Iraq War news

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Baghdad warlord warns followers against retaliation

Baghdad warlord warns followers against retaliation - World - "THE Iraqi capital is bracing itself for another round of retribution attacks by Shiites after six car bombs ripped through markets in the Shiite bastion of Sadr City, killing up to 50 evening shoppers and wounding 200."

Gunmen and explosions killed 12 Iraqis elsewhere in the capital, while the bodies of a dozen others were found around the city.

However Iraq's radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said yesterday that he would not order his militia to strike Sunni al-Qaeda militants because that would mean civil war.

"I could order the Mahdi Army to root out the terrorists and fundamentalists but this would lead us into civil war and we don't want that,"
Sheikh Sadr told a news conference in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

Forces of the radical imam had earlier threatened an immediate response.

Burning debris clouds Baghdad after six car bombs exploded in the Shiite suburb of Sadr City.

Burning debris clouds Baghdad after six car bombs exploded in the Shiite suburb of Sadr City.
Photo: Kareem Raheem

The attacks came as the US ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, struck a new note of despondency in his assessment of the political crisis that has spurred waves of attacks since elections late last year.

After another fruitless attempt by Iraq's political leaders to resolve their differences on Sunday, the ambassador said: "I think the situation is such that there's a degree of vacuum in authority. The need on an urgent basis to form a government of national unity is there."

It was a sharp rebuke that reveals Washington's frustration at its inability to accelerate the Iraqi political process. The US is hoping to create a security environment in which it might make significant cuts to its huge military deployment in Iraq.

Iraqi observers speculated that the co-ordinated attacks on a sprawling city sector that is so identifiably Sheikh Sadr's power base would provoke revenge attacks on the same scale as those that followed last month's bombing of the Shiite Golden Mosque at Samarra.

As the wounded stumbled from Sunday's carnage, 25-year-old metalworker Jafar Thamer Nahee said: "I was inside a bathhouse and I heard a loud boom. Tens of people were taken away by ambulances. The police and Mahdi Army set up checkpoints everywhere and they all carried weapons."

The Sadr City bombers struck shortly after Mr Khalilzad and leaders of Iraq's main ethnic and religious blocs concluded a news conference to announce an agreement to move forward the first session of the new parliament to Thursday.

The political leaders said they would hold meetings in an attempt to reach agreement on a new government. Mr Khalilzad said he would be available to join the talks at any time.

Among the issues to be discussed are how many positions various blocs will get in the new government, and who will fill key posts. The first parliamentary session will take place three months after the December 15 elections and a month after the results were confirmed.

Two police officers were killed and four wounded in two separate car bomb attacks targeting police patrols in Kurdish areas of Kirkuk, the oil capital of northern Iraq yesterday.

Four police were wounded by the first car bomb, police said. The second car bomb killed two policemen as their patrol passed.


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