Iraq Sectarian Spree Kills 83 in 2 Days

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
The Associated Press
Sunday, October 15, 2006; 1:37 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- At least 83 people were killed during a two-day spree of sectarian revenge killings, as Iraq's government said Sunday it was indefinitely postponing a much-anticipated national reconciliation conference.

Separately, the U.S. military reported the deaths of a Marine and four soldiers.

A brief statement from the Ministry of State for National Dialogue said only that the Iraqi political powers conference planned for Saturday had been put off because of unspecified "emergency reasons out of the control of the ministry."

The failure to bring Iraq's divided politicians together appeared likely to hurt Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's attempts to strengthen political consensus, underscoring the effect worsening violence is having on efforts to stabilize the U.S.-backed government and curb the bloodshed.

An Iraqi militant group that includes al-Qaida in Iraq announced Sunday in a video that it has established an Islamic Iraqi state, comprising six provinces _ including Baghdad _ that are largely Sunni and parts of two central provinces that are predominiately Shiite.

That statement came from the Mujahedeen Shura Council _ an umbrella organization of insurgent groups in Iraq that have be trying to drive out U.S. forces and topple Iraq's fragile government.

"We bring you good news of the founding and the formation of the Islamic Iraqi State ... to protect our people," said a man identified in the video as the group's spokesman.

The man in the eight minute video, which was posted on a Web site commonly used by insurgents, wore a traditional Arab robe and had his face blocked out.

Weekend revenge killings among Shiites and Sunnis left at least 63 people dead in a city north of Baghdad. Eleven people died Sunday in a series of apparently coordinated bombings on a girls school and other targets in the northern city of Kirkuk, where Kurds and Arabs are in a tense struggle for control of the oil-rich city.

Even by Iraq's bleak standards, October has been an especially bloody month. Hundreds of Iraqi's have died in attacks and 54 U.S. military personnel have been killed in the first two weeks alone.

U.S. commanders say that based on the record of past years, they expect a further spike in bloodshed throughout the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ends in a week. Some Islamic militants believe that dying in combat during Ramadan brings extra blessings in paradise.

The tit-for-tat sectarian killings began late Friday with the discovery of the decapitated bodies of 17 Shiites kidnapped earlier in the day near Balad, a predominantly Sunni region northwest of Baghdad and a hotbed of the insurgency battling U.S. and Iraqi forces.


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Associated Press