Kurdish lawmaker assassinated in Iraq, 20 bodies found in Tigris River
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Insurgents assassinated a Kurdish member of parliament and police found 20 bodies shot to death and dumped in the Tigris River north of the capital, where there was no major violence Sunday for the first time in five days.Faris Nasir Hussein, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, was killed along with his brother and their driver in an ambush 50 miles north of Baghdad. A second Kurdish lawmaker, Haidar Shanoun, was wounded in the attack near the town of Dujail.Police and PUK officials said the men were murdered Saturday night as they drove to the capital for Sunday’s session of the legislature which signed off on minor amendments to Iraq’s draft constitution and delivered it to the United Nations for printing. The U.N. will distribute 5 million copies in advance of the Oct. 15 referendum.Lawmakers sat for a minute of silence to honor their dead comrade.”The terrorists have launched a war of aggression against all Iraqis (but) we are up to it,” said Deputy Speaker Hussain al-Shahristani.Authorities reported finding two dozen more bodies Sunday, men shot to death in the apparent ongoing tit-for-tat killings between Sunni and Shiite death squads.Four of the dead were found handcuffed and shot in east Baghdad. Twenty more were dragged from the Tigris River near Balad, a city 50 miles north of the capital, police reported.The U.S. military said a soldier was killed in a roadside bombing while on patrol near Al Asad Air Base in a violent insurgent-infested region near the Syrian border. The dead soldier was assigned to the 56th Brigade Combat Team.The death raised to at least 1,899 members of the U.S. military who have been died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.In Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, 200 militiamen with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades set fire to tires as they barricaded main streets, demanding the provincial governor order the immediate release of Sheikh Ahmed Fartosi.The sheikh, a senior figure among followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia, was arrested by British and Iraqi forces on Friday. He was accused of launching raids against security forces in the city, police said.A coalition military statement on Sunday said Fartosi and two other detained militant were “suspects in terror attacks against Coalition forces, resulting in the deaths of nine members of coalition forces in the past two months in Basra.”After a tense standoff lasting several hours, the militiamen withdrew when an al-Sadr representative arrived from Najaf to negotiate with police and British forces who control the region.Sheikh Mudhafar al-Shawki emerged from the meeting Sunday night and ordered the militiamen stay off the streets until he could report to al-Sadr. Neither side would give details of the talks.Last year, the Mahdi Army fought U.S. and coalition forces in the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. The fighting ended after al-Sadr accepted a peace agreement negotiated by the Shiite clerical hierarchy.Britain, which has about 9,000 forces in the Basra region of southern Iraq, will keep its troops in the country as long as they are required and could send more, British Defense Secretary John Reid said on Sunday.”Our troops will be there until such times as the conditions are met – those conditions being the Iraqis themselves having such democratic control and such security forces that they can take the lead,” Reid told ITV television, adding that more British forces could be deployed if necessary.In the troubled and ethnically mixed northern city of Kirkuk, a roadside bomb killed five Iraqi soldiers and wounded two others, police said.Insurgents attacked a fuel train headed for Baghdad’s major power station early Sunday, but their were no casualties in the bombing which was one of only a few incidents of violence reported in the Iraqi capital Sunday.Since Wednesday, when 14 suicide bombs exploded in Baghdad in the bloodiest day in the capital since the war began, a staggering wave of insurgent violence has killed at least 250 people and wounded hundreds more nationwide.The bombings coincided with a declaration of all-out war on the country’s Shiite majority by the al-Qaida in Iraq, the terrorist organization run by Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a driving force behind the Sunni-dominated insurgency.Shiites have suffered the brunt of the attacks, which al-Zarqawi said were in retaliation for the Iraqi-U.S. military operation against the insurgent stronghold of Tal Afar, a northern city near the Syrian border.The operation began Sept. 10, when a force of 5,000 Iraqi soldiers backed by 3,500 Americans stormed the city to clean it of insurgents for the second time in a year. Mopping-up operations continued Sunday with the Iraqi military reporting a total of 157 insurgents killed and 440 captured during the 10-day offensive.Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Mohamed-Jassim, said nine Iraqi soldiers and six policemen had died. The U.S. military has reported no deaths among its forces in the ancient city, known for its old citadel.