Dozens Killed In Iraq Attacks

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, center, visits Sadr City, a Shiite area in Baghdad, two days after a series of car bombings killed more than 200 residents.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, center, visits Sadr City, a Shiite area in Baghdad, two days after a series of car bombings killed more than 200 residents. (By Karim Kadim -- Associated Press)
By Nancy Trejos and Saad al-Izzi
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 27, 2006

BAGHDAD, Nov. 26 -- Gunfights broke out and mortar shells came crashing down on parts of the capital Sunday despite a three-day-old curfew and appeals for calm from Iraq's top Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political leaders.

"Don't give those who are depriving you of security a chance to impinge on your unity," the leaders said in a joint statement broadcast on national television, vowing to find out who was responsible for car bombings Thursday that killed more than 200 residents in Sadr City, a Shiite Muslim stronghold in Baghdad. "They want to drag you to angry reactions."

Tit-for-tat violence continued Sunday, as a gun battle erupted following afternoon prayers in the Sunni Arab neighborhood of Ghazaliya in west Baghdad. Shiite militiamen have attacked Sunni mosques in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq since the Sadr City bombings.

Residents in Ghazaliya described a harrowing scene in which Shiite militiamen opened fire with machine guns and lobbed mortars and grenades at the al-Hadithi and al-Muhajirin Sunni mosques and at a nearby market. They said the militiamen were aided in the attack by Iraqi security forces. As many as 45 people were killed and several houses destroyed, residents said.

In Baqubah, north of Baghdad, Iraqi security forces battled Sunni insurgents for a second day. Southwest of Baqubah, armed men took over a police station and burned six vehicles as police fled. They then replaced the Iraqi flag with that of a Sunni Arab insurgent group.

In Baghdad, two mortar shells hit a U.S. military post in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Baladiyat. Two shells fell on a house across the street from a Shiite mosque in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karrada, not far from the Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government are located. Abdul Kareem al-Kinani, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said four people were injured in the attack.

The government planned to lift the curfew Monday. But fear ran high that the fighting would not end, as clashes in Ghazaliya and elsewhere illustrated the inability of Iraqi security forces to rein in the violence that has propelled the country closer to full-blown civil war. U.S. leaders are hoping that the Iraqi government can soon take over responsibility for securing its own land, considered a key to any U.S. troop withdrawal.

The problem with security forces goes beyond ineffectiveness, as many are widely believed to be operating in collusion with the militias and death squads.

The battle in Ghazaliya illustrated the challenges U.S. and Iraqi leaders face. Residents, speaking by telephone with the sound of gunfire audible in the background, said that hundreds of militiamen arrived in Toyotas at about 4 p.m., then marched through the streets accompanied by Iraqi policemen and National Guardsmen. The residents fought to keep them out of their mosques, witnesses said.

Abu Ahmed al-Duleimi, 55, a former Iraqi army officer, said he was helping a 16-year-old boy with cuts on his thighs, abdomen and face after a mortar shell fell near the boy's house. Unable to get him to a hospital, Duleimi took him to his home and called a neighbor who is a doctor.

"The government should be neutral and should eliminate these militias, and not give them the opportunity to inflame the situation," he said as he waited for the doctor to arrive.

Abu Ghazwan, 63, said ambulances were unable to get into the neighborhood because they, too, were being attacked. Many of the injured were taken to a nearby mosque, he said.

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