Police find 30 bodies scattered around Baghdad as sectarian killings surge

Friday, September 15th 2006, 8:42 am
By: News On 6

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Police found 30 bodies bearing signs of torture Friday, the latest in a wave of sectarian killings sweeping the Iraqi capital despite a monthlong security operation.

A U.S. Marine was killed Friday in Anbar province, and an American soldier was killed Thursday evening by a roadside bomb northwest of Baghdad, the military said. The soldier was the fifth to have died on Thursday, making it a particularly bloody day for U.S. forces.

In central Baghdad, a gunman opened fire from the top of an abandoned building in a Sunni Arab neighborhood, killing an Iraqi civilian and wounding five others, said police Lt. Ahmed Mohammed Ali.

Violence has intensified over the past two days, with more than 130 people either killed by attacks or their bodies found dumped in the streets of Baghdad. All the bodies found Friday had signs of torture, and one that washed up on the banks of the Tigris River had been dismembered.

A spokesman for a prominent Sunni Arab political party was shot and killed by gunmen, said a party official who did not want to be identified because he fears for his life.

Sheik Muhanad al-Gharairi was a spokesman for the Conference of People of Iraq, a Sunni Arab party headed by Adnan al-Dulaimi. He was also an imam at a mosque in Baghdad and was on his way to conduct prayers at a different mosque in Garma, 19 miles outside of Baghdad when he was killed.

Both the U.S. government and military have said sectarian killings and violence are surging around Iraq, although the military said attacks have been limited to parts of Baghdad not yet included in a security offensive that began on Aug. 7.

On Thursday, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, told the Security Council that Iraq's sectarian killings and kidnappings had increased in the last three months, along with a rise in the number of displaced people.

He said ethnic and sectarian violence was ``one of the most significant threats to security and stability in Iraq.'' The average number of weekly attacks increased 15 percent in the last three months, and Iraqi casualties rose by 51 percent, Bolton said.

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the U.S. command's spokesman, said the violence had intensified in areas that have not been reached by Operation Together Forward, a security sweep involving 12,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers.

``The terrorists and death squads are clearly targeting civilians outside of the focus areas,'' Caldwell said Thursday.

In areas that have been part of the operation, U.S. and Iraqi forces have cleared more than 52,000 buildings, found 32 weapon caches, detained 91 people and seized more than 1,200 weapons, Caldwell said.

In one of the few positive developments for the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi government, officials reported the killing of a senior member of al-Qaida in Iraq and the capture of another.

Abu Jaafar al-Liby, described by the ministry as either the second or third most important figure in al-Qaida in Iraq, was killed by police earlier this week, the ministry said Thursday.

Four other insurgents were killed and two were arrested in the raid, ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, told The Associated Press.

Al-Liby was in charge of the Baghdad sector of al-Qaida in Iraq, Khalaf said. He said two letters were found on his body _ one addressed to Osama bin Laden and the other to Abu Ayyoub al-Masri, who is thought to be al-Qaida in Iraq's leader. Both letters pledged loyalty and promised more attacks, Khalaf said.

Caldwell said U.S. military forces also had captured a senior al-Qaida figure and personal associate of the group's new leader. He was arrested along with 70 others Tuesday in a series of 12 raids, the U.S. spokesman said.

The man, who was not identified, led assassination, kidnapping and bomb-making cells in Baghdad, and played a key role in al-Qaida's activities in Fallujah before it was attacked by U.S. troops in November 2004, Caldwell said.

Shiite politicians, meanwhile, said they had made progress in trying to break a deadlock over legislation to establish autonomous regions as part of an Iraqi federation. Sunni Arabs oppose the bill, fearing it could split Iraq into three sectarian and ethnic cantons. The proposed legislation could be introduced next week.

Alliance leaders sent delegations to the Shiite holy city of Najaf to meet with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Mohammed al-Yaqoubi, spiritual leader of the Fadhila party.