Saturday, March 03, 2007

Iraq: Divide and ??????

Iraqi Troops and Sunni Tribesmen battle insurgents (al Qaida backed?): 50 killed.

BAGHDAD, March 1 -- Iraqi security forces backed by Sunni tribesmen killed dozens of suspected Sunni insurgents over several hours of fighting Wednesday in a village in western Iraq, Iraqi police officials said Thursday.

The fighting was unusually fierce for an Iraqi-led operation and was also notable because of the collaboration of tribesmen in volatile Anbar province. In recent months, the U.S. military has aligned itself with dozens of tribal sheiks who are collaborating in an effort to drive the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq from the vast desert territory.

Sunnit on Sunni violence

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Six Sunni men who had received death threats for meeting with local Shiites were killed Saturday in execution-style slayings, police said.

Gunmen stormed a house in Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of the Iraqi capital at dawn, police said. Inside, the men — all relatives from the Mashhada tribe — were separated from women and children and then shot to death.

The motive of the attack could not be independently verified. But police, citing information from surviving relatives, said the victims had received threats from Sunni insurgents after participating in a reconciliation conference with Shiites last month.

Sunni on Shi'ite or, more appropriately, Al Qaida on Shi'ites with the trademark "throat slitting". The police are planning to come out swinging.

Ministry operations director Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf told AFP that all 14 officers missing after their convoy was ambushed on Thursday had been found dead in the streets of Baquba, north of Baghdad.

"The minister is following this case closely and has given the order to hunt these people down and punish them. The police chief in Baquba has collected intelligence information, and the operation is under way," Khalaf said.

On Thursday around 55 members of the Iraq's Shiite-led interior ministry forces were travelling from Baquba to the nearby town of Khalis to go on leave when they were ambushed by Sunni insurgents.

The gang managed to capture 14 of them, Khalaf said.

Shortly afterwards, a coalition of insurgent groups led by Al-Qaeda said in an Internet message that the hostages would be killed to avenge the alleged rape of a Baghdad Sunni woman by Shiite police.

Late on Friday, a second message said the killings had been carried out and promised that a video of the murders would be released.

Uday al-Khadran, the mayor of Khalis, told AFP: "They were found in the streets of Baquba. Their throats had been cut and their hands were bound."

Look forward to this getting even hotter as the sides divide and re-divide again.

Then again, some parts my actually cool down.

BAGHDAD — At a time of epic displacement, Fuad Khamis has done something extraordinary: He has moved back home.

"When I arrived, I was overwhelmed and frightened at the same time," says Khamis, a Sunni Arab taxi driver from Baghdad's religiously mixed Sadiya neighborhood.

His house was damaged and there wasn't a piece of furniture left. But the father of five says his Shiite neighbors have welcomed him back with hugs and kisses.

Mission into Sadr City begins shortly.

In Sadr City, home to two million impoverished Shi'ites, U.S. forces will face an elusive enemy. Mehdi Army commanders have fled and the black-clad militiamen are keeping a low profile, avoiding a confrontation with U.S. troops.

Portraits of the scowling Sadr stare down from many billboards. Sadr's network of social and religious services has deepened a sense of Shi'ite militancy, making the eastern Baghdad enclave almost impenetrable for outsiders.

Barefoot children play by pools of raw sewage and goats are herded amid mounds of rubbish, although projects funneled by the Shi'ite majority in power appear to be bearing some fruit.

The sectarian loyalties of Iraq's security forces, whose police is heavily Shi'ite, have cast doubt that Maliki will crush Shi'ite militants with the same determination as he is pursuing Sunni Arab insurgents.

This time things will be different, said Major-General Kareem Abdul-Rahman, Iraqi commander for eastern Baghdad.

"I have but one order from Maliki: to enforce the law," he said.

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