Iraqi plan to curb sectarian killings moves ahead; more death-squad victims found

Tuesday, October 10th 2006, 6:17 am
By: News On 6

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraq's government forged ahead with a plan aimed at ending sectarian attacks, even as the violence continued unabated Tuesday with a deadly bombing in the capital that killed 10 and officials discovered scores of new death squad victims.

The victims of the midday bombing in the primarily Sunni neighborhood of Dora in south Baghdad were among at least 17 who died in attacks around Iraq.

The U.S. command announced the deaths of two more American soldiers, one killed Monday on patrol in Baghdad and the other near Tikrit on Sunday when a roadside bomb blew up next to his vehicle.

Baghdad has been the scene of escalating sectarian violence that has seen thousands killed this year, and the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry and its police forces have been accused of complicity in allowing militias to roam freely.

Under intense pressure to put an end to it, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a week ago announced a four-point security plan aimed at uniting the divided parties behind efforts to stop Shiite-Sunni killings.

In a first step, officials said Tuesday that all security checkpoints in Baghdad would soon be manned by an equal number of Shiite and Sunni Arab troops to ensure the security forces do not allow sectarian attacks.

Al-Maliki's overall plan called for the creation of local Shiite-Sunni committees that will oversee policing in each district of Baghdad, reporting back to a Central Committee for Peace and Security to coordinate with the security forces and the prime minister.

The effort to balance the checkpoints that dot the streets of Baghdad underlines the deep mistrust between Shiites and Sunnis within al-Maliki's government. Each side accuses the other of backing militias, and Sunnis in particular say the Shiite-dominated police force often allows Shiite militias to carry out kidnappings and murders.

The parties agreed Saturday on the makeup of the Central Committee, said a member of the new committee, Bassem Sherif, who represents the Shiite Fadila party on the body.

The Central Committee includes four representatives each from the Shiite coalition that dominates parliament and the main Sunni coalition, along with one representative each from the Kurds and the Iraqi List, a mixed, secular party, Sherif said.

The parties also agreed each checkpoint in Baghdad will have an equal number of Sunni and Shiite troops, whether police or military, ``so no violations can take place,'' said Hassan al-Shimmari, a spokesman and lawmaker from the Shiite Fadila party.

The troops at a checkpoint can keep an eye on each other to ensure neither side lets by a Shiite or a Sunni armed group to carry out an attack or covers up for a militia after an attack takes place, he said.

Sherif and another participant in the negotiations, Khalaf al-Alayan, head of the Sunni National Dialogue Council party, confirmed the details.

The Central Committee will meet in the coming days to work with the Interior and Defense ministries on arranging the balanced checkpoints, Sherif said.

Meanwhile, authorities discovered the mutilated bodes of 60 men in the 24-hour period ending Tuesday morning, police 1st Lt. Mohamed Khayon said.

The bullet-riddled bodies found dumped in several Baghdad neighborhoods all had their hands and feet bound and showed signs of torture _ hallmarks of death-squad killings. The victims ranged in age from 20 to 50, he said.

Chief U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said Monday there had been an increase in sectarian violence with the onset of Ramadan two weeks ago, although did not give numbers.

``We anticipated it, and we expect it to continue,'' Caldwell said. ``The sectarian tensions in the city are high.''

The body of the brother of a Baghdad police brigadier was also found shot dead, tied to a lamppost in Buhriz, 35 miles north of the capital, police said. Authorities later found the body of another of his brothers, also shot, in the street.

The bodies of two other shooting victims were found in Khalis, 50 miles north of Baghdad, and another was found in Baqouba, police said.

In other developments, the head of a hospital that treated police officers who fell ill after a Sunday evening meal at their base said spoiled food served at a mess hall was the cause.

Dr. Matheel Alwan, the head of Kut General Hospital, said samples of the yogurt and of the hamburgers served at the police base in Numaniyah had been sent to Baghdad to see which of them were contaminated. ``It was either spoiled hamburger, or spoiled yogurt,'' he said.

Kut hospital admitted 53 of the estimated 350 to 400 policemen for treatment, and pumped the stomachs and immediately released many others, Alwan said. They were suffering from severe vomiting with traces of blood, dehydration and diarrhea _ typical symptoms of food poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The final policeman treated was discharged Tuesday, Alwan said.

The question remains whether the policemen were knowingly served spoiled food or if it was accidental.

On Monday, military spokesman Brig. Qassim al-Moussawi said the man in charge of the mess hall had been arrested along with several others and that an investigation was ongoing.

At that time, he said investigators were pursuing the theory that spoiled food could have been served as part of a corruption scheme by the contractors or officers at the base to skim off funds for the food. He suggested that it was more likely, however, that the food had been poisoned as part of an ``intentional sabotage'' attempt.

Al-Moussawi did not answer repeated phone calls Tuesday.