Dozens Killed in Baghdad as Sectarian Fighting Rages On
Sectarian gunfights, mosque bombings and executions of unarmed civilians continued to roil the country as night fell Tuesday, leaving at least 58 Iraqis dead and dozens more wounded in the capital alone.
The days-long upsurge in clashes between Iraq’s majority Shiite Muslims and once-dominant Sunni Arabs, despite a security clampdown in Baghdad, has upended the city’s 6 million residents. It also has outraged lawmakers, who have summoned the civilian heads of the police and army to parliament Thursday for answers.
“The security has deteriorated in a serious and unprecedented way,” Kurdish lawmaker Saadi Barzanji said in a televised session of parliament, which convened Tuesday in Baghdad’s heavily protected Green Zone. “The security plan has proved to be a failure.”
Much of Tuesday’s violence was centered in the poor, religiously mixed neighborhoods of south and southwest Baghdad, including the troubled Dora district, already under extra security and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
At least 120 Iraqis have been killed in Baghdad violence beginning with the Saturday night bombing of a Shiite mosque in the Jihad district of southwest Baghdad.
Clashes between Shiites and Sunnis also broke out Tuesday night in Baqubah, with authorities unable to stop the fighting or determine the number of casualties among insurgents firing rockets and Shiite militiamen guarding a small mosque.
In the most vicious incidents Tuesday, gunmen in Dora stopped two Shiite families coming from or going to funerals in the holy city of Najaf, pulled mourners out of their minibuses and shot them to death, beheading one person, police and hospital officials said. At least 18 people were killed and two injured. Police said they later killed the gunmen in a shootout.
But chaos continued through much of Baghdad’s southern edge, which abuts the dangerous stretch of countryside called the Triangle of Death, where three U.S. soldiers were ambushed and killed last month.
Officials at the capital’s Yarmouk Hospital reported 17 execution-style killings of men, both Sunnis and Shiites, with single bullet shots to the head. All but three of the bodies were found in the streets of south Baghdad.
In the nearby Sadiya neighborhood, three Iraqi soldiers were killed and seven injured by an explosion, apparently a car bomb, near a house being used to quarter members of an Iraqi army battalion. Another car bomb at a market in the district killed two and injured 17.
Kidnappers in the area also abducted an Iraqi diplomat who serves in Tehran. Wisam Jasim Abdullah Awadi, a Shiite, had returned to vacation at his parents’ home in south Baghdad, where he was taken at gunpoint.
Elsewhere in the capital, armed men stormed the office of a Sunni-owned company in west Baghdad, killing eight employees and injuring three in execution-style shootings, hospital and police officials said.
Two or three explosions outside the main entrance to the Green Zone killed five people and injured 11, police and hospital officials said. U.S. military officials gave a higher death toll, saying the explosions killed 16 Iraqis, including a police officer, and injured four.
Police said civilians had been chasing a suspicious man, who blew himself up in front of a restaurant. U.S. military officials said there were two suicide bombers on foot. Shortly afterward, a car bomb exploded nearby just as a Shiite lawmaker passed through.
“I heard an explosion so I stepped down from the car with my guards only to be startled with the second explosion,” said Gufran Saadi, the lawmaker, who was not injured. “And then, there was heavy shooting.”
Another car bomb exploded in the middle-class Shiite district of Karada, killing three people and injuring seven, all civilians, along a busy street lined with grocery stores and automotive supply shops.
A roadside bomb exploded in southeast Baghdad, setting a fuel tanker ablaze and killing two and injuring 15 passersby.
As night fell, police and witnesses said militiamen continued to maraud through west Baghdad, clashing with armed men near a Sunni mosque. Police said there were multiple casualties but ambulances were unable to evacuate them.
The violence rose despite the deployment of 50,000 Iraqi soldiers and 8,000 U.S. troops as part of a Baghdad security plan implemented nearly a month ago by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Lawmakers noted Tuesday that the violence had kept many of their colleagues from reaching the parliament.
“The danger is that there are weapons in the hands of many,” said Safiya Suhail, a lawmaker serving in the coalition of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
Maliki, speaking at a news conference in the northern city of Irbil, denied assertions of other politicians that the country was sliding into civil war.
“The security services are still in control of the situation,” he said. “We have the capacity to impose order and suppress those who rebel against the state.”
Sectarian clashes also continued outside the capital. As dusk settled in Baqubah, a religiously mixed city northeast of Baghdad, dozens of men armed with rockets attacked a small Shiite mosque guarded by militiamen. Police officials said the fighting was fierce, with at least 30 rockets turning the mosque into rubble. Two police officers attempting to quell the violence were injured.
The mosque continued to burn into the night as U.S. helicopters hovered above.
At least nine Iraqi soldiers were killed in clashes with suspected Sunni insurgents in a village near Hawija, a Sunni enclave in the ethnically contested province surrounding Kirkuk. A suspected insurgent leader also was killed in the fighting, an Iraqi army official said.
A suicide car bomber, apparently targeting a passing U.S. convoy in the northern city of Mosul, killed at least two Iraqi civilians, police said.
Early today, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived in Balad on an unannounced visit, wire services reported.
In Baghdad, the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven codefendants on human rights charges adjourned Tuesday until July 24, still without any sign of the top defendants’ lawyers, who have boycotted the proceedings for two days.
Judge Raouf Rasheed Abdel Rahman, presiding over the case, has named substitute attorneys and warned that those court-appointed lawyers would make the defendants’ final arguments if the original lawyers didn’t show up.
“The absence of the defendant’s original lawyer will hurt the defendant himself,” he said, addressing the minor defendants’ lawyers, who did show up. “You should tell your colleagues that they should appear here now, and if they don’t they will hurt their clients.”
Times staff writers Shamil Aziz and Saif Hameed in Baghdad and special correspondents in Baghdad, Baqubah, Basra, Kirkuk and Mosul contributed to this report.