Bombs rock Baghdad a day after PM renews unity call
By Ross Colvin
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A car bomb blasted a state-run
newspaper on Sunday as police reported finding 20 bodies in
Baghdad, one day after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki again
called on ethnically and religiously divided Iraqis to unite.
A bomb on a minibus killed nine people in central Baghdad,
sending clouds of thick smoke billowing into the sky, while a
bomb planted inside a food market in a town north of Baghdad
killed at least five and wounded 15, police said.
The blasts occurred despite a major security operation by
thousands of American and Iraqi troops to restore order to the
capital, where sectarian and Sunni insurgent violence claimed
the lives of more than 3,000 Iraqis in July alone.
Police said 20 bodies had been found in various districts
of Baghdad on Saturday. Some bore signs of torture and most had
been killed by gunshots to the head, a typical feature of the
communal bloodshed between the Shi’ite and Sunni sects.
Maliki, whose government has struggled to contain the
bloodshed, called on tribal leaders gathered in the capital on
Saturday to use their influence to unite “Iraq’s sons” to end
violence that has raised fears of all-out civil war.
The car bomb exploded in the parking lot of al-Sabah daily
in Baghdad’s Waziriya district, killing a guard and another
employee, wounding 18 and causing extensive damage to the
building. A car bomb attack on the newspaper in May killed one.
Editor in chief Falah al-Meshaal told Reuters the
newspaper, part of the U.S.-funded Iraqi Media Network, would
be published as normal on Monday.
“This is the work of takfiris (radical militants) and
terrorists who don’t want the truth printed in the new Iraq,”
he said, blaming the attack on a suicide bomber.
The blast demolished the facade of the newspaper’s
production department. Two cars were blown through one wall by
the force of the huge explosion, which left a score of vehicles
crumpled, blackened wrecks.
Insurgents fighting to topple the U.S.-backed Shi’ite-led
government of national unity often target journalists working
for state media.
The Committee to Protect Journalists media watchdog says at
least 10 journalists working for the Iraqi Media Network, which
also includes Iraqi state television and its affiliates, have
been killed since 2003.
Tribal leaders attending Saturday’s meeting gave their
support for Maliki’s national unity plan and pledged to use
their authority to end the bloodletting, but it is unclear how
effective they can be among Iraqis increasingly turning to
religious leaders for guidance.
Crucially no major Sunni rebel group has signed up to the
plan and Maliki has said he will not offer amnesty to anyone
with Iraqi blood on their hands.
The violence gripping the capital is also mostly sectarian
in nature and many of the militias accused of fuelling it are
linked to parties within Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government.
“The role of the militias … represent the heart of the
problem,” the new British ambassador to Baghdad said in an
interview on state television on Saturday night.
“It is not possible that the government can accept the
presence of armed groups operating outside the law and the
constitution,” envoy Dominic Asquith said.
But the U.S. and Iraqi troops now sweeping through
Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhoods have not sought to
tackle the militias directly and have focused instead on
finding illegal weapons and improving dilapidated essential
U.S.-led troops moved from house to house in the insurgent
stronghold of Adhamiya in northern Baghdad on Sunday searching
for arms in the latest phase of the operation.