14 More Bodies Found Dumped in Baghdad

By Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 5, 2006

BAGHDAD, Feb. 4 -- In what has become a grisly, but almost daily occurrence in the Iraqi capital, police Saturday discovered 14 bodies, shot in the head and dumped in a Baghdad neighborhood.

Bound and blindfolded, the bodies were clad in civilian clothes, said police Capt. Mukhalad Ani.

Sunni Arab leaders, who have aggressively denounced a recent series of late-night raids of residential communities by Iraqi police and soldiers, said the discovery was further evidence that Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government was condoning the presence of sectarian death squads within the country's security forces.

"Forces of the Ministry of the Interior are making attacks in many districts of Baghdad and arrest people without any accusation, simply because they are Sunni people," said Baha Aldin Naqshabandi, an official with the Iraqi Islamic Party. The party, Iraq's largest Sunni political organization, warned this week of "nationwide civil disobedience" if the raids and detentions are not halted.

It was not immediately clear where the bodies were found. Ani said they came from the southeastern neighborhood of Rustamiyah. But the Association of Muslim Scholars, an influential Sunni religious group, said in a statement that 14 bodies were found in the northern neighborhood of Shula.

Those found in Shula were members of a group arrested by police two days earlier from a Sunni mosque, the association said. The statement denounced the attacks as an act of genocide and said the bodies showed signs of torture.

On Thursday, the bodies of 16 middle-age men, who had been blindfolded, bound and shot at close range, had been found on the city's eastern outskirts, the Associated Press reported.

Hundreds of assassinations of both Shiites and Sunnis have been carried out in Baghdad in recent months.

Interior Ministry and other officials in Iraq's Shiite-led government have repeatedly denied that Iraqi forces were involved in the attacks on Sunnis, despite repeated claims by witnesses and victims that gunmen were wearing police or army uniforms or driving vehicles used by government troops. While some Iraqi officials acknowledge the existence of rogue elements within the security forces, others say the raids were conducted by criminals posing as policemen.

A recent report from the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq stated: "Scores of individuals are regularly detained in the middle of night and without judicial warrant. The rule of law continues to be challenged by the existence of militias and other groups who continue to act with impunity, confirming an urgent need for the State to assert control over its security forces and all armed groups in the country."

In another of the recent spate of killings, police said Saturday that Mahmoud Ethawi, a member of the Sunni Endowment, a government office responsible for Sunni affairs, was killed Friday near his Baghdad home.

Elsewhere in Iraq, nine detainees suspected of involvement in the killing of a provincial councilman broke free from the Tasfirat prison in the northern city of Tikrit Friday night, according to army Maj. Jamal Jabouri, of the province's security office. The men received help from prison guards who were members of their tribe, Jabouri said.

Police gave chase and found them near the town of Alam, 15 miles northeast of Tikrit. One of the prisoners was killed in an ensuing firefight, and two were wounded and rearrested, according to Maj. Subhi Hadithi, an official with the prison. The other escaped.

Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers from the Illinois National Guard found a large weapons stockpile during a combat patrol near the western city of Fallujah, the military said in a statement. It included more than 800 mortar rounds and 125 hand grenades and was the 11th such discovery made in 13-day period, the statement said.

Special correspondents K. I. Ibrahim and Salih Saif Aldin contributed to this report.

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