Rivals Demonstrate Over Iraq Vote

Sunni Arabs protest in Fallujah, west of Baghdad in Anbar province. A similar rally against the election results was held in Baqubah, northeast of the capital.
Sunni Arabs protest in Fallujah, west of Baghdad in Anbar province. A similar rally against the election results was held in Baqubah, northeast of the capital. (By Muhanned Faisal -- Reuters)
By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 26, 2005

BAGHDAD, Dec. 25 -- Shiite Muslims staged rallies Sunday in support of their apparent victory in national parliamentary elections, while the Sunni Muslim minority also demonstrated, continuing to condemn the results. Meanwhile, in violence across the country, bombers and gunmen killed 13 people, indicating that an informal election truce in Iraq might be waning.

Two of the dead were American soldiers, killed by insurgent bombings in the Baghdad area, the U.S. military said. Military statements said at least one of the men was killed while on patrol, but the accounts gave no other details.

Five Iraqi soldiers died when a suicide car bomber slammed into two Iraqi army vehicles in Baghdad, according to police Maj. Mohammed Younis, the Associated Press reported.

Attacks in Kirkuk, Mosul and Jbala killed six other people, news agencies said.

The Dec. 15 national elections brought days of comparative calm in Iraq, with few of the massive bombings that had been frequent in Baghdad and other cities. But Sunni Arabs received less support in the elections than some Sunni leaders have said they expected. Some of those politicians had warned that Sunni insurgents would step up violence if they felt their minority had been cheated out of election victories.

In Baghdad's predominantly Shiite slum of Sadr City, an estimated 1,000 people rallied to support the governing Shiite religious coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, which took a large lead in preliminary results from the parliamentary elections.

Sunni Arabs staged smaller, rival demonstrations in Fallujah and Baqubah to support demands from Sunni and secular Shiite parties for a rerun of the election.

In Fallujah, a former insurgent stronghold in Anbar province, local government offices closed in support of the Sunni protest, news agencies said.

The election complaints demonstrated the difficulty that Iraqi parties are likely to face in forming a government after final election results are released in early January.

In Baghdad, meanwhile, a U.S. military spokesman reiterated a policy that bars the U.S. military from transferring Iraqi detainees into Iraqi custody. The policy applies to detainees held as possible risks to national security, said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson.

The U.S. military will transfer the detainees only when officials are certain the detainees "are treated in accordance with international law and with respect for their human rights,'' Johnson said.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities have said prisoners held at detention centers controlled by the Shiite-run Interior Ministry have been beaten, starved and subjected to electric shock torture, among other abuses.

The torture cases exposed serious weaknesses in the new Iraqi security forces, as the Bush administration planned a stepped-up turnover of military and police responsibilities to the Iraqi government.

U.S. officials have said that they would turn their attention in 2006 from building up the Iraqi army to improving the Iraqi police. The United States has "a program actively in place for training and integrating Iraqi guards,'' Johnson said.

A U.S. general stressed in a recent telephone news conference with U.S.-based reporters that the United States would refuse to transfer security detainees to Iraqi detention centers until it deemed those centers in accord with international standards.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company