At Least 69 Killed in Attacks Across Iraq

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 28, 2006

BAGHDAD, Aug. 27 -- Gunmen and bombers claimed at least 69 lives in Iraq on Sunday, even as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki repeated the assertions of Iraqi and U.S. leaders that violence was easing from a wartime high set earlier this summer.

While U.S. and Iraqi forces have deployed additional troops in Baghdad to deal with the surge of sectarian violence, the deadliest of the attacks Sunday occurred outside the capital, in cities to the north.

The attention of Iraqi and U.S. officials since this spring has been focused on the rivalry between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Muslims in Baghdad. Sunday's violence, however, highlighted the country's many other dangers since the war began: rising crime and growing tensions among Iraq's other faiths and peoples.

The most lethal attack came in the town of Khalis, near Baqubah, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Gunmen stormed the house of a local judge, Hamdi al-Ubaidi, shot one of his brothers and moved to abduct another, police said.

When men from a nearby cafe ran to the aid of the family, gunmen opened fire, killing 12 of the would-be rescuers and injuring 25, police Brig. Safa al Mandalawi said.

The kidnappers escaped, with the judge's brother as their captive, Mandalawi said.

The mass killing came about 11 hours after a bomb planted in a marketplace in Khalis exploded at the height of morning shopping. Nine people died, and 15 were injured, police Lt. Ali Khayam said.

Gunmen killed five people in three other attacks in the nearby city of Baqubah, a community with a heavily nationalist Sunni Arab population that has seen nearly daily violence.

Farther to the north, in the tense oil city of Kirkuk, back-to-back bombings killed 10 people Sunday outside the house of a police colonel and outside a meeting hall of Sufis, a mystical Muslim religious sect.

A top Sufi leader in Fallujah last week declared that his previously nonviolent sect was joining the Sunni insurgency, saying that rising Shiite militancy left him no choice but to fight for survival. It was not known whether Sunday's attack was related to the Sufi leader's call to arms.

Attacks elsewhere in Kirkuk on Sunday targeted offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a member of Iraq's northern-based Kurdish minority. A car bomb at one of the offices killed a guard, while security personnel at another office repelled an assault by gunmen, killing one of the assailants.

Sunni Arabs and Kurds are vying for Kirkuk, one of the country's two main oil centers. A referendum in the city is to determine whether Kirkuk is to come under Kurdish or Arab control. Each side is trying to build up its strength ahead of the vote.

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