Iraq: insurgents attack civilians, Syria in US crosshairs

At least 80 are reported dead and twice as many wounded in suicide car bomb explosion near a gathering of laborers in Kadhimiya, a Shiite area of north-central Baghdad. About three hours later, another suicide car bomb targeted shoppers in the busy Shiite neighborhood of Shula in northwestern Baghdad, killing four and wounding 22 others. In Taji, about 10 miles north of Baghdad, men wearing Iraqi army uniforms stormed homes and pulled 17 Shiite men from their homes, shooting them execution style, police said.

Attacks were also staged on at least three military convoys. A suicide car bomb targeted an Iraqi army convoy in the al-Adil intersection in western Baghdad, killing three Iraqi soldiers. About 40 minutes earlier, another suicide car bomber hit a US military convoy in eastern Baghdad, wounding two soldiers and damaging their Humvee. A roadside bomb also exploded near a US convoy in the capital. There were no reports of casualties.

The violence comes a day after Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met with President Bush met in Washington.

Bush renewed his pledge to assist Baghdad in building a democracy and to help the fledgling government defeat insurgents. “America will stand with the Iraqi people as they move forward with the democratic process,” Bush said at a joint White House news conference. “American troops will stay on the offensive, alongside Iraqi security forces, to hunt down our common enemies.”

Talabani said he hopes that Iraqi forces will be ready to take full responsibility for the nation’s security by the end of 2006. “We will set no timetable for withdrawal,” Talabani said. “A timetable will help the terrorists.”

The leaders both criticized Syria, accusing the country of allowing insurgents to enter Iraq across its border. “The Syrian government can do a lot more to prevent the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq,” Bush said. “These people are coming from Syria into Iraq and killing a lot of innocent people. They’re killing — they’re trying to kill our folks as well.” In an implicit threat, Bush added: “The Syrian leader must understand we take his lack of action seriously,” Bush said.

On Monday, Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said that Syria is “the No. 1 offender” in impeding US efforts in Iraq. “There is blatant interference by Syria in Iraqi affairs, by allowing these terrorists to come across,” Khalilzad said. “And as I said before, our patience is running out. We have given it every opportunity. The time is running out for more of the same.” Asked whether a military option against Syria was under consideration, Khalilzad said, “Everything is on the table.”

Suspects are still being detained by US-Iraqi forces in Tal Afar, on the Syrian border. “Operation Restore Rights” was launched in Tal Afar two weeks ago to try to drive out insurgents around the northern city. An estimated 6,600 families have been forced to flee the area in recent months, a senior official with Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration reported.

The Islamic Army in Iraq has posted a statement on the web saying it wanted to avenge the deaths of Sunnis in Iraq, including those killed in Tal Afar.

In other developments:

*Iraqi police Sept. 13 found six bodies near a garbage dump in Taji north of Baghdad. The victims were shot to death and blindfolded with their hands bound, a Baghdad emergency police official said.

*A roadside bomb struck a three-vehicle convoy Sept. 13, wounding four security contractors near the southern city of Basra, Iraqi and U.S. officials said. The contractors — whose nationalities are not known — were not affiliated with the U.S. military mission or with coalition forces, U.S. officials said.

*Two Kurdish construction workers were shot to death Sept. 13 in a drive-by shooting in southern Baghdad, Iraqi police said. A third worker was wounded in the attack. Earlier, police found the bodies of two men in southeastern Baghdad. Authorities said there were signs the men had been tortured. (CNN, Sept. 14)

See our last post on Iraq.

  1. Series of deadly attacks in Iraq kills over 150 people
    Last update – 12:34 14/09/2005
    Series of deadly attacks in Iraq kills over 150 people
    By News Agencies,Ha’aretz

    A series of deadly attacks erupted throughout Iraq Wednesday, just as lawmakers finalized an official draft of the country’s first constitution.

    Six suicide bombs exploded in Baghdad killing over 130 people, while gunmen killed an additional 17 people in a separate incident north of Baghdad.

    A suicide bomber killed 114 people and wounded 156 in a crowded Shi’ite district of Baghdad Wednesday, in the second deadliest single bomb attack in Iraq since the war.

    The suicide bomber blew up an explosives-packed minibus in Kadhimiya, in Baghdad’s old town, killing mostly laborers looking for day jobs, police said.

    An Interior Ministry source said the bomber lured the men towards his vehicle with promises of work before detonating the bomb, which contained up to 500 lbs of explosives.

    It was one of the single deadliest car bombings Iraq has seen, and came days after around 1,000 people died in the same district in a stampede on a bridge, triggered by rumors of a suicide bomber in a crowd during a Shi’ite religious ceremony.

    “We gathered and suddenly a car blew up and turned the area into fire and dust and darkness,” said Hadi, one of the workers who survived the attack, which happened shortly after sunrise.

    Around two hours later another blast was heard in central Baghdad, and two more car bombs exploded shortly afterwards.

    Police said five were killed and 24 wounded in one of the blasts, near the offices of a Shi’ite cleric. They said three police and three civilians were killed in another attack on a police convoy

    Just about an hour after that, a suicide bomber in a car blew himself up in Baghdad, killing 11 people who lined up to refill gas canisters and wounding 14, police said.

    Less than an hour later, a sixth bomb shook Bahdad, exploding between the main rail station and the Rashid hotel. Police have not yet given details on casualities or wounded.

    Separately, gunmen dragged 17 people from their homes and killed them just north of Baghdad early on Wednesday, police said.

    They said the gunmen had rounded up their victims in the middle of the night and shot them outside their homes in Taji, on the northern outskirts of Baghdad.

    Iraqi government officials have accused Sunni Arab militants of attacking majority Shi’ites, who were swept to power in January elections boycotted by most Sunnis, in a bid to spark a civil war.

    With the October 15 referendum on the draft constitution looming as several deadlines were missed, Iraqi lawmakers announced that the document had been finalized and would be sent to the United Nations for printing and distribution.

    Hussein al-Shahristani, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly and a leading Shiite lawmaker, said the latest changes included an apparent bow to demands from the Arab League that the country be described as a founding member of the 22-member pan-Arab body and that it was “committed to its charter.”