Iraq: sectarian cleansing grinds on

Another heroic blow by the Iraqi resistance… against Shi’ite civilians. From the AP, Aug. 14:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Residents dug through the rubble of devastated buildings today in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad that was pounded by a barrage of rockets, bombs and mortars that killed at least 47 people and injured dozens..

The missiles rained down on the Zafraniyah district in southern Baghdad last night for more than an hour, as vehicles rigged with bombs exploded, residents said.

Officials said the rockets came from a mostly Sunni district, evidence that the sectarian violence roiling the capital shows no sign of stopping despite an additional 12,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops rushing in to bring peace.

Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Askari told reporters that the latest violence was a desperate attempt by terrorists who are being pushed into a corner by the new security crackdown.

“Terrorists are in a critical state because they realize the security plan is succeeding. So they have begun targeting innocent people anywhere and randomly,” he said.

The office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a statement that the attack started with a number of Katyusha rockets falling on a building followed by a car bomb, more rockets on a post office, a motorcycle bomb near a public library and mortar rounds near an Armenian church.

The statement said 47 people were killed and 100 injured. The head of a municipal council, Mohammed al-Rubaie, put the death toll at 62. The discrepancy was not explained.

“The terrorists planned this ugly crime so that it would inflict maximum harm on innocent civilians, and this is proof of their deep-rooted hatred for Iraq and their attempt to incite sectarianism,” al-Maliki said.

The attack was the deadliest since the U.S. and Iraqi reinforcements were sent to the capital this month to curb a surge in sectarian violence that the United Nations has estimated killed nearly 6,000 Iraqis in May and June.

The complex style of the assault was similar to a July 27 attack of mortars, rockets and car bombs on another mostly Shiite district, Karradah, that killed 31 people.

Police said the missiles that struck Karradah also were fired from Dora.

Yesterday, U.S. and Iraqi soldiers began searching more than 4,000 homes in the Sunni neighborhood of Amariyah in Baghdad while conducting a similar operation simultaneously in the Shiite district of Shula, the U.S. command said.

“The operations are designed to reduce the level of murders, kidnappings, assassinations, terrorism and sectarian violence in northwest Baghdad and to reinforce the Iraqi government’s control,” a statement by the U.S. command said.

Elsewhere, unidentified gunmen killed Col. Mahjoub Khalaf Ghulam, a commander in the Iraqi oil protection force, in Tikrit, about 80 miles north of Baghdad, police said. More than 250 Oil Ministry officials, workers and oil security personnel have been assassinated since the fall of Saddam.

Also yesterday, a bomb blew up in a Shiite shrine near the northern city of Baqouba but there were no casualties. However, six people were killed in shootings and bombings today across Iraq, including three blacksmiths who were shot to death by gunmen in the northern city of Mosul.

See our last post on Iraq.