Tag Archive: BAGHDAD


Triple bombing kills 27 at Iraqi police station

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110519/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iraq

By YAHYA BARZANJI and LARA JAKES, Associated Press Yahya Barzanji And Lara Jakes, Associated Press 1 hr 34 mins ago

KIRKUK, Iraq – A triple bombing killed 27 people and wounded scores outside a police station Thursday, heightening tensions in a northern Iraqi city already on edge after a string of kidnappings and attacks against security officers.

The new violence adds to strain that already besets Kirkuk, a city that has long been plagued by ethnic squabbles over land and oil fields. Iraqi and U.S. officials long have feared Kirkuk and the disputed lands surrounding it — sandwiched between Arab villages and an autonomous Kurdish region — could destabilize the country if American forces leave at the end of this year on schedule.

“This shows there is no government in this country,” railed Ahmed Salih, 55, sitting next to a hospital bed where his 30-year-old son, Omar Ahmed, lay with bandages around his head and legs. “How such an incident can take place at the police station, where there is security, is nonsense.”

The first blast, a bomb stuck to a car in a parking lot in central Kirkuk, lured policemen out of their fortified headquarters to investigate around 9 a.m., said police Capt. Abdul Salam Zangana. Three minutes later, a second blast rocked the lot when a car packed with explosives blew up in the crowd of police.

“The boots of police officers were scattered at the scene,” said one a police officer, Ahmed Hamid, who survived the strike. “I saw a severed hand on the ground.”

The third bomb, planted on a road leading to a hospital, set cars and trucks ablaze when it exploded about 550 yards (500 meters) away less than an hour later. Zangana said it targeted a police patrol near a mosque.

In all, the blasts killed 27 — most of them police officers — and wounded at least 60 people, said provincial health director Siddiq Omar. Eyewitness Adnan Karim described the scene as “a chaos of terror and fear.”

Located 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Kirkuk has been an ethnic flashpoint for years among Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen, who each claim the oil-rich city as their own. Kirkuk’s two largest ethnic groups have their own competing security forces — the Arab national police and the predominantly Kurdish peshmerga forces — and that division has stoked tensions.

Within the last 10 days alone, police patrols in Kirkuk have been targeted in five roadside bombings and an Iraqi army base has been hit by two Kaytusha rockets, said city police Col. Sherzad Mofari.

In Mosul, another major city within the disputed territories, four Iraqi army soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb Thursday afternoon, a policeman said.

Also, Kirkuk kidnappers also killed a policeman and a Christian construction worker. The latter was dismembered after his attackers gave up on collecting the $100,000 random they had demanded.

Mofari blamed the violent upsurge on al-Qaida and its allies in Iraq, which seek to stir up Kirkuk’s tensions. “They are trying to keep this instability of security in the city for a long time,” he said.

American military commanders have long worried that the simmering fight over Kirkuk could provoke violence that could spread to the rest of the country. For the last several years, U.S. troops have worked to build partnerships between Iraqi army forces and the Kurdish security forces, known as peshmerga, to secure the swath of disputed lands that stretches over three northern Iraqi provinces — and over some of the world’s most lucrative oil reserves.

But as the U.S. troops withdraw, there is little indication the Kurdish-Arab partnerships will hold, and officials gloomily predict they could return to violence if the Americans leave as scheduled on Dec. 31.

In February, for example, the Kurdish government sent thousands of peshmerga around Kirkuk, claiming to be protecting the city from planned demonstrations that might turn violent. But the incursion scared Arab and Turkomen residents, who called it a thinly veiled attempt to surround Kirkuk with Kurdish forces. The peshmerga pulled back a few weeks later and the crisis passed without bloodshed.

In Baghdad, lawmakers are still haggling over rules for taking a national census that that would determine Kirkuk’s residency — and therefore which ethnic group can rightfully claim power — trying to shape the eligibility requirements to best suit their constituents.

Hours after the bombings, the U.N. envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, called on all sides to quickly settle the disputes to prove that Iraqi leaders want to ensure security and stability across the country. The U.N. has been working with Kirkuk’s leaders for years to settle the dispute over the territory and get the census taken, but few believe it will be resolved any time soon.

At one hospital where victims were taken, some said they were close to giving up hope.

“This is because of carelessness of security,” said Awaz Kamal, 45, crying as she watched her son, policeman Saman Salih, being prepared for an operation to remove shrapnel from his stomach.

Around them, bloodied and bandaged victims lay on the floor, because the beds were already filled with patients.

Then a police truck pulled into the hospital driveway with four bodies lying motionless in the truck bed. It was not clear whether they were alive or dead.

___

Jakes reported from Baghdad. Associated Press writers Hamid Ahmed and Rebecca Santana also contributed.

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Iraq expects reprisals for bin Laden killing

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110502/wl_nm/us_binladen_iraq

By Waleed Ibrahim and Suadad al-Salhy Waleed Ibrahim And Suadad Al-salhy 45 mins ago

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s army and police went on high alert on Monday for possible revenge attacks in one of al Qaeda’s major battlegrounds after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in a raid on his Pakistan hideout.

Oil infrastructure, power stations and bridges could be targets of militant attacks, security sources said, to prove bin Laden’s death has not disrupted operations in Iraq, still an important arena for the Islamist group eight years after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Former President George W. Bush referred to Iraq as part of the U.S. “war on terror” although no link was found between Saddam’s regime and the September 11 attacks. It became a battlefield for al Qaeda after the invasion.

Iraqi and U.S. forces have scored big victories against al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate but the Sunni Islamist insurgency remains lethal and carries out dozens of attacks each month.

“We have issued orders to intensify security measures in the street,” said Major-General Hassan al-Baidhani of the Baghdad operations command. “We 100 percent expect attacks.”

The Iraqi government welcomed the news of bin Laden’s death.

“The Iraqi government is feeling greatly relieved over the killing of Osama bin Laden, who was the planner and director behind the killing of many Iraqis and destroying the country,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

“VIOLENT REACTION” POSSIBLE

The U.S. military still has about 47,000 troops in Iraq.

“We recognize that the death of bin Laden may result in a violent reaction from al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist organisations that loosely affiliate with the al Qaeda network,” U.S. military spokesman Colonel Barry Johnson said. He would not comment on any changes in operations as a result of the death.

Iraqi security sources said they had received intelligence that al Qaeda would carry out reprisal attacks and that markets, religious shrines and infrastructure could be hit.

“We are expecting that they will attack vital targets like oil institutions, electricity stations and bridges in Baghdad, Basra and the middle Euphrates areas,” a senior anti-terrorism officer said. Oilfields, pipelines and terminals are critical to Iraq’s plans to become a major world producer and to rebuild after decades of dictatorship, war and economic sanctions.

U.S. military officials say counter-terrorism operations have severely degraded al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate and damaged its communications with al Qaeda figures abroad. Leaders Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi were killed in April 2010.

But military commanders still point to al Qaeda for many of the scores of attacks each month, including a bloody siege in late March in Saddam’s hometown, Tikrit, where 58 people were killed, and an attack on a Baghdad cathedral last October.

John Drake, a risk consultant with U.K.-based security firm AKE, said bin Laden’s death would not reduce attacks in Iraq.

“While it still receives foreign funding and foreign recruits, a lot of the planning and execution of attacks is by Iraqi nationals operating independently, but still drawing inspiration from the global al Qaeda movement,” he said.

War-weary Iraqis appeared to welcome the news.

“In my life, I have never seen a criminal like this person (bin Laden), who took the religion of Islam to serve his own purpose,” said Ibrahim Ali Hamdi, 68, a farmer who lost a son to al Qaeda in 2006.

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Gates: Some US troops may stay if Iraq wants

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_gates_iraq

By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer Robert Burns, Ap National Security Writer Thu Apr 7, 6:33 am ET

BAGHDAD – The Obama administration would keep U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the agreed final withdrawal date of Dec. 31, 2011, if the Iraqi government wanted them, but the Iraqis need to decide “pretty quickly” in order for the Pentagon to accommodate the extension, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday during what he said probably is his final visit to this war-torn country.

Whether to negotiate an extended U.S. military presence is up to the Iraqis, he said, adding that he thought an extension might make sense.

“We are willing to have a presence beyond (2011), but we’ve got a lot of commitments,” he said, not only in Afghanistan and Libya but also in Japan, where he said 19 U.S. Navy ships and about 18,000 U.S. military personnel are assisting in earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor relief efforts.

“So if folks here are going to want us to have a presence, we’re going to need to get on with it pretty quickly in terms of our planning,” he added. “I think there is interest in having a continuing presence. The politics are such that we’ll just have to wait and see because the initiative ultimately has to come from the Iraqis.”

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top American commander in Iraq, said the country is lacking important security capabilities. Those include the defense of its air space and the wherewithal to supply and maintain its own forces, he said.

Asked in an interview whether all Iraqi government officials are aware of these gaps, he replied, “Some more than others.”

He said the government’s inability thus far to appoint a defense minister and an interior minister has hampered its ability to make informed decisions about whether to ask the Americans to stay longer.

Speaking to a group of reporters traveling with Gates, Austin gave the strong impression that he thinks Iraq needs a U.S. military presence beyond December, but he said he had not yet been asked to provide a recommendation to Washington.

He said Iraq faced the possibility of a “more violent environment” next year, given the absence of U.S. military force and the failure to resolve key political problems, like the Kurd-Arab tensions in Kirkuk and elsewhere in the north.

The U.S. now has about 47,000 troops in Iraq, and they will begin leaving in large numbers in late summer or early fall. The U.S. led an invasion in March 2003 that toppled the government of President Saddam Hussein a month later, but an insurgency soon set in and the U.S. got mired in a conflict that has lasted far longer — and cost far more American and Iraqi lives — than Washington had anticipated.

Gates also said civil unrest in the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, with majority Shiite Muslims pushing for an end to rule by the minority Sunnis, has created tensions in Iraq, whose Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is concerned about Bahrain’s crackdown on Shiites.

Gates said he expected to discuss this subject with al-Maliki in private meetings later Thursday.

Meghan O’Sullivan, a top Iraq adviser to President George W. Bush from 2005-07, said in an email exchange that al-Maliki faces enormous domestic political pressures on several fronts, including a small but vocal number of Iraqis demanding better government, and a security situation that is improved but still tense.

Together, these pressures make it unlikely that al-Maliki feels he can publicly invite the U.S. military to stay beyond this year.

“Understandably, the Obama administration was hoping for this sort of invitation, and likely feels struck, given that it is not forthcoming,” O’Sullivan said. “They can’t be seen wanting to keep more troops in Iraq than the Iraqis do.” O’Sullivan is now a professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School.

Under blue skies and a bright sun at a U.S. base just outside the Iraqi capital, Gates told a group of soldiers that he worries that a potential shutdown of the U.S. federal government will delay issuance of their paychecks. He assured them that they eventually would get full pay, but there could be a delay if Democrats and Republicans in Washington are unable to reach a budget deal this week.

“When I start to think of the inconvenience that it’s going to cause these kids (soldiers) and a lot of their families, even a half paycheck delayed can be a problem for them,” Gates told reporters after fielding several questions from the assembled soldiers. The first question posed to him was by a soldier asking about the ramifications for military members and their families of the budget crisis back home.

Gates assured them, “You will be paid,” then added that it might take a while, depending on the length of the political impasse in Washington.

In a brief exchange with reporters during a photo session with Gates earlier Thursday, the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, James Jeffrey, said U.S. ground forces are “the glue” that is holding the country together. He said this leaves a mixed picture of the situation in Iraq because making arrangements to keep U.S. troops here beyond December is going to be difficult.

In his troop talk, Gates raised the matter of his impending retirement, recalling for soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, that his first visit to Iraq was in September 2006, three months before he replaced Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary. He recalled that on a visit to Baghdad in December 2006 he conducted a press conference while a gun battle was echoing in the distance.

In all, he estimated he has made 14 visits to Iraq.

“`This will probably be my last one,” he said.

Gates previously has said he intends to retire this year, but he has not been more specific about the timing. It is widely anticipated that he is planning to quit this summer.

6 killed as Iraqis protest in ‘Day of Rage’

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110225/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iraq

By SINAN SALAHEDDIN, Associated Press Sinan Salaheddin, Associated Press 1 hr 30 mins ago

BAGHDAD – Thousands marched on government buildings and clashed with security forces in cities across Iraq on Friday, in the largest and most violent anti-government protests here since political unrest began spreading in the Arab world several weeks ago.

In two northern Iraqi cities, security forces trying to push back crowds opened fire, killing six demonstrators. In the capital of Baghdad, demonstrators knocked down blast walls, threw rocks and scuffled with club-wielding troops.

The protests, billed as a “Day of Rage, were fueled by anger over corruption, chronic unemployment and shoddy public services.

“We want a good life like human beings, not like animals,” said Khalil Ibrahim, 44, one of about 3,000 protesters in the capital Baghdad.

Like many Iraqis, he railed against a government that locks itself in the highly fortified Green Zone, home to the parliament and the U.S. Embassy, and is viewed by most of its citizens as more interested in personal gain than public service.

The center of Baghdad was virtually locked down Friday, with soldiers searching protesters entering Liberation Square and closing off the plaza and side streets with razor wire. The heavy security presence reflected the concern of Iraqi officials that demonstrations here could gain traction as they did in Egypt and Tunisia, then spiral out of control.

Iraqi army helicopters buzzed overhead, while Humvees and trucks took up posts throughout the square, where flag-waving demonstrators shouted “No to unemployment,” and “No to the liar al-Maliki,” referring to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Demonstrators trying to get across a bridge going from the square to the Green Zone clashed with security forces. The demonstrators knocked down some of the concrete blast walls that were put up Thursday night and threw rocks at troops who beat them back with batons. Six riot police and 12 demonstrators were wounded in the melee, said police and hospital officials.

Click image to see photos of protests in Iraq

The protests stretched from the northern city of Mosul to the southern city of Basra, reflecting the widespread anger many Iraqis feel at the government’s seeming inability to improve their lives.

A crowd of angry marchers in the northern city of Hawija, 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Baghdad, tried to break into the city’s municipal building, said the head of the local city council, Ali Hussein Salih.

Security forces trying to block the crow opened fire, killing three demonstrators and wounding 15, local officials said. The Iraqi Army was eventually called in to restore order.

In Mosul, also in northern Iraq, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the provincial council building, demanding jobs and better services, when guards opened fire, according to a police official. A police and hospital official said three protesters were killed and 15 people wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media.

Black smoke could later be seen billowing from the building.

In the south, about 4,000 people demonstrated in front of the office of Gov. Sheltagh Aboud al-Mayahi in the port city of Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad. They knocked over one of the concrete barriers and demanded his resignation, saying he’d done nothing to improve city services.

They appeared to get their wish when the commander of Basra military operations, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Jawad Hawaidi, told the crowd that the governor had resigned in response to the demonstrations. Iraqi state TV announced that the prime minister had asked the governor to step down but did not mention the protests.

Around 1,000 demonstrators also clashed with police in the western city of Fallujah 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad clashed with authorities, witnesses said. And in the southern city of Karbala, about 1,000 protesters rallied for better services.

In recent weeks, there had been scattered anti-government protests in Iraq. While most have been peaceful, a few have turned violent and seven people have been killed. The biggest rallies have been in the northern Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles (260 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, against the government of the self-ruled region.

On the even of the marches, al-Maliki urged people to skip the rally, which he alleged was organized by Saddamists and al-Qaida — two of his favorite targets of blame for an array of Iraq’s ills. He offered no evidence to support his claim.

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