By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
BAGHDAD, March 19 -- Dozens of insurgents wielding machine guns surrounded the police station before dawn Monday in Duluiyah, a majority Sunni town about 45 miles north of Baghdad. The five officers on duty walked out, hands to the dark sky, and waited to be executed.
But instead of firing, the insurgents' leader spoke: Repent, he commanded, or die.
"So we swore to quit the police and support the Islamic State of Iraq," recalled Mohammad Hashmawi, one of the police officers, referring to a militant Sunni organization active in many parts of the country.
Apparently content, the insurgents stole the officers' decrepit weapons and the station's communications equipment, blew up the building and released the officers. A similar scene played out simultaneously at another police station in the town, said police Capt. Hussein al-Jaburi. It was the fifth police station in the town to be destroyed by Sunni extremists in two weeks, he said, leaving just three standing.
Later, Hashmawi said he would keep his vow. "I have seen death with my own eyes, and I don't want to see it again. I will return to being a farmer. I tell you that the decisions and control of the city are in the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq."
In Duluiyah and elsewhere on Monday, Sunni insurgents continued their campaign of violence and intimidation on the eve here of the fourth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
In the northern city of Kirkuk, three back-to-back bombings -- near a mosque, a police patrol and the home of a former army general -- killed at least 16 people and wounded at least 38, a Kirkuk police official and a health department official said. Kirkuk police Col. Tala Salahaldeen attributed the bombings to the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.
In Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives while guards searched him as he tried to enter a mosque in Shorja, killing at least four people and wounding more than 30, police and the U.S. military said. A market in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood was the site of a bombing attack that killed 137 people last month.
As President Bush asked Americans to be patient with his plans for pacifying Iraq, the bloody developments underscored recent shifts in violence in the country. Shiite militias have lain low during a nearly five-week-old security crackdown in Baghdad, but Sunni insurgents have stepped up attacks, especially in the restive belt around the capital.
Execution-style killings persist. Police in Kut, south of Baghdad, discovered the bullet-pierced body of the mayor of Dijelah, a nearby Shiite village, on a main street. Khalaf al-Dilfi had been kidnapped earlier Monday by armed men, said Kut police Capt. Hameed Jiati.
Also Monday, the Iraqi government asked U.S. authorities for custody of former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan in order to hang him Tuesday, news services reported, citing unnamed officials in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office. Last week, an appeals court upheld the death sentence given to Ramadan, who, like Saddam Hussein, was convicted for his role in the massacre of 148 Shiites from the town of Dujail in retaliation for a 1982 attempt on Hussein's life. [An official with the prime minister's office said Ramadan was hanged before dawn, the Associated Press reported.]
The U.S. military confirmed Monday that a building in Anbar province being used as an observation post by the Iraqi military was bombed by insurgents Sunday morning. The explosion killed two soldiers and wounded 12 others. Local authorities said Sunday that the building was a former hotel and that insurgents used disguises to plant bombs on the ground floor.
Special correspondents Naseer Nouri and Waleed Saffar in Baghdad and Muhanned Saif Aldin in Tikrit contributed to this report.