Insurgent Group Announces Truce With Al-Qaeda in Iraq

By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, June 7, 2007

BAGHDAD, June 6 -- A Sunni insurgent group that waged a deadly street battle last week against the rival group al-Qaeda in Iraq in a Sunni neighborhood of west Baghdad announced Wednesday that the two forces had declared a cease-fire.

The Islamic Army of Iraq, a more moderate and secular Sunni group, said it had reached the cease-fire with al-Qaeda in Iraq because the groups did not want to spill Muslim blood or damage "the project of jihad."

Last week, the two groups fought for several days in the Sunni neighborhood of Amiriyah, leaving about 30 of their fighters dead. Residents of the neighborhood and leaders from the Islamic Army, which reportedly is made up of mostly Sunnis from the disbanded army of Saddam Hussein, said they had risen up against al-Qaeda in Iraq because it was imposing strict rules on the neighborhood and killing fellow Sunnis without evidence of wrongdoing.

In a statement posted on the Internet, the Islamic Army said the groups had agreed to end all military operations against each other, stop criticizing each other in the media, and stop taking prisoners. The groups would create "a judicial committee" to resolve differences, the statement said.

Meanwhile, a recent rash of kidnappings in Iraq reportedly continued Wednesday with the abduction of a Catholic priest, the Rev. Hani Abdel Ahad, and five boys in northeast Baghdad, according to the Catholic news service AsiaNews. They were grabbed as they were on the way to a local seminary, the agency reported.

The kidnappings followed the shooting deaths Sunday of a Catholic priest, the Rev. Ragheed Ganni, 31, and three of his assistants when their car was ambushed by gunmen a short distance from the church where they had just conducted Mass in the northern city of Mosul. Pope Benedict XVI called the killings "senseless."

The U.S. military announced the deaths of four soldiers. Three were killed Wednesday -- one by a roadside bomb in Baiji, about 125 miles north of Baghdad, another by an explosion in Diyala province north of the capital, and the third by a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad, the military said in statements. A fourth soldier was killed by small-arms fire Tuesday in Diyala.

In other violence, two car bombs exploded near each other and about two minutes apart Wednesday morning near a revered Shiite shrine in Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding 25, police said. At least 17 others were killed and 13 wounded in mortar attacks, drive-by shootings and other violence across the country, according to an Interior Ministry official who was not allowed to be quoted by name. In addition, he said, police in Baghdad had found 27 bodies, all shot in the head and bearing signs of torture.

On Tuesday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported from its headquarters in Geneva that more than 4.2 million Iraqis had been forced from their homes by violence in Iraq, including about 2 million who had been displaced inside the country and about 2.2 million who had fled as refugees to neighboring countries.

The U.N. agency said about 1.4 million fled to Syria, as many as 750,000 to Jordan, 80,000 to Egypt and about 200,000 to the Persian Gulf region. Syria receives at least 30,000 Iraqis a month, UNHCR reported.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company