Four children among the latest dead in Iraq’s ongoing violence
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at a policeman’s home northeast of Baghdad on Sunday, killing his four children and his brother and raising to at least 23 the number of Iraqis killed in attacks this weekend.Also Sunday, police found the bullet-riddled bodies of nearly two dozen men abducted last week north of Baghdad after being rejected entry into a police academy, officials said.The U.S. military announced Monday that a roadside bomb blast killed two U.S. airmen and wounded another Sunday near Taji, 12 miles north of Baghdad. At least 2,226 U.S. military personnel have been killed since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.The violence continued as Iraq’s political parties began gearing up for talks on a new coalition government that U.S. officials hope will win the confidence of disaffected Sunni Arabs and undermine support for the insurgency. That would hasten the time when U.S. and other foreign troops can go home.There was still no word on the fate of kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll two days after a deadline set by her captors. They had threatened to kill the 28-year-old freelancer for The Christian Science Monitor unless all Iraqi women detainees were freed.Iraqi officials have said they expect the Americans to free six of the nine women they are holding this week. U.S. authorities have not confirmed the claim.The attack on the policeman’s home occurred in Balad Ruz, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, according to the Iraqi police Joint Coordination Center. The officer’s four children, ages 6 to 11, and his brother were killed, the center said. The officer was unharmed, but his wife was wounded.Sunni-led insurgents often target police as part of their campaign to try to undermine support for the U.S.-backed government.Four policemen were killed and nine were wounded Sunday when a roadside bomb exploded near their patrol in the tense city of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said. Police also said a man was gunned down at a west Baghdad gas station and another was slain in a market in the capital’s Amil district.The bodies of the 23 men were found partially buried near Dujail, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, said Interior Ministry police Lt. Thair Mahmoud. They had been abducted Wednesday while traveling from Baghdad to their homes in Samarra after failing to be accepted at a police recruit center.Elsewhere, the bodies of prominent Sunni Arab tribal leader, Sayid Ibrahim Ali, 75, and his 28-year-old son, Ayad, were found in a field near Hawija, 150 miles north of Baghdad, police said. They were shot as they left a funeral Saturday.In the central city of Mashru, police found the bodies of two blindfolded men who had been shot in the head and chest.U.S. soldiers, meanwhile, killed three gunmen firing from several cars north of Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, on Saturday, the military said Sunday. Six Iraqis were detained and soldiers destroyed four cars after one was found rigged for use as a car bomb. Twelve other people were reported killed in sporadic violence on Saturday.Nevertheless, U.S. Brig. Gen. Don Alston said insurgent attacks nationwide fell 40 percent during the week ending Saturday, compared with the previous week. Attacks in Baghdad fell 80 percent for the same period, he told reporters.The reduction in attacks occurred as security was stepped up in Baghdad and other insurgent hotspots ahead of the announcement last Friday of the results of the Dec. 15 national elections for a new parliament. An alliance of Shiite religious parties won the biggest bloc of seats but not enough to govern without partners.U.S. officials hope the Shiite alliance, which won 128 of the 275 seats, will include a significant number of Sunni Arabs in the new coalition. Contacts are under way among the nation’s Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish politicians but the negotiations could take weeks.Shiite leaders have said they would include Sunni Arabs if they are willing to work actively to lure fellow Sunnis away from the insurgency. Two Sunni coalitions won a total of 55 seats, far more than the 17 held by Sunnis in the outgoing parliament.On Sunday, however, leading Sunni Arab politicians made clear they have conditions of their own, including moves away from sectarian divisions and curbs on Shiite-led government security services.”We have ‘red lines’ on some figures who harmed our people, and we will not allow anyone who participated in human rights violation to take any ministerial posts,” Sunni politician Tariq al-Hashimi told reporters.He appeared to be referring to Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who is responsible for paramilitary police units accused of assassinating Sunni clerics and civilians as part of the battle against insurgents. Jabr has denied targeting innocent civilians.Al-Hashimi said the new government must address Sunni Arab opposition to the new constitution, including provisions transforming Iraq into a federal state and purging members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party from government jobs.But Iraq’s most powerful Shiite politician, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, has said the Shiites would oppose major concessions on some key Sunni demands.Also Sunday, a U.S. official said members of Saddam’s ousted regime, including some in custody, may testify when the trial against the ex-leader and seven other defendants resumes Tuesday. The official did not identify the expected witnesses and briefed reporters on condition of anonymity due to security measures surrounding the trial.Saddam and the others are charged in the 1982 massacre of more than 140 Shiites in Dujail following an assassination attempt against the former Iraqi leader. The official said the next session is expected to last three days.