Iraq: slaughter of the innocents

From the UK Guardian, July 14:

At least 27 people, most of them children, were killed and up to 25 wounded when a car packed with explosives targeted a convoy of US soldiers on a community relations mission in a Shia area of east Baghdad.

The explosion left one US soldier dead and three injured as nearby buildings were enveloped by a fireball.

It was the second big suicide bomb in the capital this week, following the attack on an army recruitment centre on Sunday that killed at least 25 people. Last weekend senior US military officers in Iraq had claimed success in their drive to stem the relentless wave of suicide bombers in the capital.

Yesterday’s attack was one of the worst involving children since the US invasion in 2003. In September 2004 35 Iraqi children were killed by three bombs that exploded as they were given sweets by US troops at events to mark the opening of a sewage treatment plant in west Baghdad.

US military officials denied that they were handing out sweets to the children yesterday…

Sergeant David Abrams of the US army said: “The vehicle, laden with explosives, drove up to a Humvee before detonating. Many Iraqi civilians, mostly children, were around the Humvee at the time of the blast.”

He told reporters: “The car bomber must have seen the children in advance and made a deliberate choice.”

Frantic parents rushed to find their children among the carnage. One woman was seen beating her chest with grief and screaming oaths at the insurgents.

In other violence in the capital, a seven-year-old was killed by a roadside bomb that targeted a patrol in eastern Baghdad.

General Richard Myers, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, announced on Tuesday night that a senior militant had been captured in the capital. He said that Abu Abd-al Aziz was a high-ranking operative in the group led by the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and that his arrest was “going to hurt that operation of Zarqawi’s pretty significantly”.

Sectarian tensions in the capital between Sunnis and Shias heightened yesterday following claims by the Association of Muslim Clerics that Iraq’s Shia-led security forces had detained, tortured and then killed up to 13 people, including a Sunni cleric.

In the Sbaa Abkar district of northern Baghdad, an angry crowd carried three coffins through the streets. They said the dead were from the group of 13 or 14 men arrested by police on Monday and found dead in a Baghdad morgue on Tuesday evening, showing signs of beatings and torture.

The claim could not be verified with Iraqi officials, who yesterday promised a full investigation into an earlier incident involving the death by suffocation of 10 Sunni construction workers in the back of a police van.

The building site labourers from the Zaidan village on the western outskirts of the capital had been arrested while visiting injured workmates. They were allegedly taken from a hospital by police and held in a van parked in the hot sun where all but one of them died.

An interior ministry spokesman said they were also investigating an attack on nine members of a Shi’ite family found murdered in their beds by gunmen, which caused protests on Monday.

See our last post on Iraq.

  1. Insurgency’s rising toll on Iraqis
    The New York Times reports today, citing data from Iraq’s Interior Ministry, that Iraqi civilians and police were killed at a rate of over 800 a month between last August and May. The ministry said 8,175 Iraqis were killed by insurgents in the 10 months that ended May 31.