Iraq: co-existence as target
From the Washington Post, July 18:
BAGHDAD -- They arrived early yesterday morning in a straight line of official-looking vehicles, about 125 men dressed in Iraqi Army fatigues and carrying standard-issue weapons. Aziza Abdul Jabbar and her relatives ran out of her home, believing the military had arrived to protect their village in Diyala Province.
Then the men opened fire in the darkness, shooting indiscriminately, according to an account that Abdul Jabbar, 65, gave to a relative. She said she watched as they killed her son, daughter, and 7-year-old grandson. The men cursed at her to go indoors, which she did, cowering in her mud-walled home.
By the time the sun rose over the village, 30 of its people -- including three other children -- were dead.
The attack in Duwailiya, a village of several hundred people, served as a reminder of how volatile Diyala remains despite its massive US military presence. The massacre occurred just a few hours before General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during a visit to Iraq that he is optimistic about US and Iraqi efforts to stem violence in Baghdad and other parts of the country.
Major General Benjamin Mixon, the top US military commander in northern Iraq, said during a news conference last week that the situation in Diyala had improved. "Now that the surge has reached its full strength, we are seeing definitive progress" in Diyala, he said, referring to President Bush's decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq this year.
Police said the violence seemed to be decreasing in the rural area that includes Duwailiya. Villagers hardly thought of themselves as Sunnis or Shi'ites, said resident Muhsin Abdullah al-Tamimi, 55, who spoke to a Washington Post special correspondent by telephone.
"We are all prisoners here; Sunni and Shi'ite doesn't matter," said Tamimi, a Shi'ite and a relative of Abdul Jabbar. He relayed her account to the Post.
"We don't blame our Sunni brothers for what happened; they're suffering just like us," Tamimi said.
Of course al-Qaeda is blamed—and seems to have been very busy elsewhere in Iraq today. From the BBC, July 17:
An Iraqi police spokesman, Col Raghib Rawi, blamed the Diyala killings on al-Qaeda militants who have been fighting US and Iraqi forces in the province. Col Rawi said the victims were members of a Shia tribe.
In Baghdad at least 10 people, including four soldiers, were killed in a suicide car bomb targeting an Iraqi army convoy passing through Zayouna district.
Another car bomb exploded near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad, killing four people.
And a blow against al-Qaeda? From AP, July 19:
The U.S. command announced on Wednesday the arrest of an al-Qaida leader it said served as the link between the organization's command in Iraq and Osama bin Laden's inner circle, enabling it to wield considerable influence over the Iraqi group...
Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was the highest-ranking Iraqi in the al-Qaida in Iraq leadership when he was captured July 4 in Mosul, U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said.