Two Bombings Kill At Least 26 in N. Iraq

Marchers in Baqubah protest the deaths of two men they said were Sunni volunteer fighters killed by the U.S. military. A blast at the protest killed at least four people.
Marchers in Baqubah protest the deaths of two men they said were Sunni volunteer fighters killed by the U.S. military. A blast at the protest killed at least four people. ( The Washington Post)
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By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

BAGHDAD, Dec. 25 -- Two bombs ripped through a pair of cities north of Baghdad on Tuesday, causing some of the worst carnage in the country in recent weeks and revealing that, despite the relative calm that has taken hold, insurgent groups remain capable of carrying out devastating attacks.

The morning bombs were detonated in Baiji, an oil refinery town, and Baqubah, a provincial capital where the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq has lost some of its earlier dominance. The attacks, which killed at least 26 people and wounded as many as 100, prompted calls by officials for an increase in Iraqi soldiers and police in the northern provinces to quell the violence.

In Baqubah, tensions were particularly high because of allegations by Iraqis that, hours before the bombing there, U.S. forces had executed two members of an American-backed volunteer force. The U.S. military denied the accusations.

The bombing in Baiji, near a checkpoint outside a two-story housing complex for oil industry employees, was the more devastating of the two attacks Tuesday. The complex was guarded by members of the Facilities Protection Service, part of the Interior Ministry, and members of the local Sunni volunteer security force, one of the many groups increasingly targeted by insurgents after joining forces with the U.S. military.

Police and officials in Salahuddin province said a small car loaded with explosives detonated about 9:30 a.m. outside the checkpoint.

"This is one of our worst attacks," said Hussein Ahmed Mahjoub, the mayor of Baiji. The bombing killed at least 22 people, and Mahjoub said most of the victims "were civilians, including women and children."

The second blast occurred about 11 a.m. in western Baqubah, in Diyala province. A suicide bomber blew up a vehicle amid a crowd of protesters following a funeral, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials. That bombing killed at least four people and wounded 19 others, said Maj. Shawn Garcia, a U.S. military spokesman in Diyala. The police chief in the province said more than 20 people were wounded.

According to Iraqi officials and residents of Baqubah, the funeral was for two members of the city's Sunni volunteer force, former members of an insurgent group who had turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and allied themselves with the U.S. military. Despite that alliance, however, relatives and residents blamed the U.S. military for the two men's deaths.

The men were identified as Uday Hassan Hameed, 27, and Hadi Jasim Rasheed, 60, according to Haji Basim al-Bayiati, a member of the volunteer force. A Washington Post special correspondent who arrived at the scene after 5 a.m. took photos of the two corpses. The hands of both men were bound with plastic handcuffs, and the younger man was wearing an orange reflective vest on which the word "security" was written in English. Several men at the scene said they believed the two had been captured, handcuffed and then shot.

Maj. Garcia said that American soldiers did kill two individuals during a 3 a.m. operation in Baqubah but that the soldiers fired only after taking fire themselves and later found the two dead individuals to be armed. In a statement, the U.S. military later confirmed that one of the dead was a member of the volunteer force, known as Concerned Local Citizens. But the statement did not identify the dead men by name.

Nazar Muhammad Hassan, 32, the brother of Uday Hameed, said his brother was on duty when he was killed by U.S. soldiers, wearing the vest given to him by the American military to identify himself as a security volunteer. When Nazar Hassan arrived at the morgue, he opened the body bag of his brother.

"He was still wearing the vest around his chest, even though it was stained with blood. The vest did not protect him from the American's bullets," he said.

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