Over 50 Dead in Iraq Carnage as Rumsfeld Visits
Anthony Shadid of the Washington Post reports carnage in Iraq on Thursday. A huge car bomb ripped through Liberation Square in Baghdad, killing four. A US convoy had just passed through.
Guerrillas at Salman Pak attacked a police station, killing between 6 and 14 Iraqi policemen and wounding over 20. At one point fighting was so heavy that reinforcements could not get to the area and bodies were left in the road. In the aftermath, 20 cars were burning. Salman Pak has been a constant area of guerrilla action, especially against Shiites moving between Baghdad and the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala to its south.
The bodies of 20 missing truck drivers were discovered dumped in the road, Thursday.
Mariam Fam of AP reports in addition several other incidents:
Guerrillas in Baquba attacked a police patrol, sparking a gun battle that leve a civilian dead and two police officers wounded. In a separate incident, guerrillas killed a police lieutenant in the same city.
In Ramadi, the bodies of 5 National Guardsmen still uniform were discovered on Thursday, victims of the guerrillas. North of Ramadi US forces killed two guerrillas.
In the Rahmaniyah district of Baghdad, an explosion went off near a Shiite mosque. Casualties were reported. Guerrillas shot a hospital receptionist to death in Baghdad, as well.
In Kirkuk, guerrillas set off a bomb just after a US convoy passed by, killing one Iraqi.
In Mosul, a bullet-riddled body was discovered.
Early returns from the recent election show that the Kurds have won a clear majority in Tamim Province, the capital of which is Kirkuk. This victory positions them to make a strong claim that the city should be joined to the Kurdistan province for which Kurds are pressing.
The Kurdish position, which also includes a demand that Iraq must be a secular state, ran into opposition from parties associated with the Shia religious establishment. Objections concerned the levels of autonomy demanded by the Kurds; whether Iraq should be federal or unitary in structure; the concession of the Kurdish veto; and the role of Islam in the state. There is also perennial concern about the status of the city of Kirkuk. Keenly aware that control of the oil city would give the Kurds the wherewithal to secede from the state, the Shia (and Sunni Arab) parties have continued to oppose the attempts of the Kurds to include Kirkuk within their region’s boundary. This opposition is particularly strong since a considerable proportion of the Arab population settled in Kirkuk during Saddam Hussein’s Arabization policy were Shia, and the other ethnic group present in numbers in the city–the Turkmen–is also, predominantly, Shia.
The disposition of Kirkuk, and of the petroleum wells around the city, is among the more difficult decisions faced by the new parliament once it is seated.
Masoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party warned Thursday against any one party dominating parliament, and implicitly urged the religious Shiite parties that hold half the seats in parliament not to veer away from what he called “the [national] consensus.” The Shiites will want to implement Islamic law, whereas the Kurds are committed to civil law.
In other news, Iranian president Muhammad Khatami threatened that Iran would turn into “a scorching hell” to fight off any intervention by Americans. Khatami began in 1997 by being a liberal who called for a “diaologue of civilizations”. Many observers were taken aback by the vehemence of the moderate’s language. The Bush administration may well be driving the reformers into the arms of the hardliners.