and security forces because they are generally are not brought in for autopsy at the central morgue. At least 351 civilians were killed in bombings across the capital during the first three months of the year, according to calculations based on daily reports by hospital and police officials. Those reports, considered conservative, did not include slain Iraqi security forces, Iraqis killed by U.S. or Iraqi forces, and Iraqis killed outside the capital. Obtaining accurate numbers from the Health Ministry or the 18 major hospitals serving Baghdad proved difficult, because officials at all tiers of government routinely inflate or deflate numbers to suit political purposes. The figures obtained from numerous other sources, however, show the sectarian nature of a conflict that is increasingly targeting civilians. Numbers obtained from officials at the cemetery in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, where the vast majority of Shiites are laid to rest, provided a benchmark to compare the numbers of Shiite and Sunni victims in Baghdad. In the Najaf cemetery, 1,582 people from throughout the country were buried in the first three months of the year. Included in that figure are also unclaimed bodies — some of them probably those of Sunnis. That number, compared with the 3,472 violent deaths in Baghdad, provides additional evidence that the majority of those killed have been Sunnis, because it is still less than half the total of civilian deaths in the capital. In addition, there are far more Shiites in Iraq than Sunni Arabs — and so the deaths among Sunnis appear to be disproportionate to the population.
Kurdish guerilla leader threatens attacks in Iran: (AFP) "A top Kurdish guerilla on Saturday threatened to launch hit-and-run attacks on Iran, saying the Shiite country planned to bomb his group’s positions inside Iraq to gain Turkey’s support against the US. “We have the right to launch attacks against Iranian forces,” said Cemil “Cuma” Bayik, the de facto leader of the feared Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a quazi-socialist rebel movement entrenched in a decades-long guerilla war for independence in the majority Kurdish southeast of Turkey." Kirk Semple in the NYT interviews an Iraqi kidnapping victim, gives in-depth report on the kidnapping industry in Iraq.
BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 4 New victims arrived every day, blindfolded and terrified. The kidnappers would shove them into the small, unfurnished room where Issam Mofak Jassem sat on the concrete floor awaiting his fate. The fresh captives would be pulled from the room, sometimes within hours, and Mr. Jassem would hear them being led down the hall. Gunshots would follow quickly, and he would never see the men again. snip His story, told over the course of several interviews in Baghdad, casts a light on the murky growth industry of kidnapping in Iraq, where abductions are sometimes lucrative criminal enterprises, sometimes brutal aspects of sectarian violence, and sometimes a tangled mix of the two. Mr. Jassem's captors seemed to run a smooth, high-volume operation. During the four days he was held, more than 10 victims passed through the same holding room, and most appeared to meet a bloody end. Kidnapping has flourished here since the fall of Saddam Hussein, as insurgents, militias and criminal gangs have taken advantage of the breakdown in social order. Iraq has caught up with the traditional world leaders in kidnapping like Colombia, Mexico and Brazil and may have surpassed them. The vast majority of victims are Iraqis. Between 5 and 30 are abducted every day, according to figures maintained by the American Embassy in Baghdad, though Iraqi and American officials acknowledge that any estimate is merely guesswork, since most kidnappings go unreported. The Hostage Working Group, a kidnapping task force based at the embassy, receives an average of one or two reports a day and has never received more than seven, according to the unit's director, Erik Rye. "It's tip-of-the-iceberg analysis," he said. Some kidnappings have political or sectarian motivations. Sunni Arab-led insurgent groups have abducted foreigners to pressure their governments to leave Iraq; Shiite militias have kidnapped and executed Sunnis. Sometimes, kidnappings are used to solve tribal and commercial disputes "a business negotiation tactic," Mr. Rye said. But most are for profit, Iraqi and American officials say, and are resolved by ransom payments that average $30,000 a hefty sum in a country where per capita annual income is only $1,050. An increasing amount of that money flows into insurgent coffers, officials say.
Borzou Daragahi of the LA Times reports on growing opposition to the occupation in the Shiite south. Lead:
A visitor need not go far or search hard to hear and see the anti-American venom that bubbles through this ancient shrine city, which once welcomed U.S. forces as liberators. "The American ambassador is the gate through which terrorism enters Iraq," says a banner hanging from the fence surrounding the tombs of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas, among the most revered martyrs of the Shiite Muslim faith. A song screeches from a boombox at a nearby CD shop: "If the occupiers come at us, we will plant a bomb underneath them." For three years, most of Iraq's Shiites welcomed — or at least tolerated — the U.S. presence here. In the weeks immediately after the American-led invasion, the mothers and sisters of Saddam Hussein's Shiite victims clutched clumps of dried earth as they wept over mass graves and thanked God for ending their oppression. The Shiite acceptance of an American presence allowed troops to concentrate on putting down the insurgency in western Iraq, which is led by Sunni Muslim Arabs. With the exception of an uprising in mid-2004 by followers of radical cleric Muqtada Sadr, the south has been relatively quiet and peaceful under the sway of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. But now the mood has shifted. Perceived American missteps, a torrent of anti-U.S. propaganda and a recently emboldened Shiite sense of political prowess have coalesced to make the south a fertile breeding ground for antagonism toward America's presence. The change has weakened the Bush administration's position and dimmed its hopes that Iraq's Shiites would counter the vehement anti-Americanism of their coreligionists across the border in Iran.
ROUND UP OF LOCAL STORIES From Whisker Sgt. First Class Marc Grandia of Ostego, MN shot in Anbar province. The bullet entered the right front and exited under the shoulder blade inches from his spine. Sustained a contusion to his spinal column, nerve damage, a bruised right lung, three cracked vertebrae and cracked ribs. Sergeant Maj. Bradley A. Kasal receives the Navy Cross for his participation in the destruction of Fallujah in 2004.. He had lost approximately 60 percent of his blood from more than 40 shrapnel wounds and seven 7.62 mm AK-47 gunshots. 21 year old Corporal Chris Kotch of Brunswick Maine was hit by an improvised explosive device while on routine patrol near Al'Fallujah in Iraq. His left vocal chord is now paralyzed, due to a procedure following his injury. He also describes PTSD symptoms. Marine Matt Davis of Blooming Grove, TX, was wounded Monday in Iraq. He is now in a U.S. Army hospital in Germany, suffering from a multiple shrapnel wounds and leg injuries. A family friend informed the Daily Sun that other soldiers who were also injured in the same incident are in the same hospital wing as Davis. Marine Corporal Brendan N. Poelaert of East Kingston, NH, received a Purple Heart for the injuries he received while working with his dog, Flapper, in Ramadi, Iraq in Jan. "Brendan was literally blown into the air, but he got up, went back, and got his friends and the two dogs out," said his father, Richard. "He thought his arm had been blown off, but it was only broken." had ball bearings through his neck and in his legs and knee, said Richard. "A lot went right through him. He had a few surgeries." Brendan also suffered partial hearing loss and loss of mobility in his arm. Marine Adam Standfuss of Danube, MN loses and arm and a leg. He is learning to hunt and fish again, pulls the bowstring with his teeth. Army PFC Caleb Lufkin of Knoxville, TN, seriously injured in bomb attack that killed two. Still being treated in Iraq pending transfer to Germany. Army Private James Bright returned home Friday evening to a welcoming parade in Breese, Illinois. Bright was wounded in Iraq last month when he was sprayed with shrapnel. He hopes to return to active duty but that remains to be determined following rehab for a soldier injury. Quote of the Day: "These were ostensibly educated normal people, and their reaction was very much like the one that Goebbels stirred up. You can see it was a very unfriendly audience to anyone who posed any kind of question to the Defense Secretary. So -- and listening to it, I'm sort of scared, because if this is indicative of the brainwashing that has taken place, it's going be a long, long struggle to speak truth to power, as Fannie Lou Hamer so famously said, and Damu Smith, as well." -- Retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern, commenting on Democracy Now! about the audience reaction when he asked Donald Rumsfeld why he had lied about "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Iraq and Saddam Hussein's "links" to Al Qaeda.


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