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Iraq government proposes new strategy to combat sectarian violence

Daily Staff Report

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A bombing at a Baghdad bakery killed at least 11 people Tuesday as the Iraqi government put forward a new idea to help stop sectarian violence: ensuring security checkpoints in the capital have an equal number of Shiite and Sunni troops.The bomb, planted under a car in the mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhood of Dora, ripped through a line of people waiting outside a bakery – the worst in a day of attacks which left at least 23 dead across the country. Dora has long been one of Baghdad’s most dangerous areas, with near daily killingsHours after the bombing, a massive fire broke out Tuesday evening in an ammunition dump on a U.S. military base on Baghdad’s southern edge, adjacent to Dora. It set off ordnance in a series of explosions that lasted for hours into the night and shook buildings miles away.The cause of the fire was not immediately known and there were no injuries, the U.S. military said. A large fire and smoke were seen from the Forward Operating Base Falcon. Blasts from detonating artillery and tank shells sent up sparks, and the force of the explosions could be felt miles away in central Baghdad.The blaze broke out in an area where ammunition is kept temporarily before distribution to the units at Falcon, where more than three battalions are located, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a spokesman at the base.U.S. forces continued to pay a heavy toll amid stepped-up operations aimed at stemming the bloodshed, with the U.S. command announcing the death of five more service members. On Monday, three Marines were killed in fighting in western Anbar province, and a soldier died from an attack on his patrol in Baghdad, it said. Another soldier died Sunday from a roadside bomb in Tikrit, north of the capital.The deaths bring the number of U.S. troops killed in October to 37 – many the result of stepped-up efforts to end violence in the capital.Authorities discovered the mutilated bodies of 60 men in different parts of Baghdad over the 24-hour period ending Tuesday morning, police said. The bullet-riddled bodies all had their hands and feet bound and showed signs of torture – hallmarks of death-squad killings.Under intense pressure to halt the sectarian violence, which has killed thousands this year, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a week ago announced a four-point security plan aimed at stopping 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.The new effort reflects the deep mistrust between Shiites and Sunnis even within the security forces – effectively putting them together to keep watch on each other. 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.Al-Maliki’s overall plan calls 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 parties agreed Saturday on the makeup of the central committee, said a member, Bassem Sherif, who represents the Shiite Fadila party on the body. It 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 committee will meet in coming days to work with the Interior and Defense ministries on arranging the balanced checkpoints, Sherif said. A Sunni participant in Saturday’s talks, Khalaf al-Alayan, head of the National Dialogue Council party, confirmed details of the plan.The six-month wave of Sunni-Shiite killings has fueled the flight of Iraqis from their homes.Iraq’s Immigration Minister Abdul-Samad Sultan said more than 300,000 Iraqis have been displaced since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Half of them, he said, fled their homes after the February bombing of a Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra that sparked waves of violence.Those displaced mostly moved in with their own sectarian communities – Shiites fleeing mainly Sunni or mixed areas to Shiite-dominated ones, and vice versa – exacerbating the segregation of the country of some 30 million.Some 890,000 Iraqis have moved to Jordan, Iran and Syria since 2003, Sultan said.In other violence Tuesday, a car bombing in the primarily Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah in north Baghdad killed four people and wounded nine, police 1st Sgt. Mahmud Hussein said.The brother of a Baghdad police brigadier was found shot dead, tied to a lamppost in Buhriz, 35 miles north of the capital, police in the nearby city of Baqouba said. Later authorities found the body of another of the brigadier’s brothers, also shot, lying 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.The U.S. military said Iraqi and U.S. troops killed at least nine fighters in clashes with the Mahdi Army – Iraq’s most powerful Shiite militia – in the southern city of Diwaniya on Monday. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded.On Sunday, U.S.-Iraqi forces in Diwaniya battled for hours with members of the Mahdi Army, who are loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The military said 30 militiamen were killed; the militia denied it.The U.S. command also announced that DNA tests have confirmed that a man shot and killed by British forces in Iraq was the leading al-Qaida terrorist who embarrassed the U.S. military by escaping from the Bagram maximum security military prison in Afghanistan.Omar al-Farouq was killed Sept. 25 after he fired on British forces during a raid in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.—Associated Press Writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.


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