Violence Flares in Divided Baghdad

By Joshua Partlow and Bassam Sebti
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

BAGHDAD, July 10 -- A barrage of bombings and gunfire killed at least 40 people in Iraq on Monday in a burst of sectarian warfare a day after Shiite Muslim militiamen terrorized a Sunni Arab neighborhood in Baghdad.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on Iraqis to "unite as brothers" and stop the cycle of retaliatory violence.

But the killings that started Sunday morning -- with mobs of gunmen pulling Sunnis out of their cars and storming their homes in the neighborhood of al-Jihad -- spread to Shiite enclaves in the capital and other cities across Iraq.

Many in Iraq expressed fear that the recent attacks were pushing the country past isolated killings into civil war.

Two car bombs exploded Monday morning on a commercial street in the Shiite slum of Sadr City in Baghdad in apparent retribution for the killings of Sunnis the day before. The two bombs, within 10 minutes of each other, crumbled buildings, killed 11 people and injured 17 others, Col. Sami Jasim of the Interior Ministry said. The second explosion was aimed at a police patrol, a frequent target of attacks in recent months.

Then masked gunmen wearing civilian clothes set up a checkpoint in the violence-plagued Sunni neighborhood of Amiriyah, pulled seven passengers from a Kia minibus and shot them dead in the street, Interior Ministry Brig. Gen Mahmoud Nima said. Nima said that Iraqi army soldiers near the scene failed to intervene. Some Sunni politicians alleged Sunday that the killings in al-Jihad were the work of the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shiite militia, in concert with Iraqi police officers.

Violence also flared in the northern city of Kirkuk, where a suicide truck bomber drove into a Kurdish political party office and killed three people and wounded 20 others, Lt. Col. Shwan Abdullah of the Kirkuk police said. A short time later, a bomb detonated near a rival Kurdish party office in the city, wounding three people, he said.

"Our destiny is to work together in brotherhood to defeat terrorism and insurgency," Maliki, a Shiite, told the Kurdish regional parliament in northern Iraq, the Reuters news agency reported. "We have no choice but to defeat those who want to return us to the black days."

In al-Jihad, the residents who remained a day after the deadly rampage said they looked out onto ghostly quiet streets as Iraqi police and soldiers enforced a daytime curfew and cordoned off the neighborhood.

"It has been quiet since yesterday -- we have not heard a single bullet," said Hayder Emad, 26, a resident. "The people were running in the streets trying to buy what they need and hurrying back."

Ali Muhsin, 58, said his neighbors grabbed guns and stood sentry on their roofs, fearing another onslaught by militiamen. He sent his son to a town south of Baghdad to live with relatives and called him Monday to warn him not to return.

"I fear that someone will kill him," he said.

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