Saturday Toll 26 Killed Nearly 50

Saturday Toll 26 Killed, Nearly 50 Wounded
Hilla Bombings Kill 6, Injure 26

Guerrilla violence killed 26 and injured nearly 50 altogether on Saturday. In Ramadi, a US helicopter caught fire while refueling, slighly injuring a crewman. The incident is being investigated.

Associated Press reports that a guerrilla with a suicide bomb belt detonated his payload in downtown Hilla while he was being searched by Interior Ministry gendarmes of the Scorpion Brigade, killing 6 of them. It adds:

‘ About 10 minutes later, the second suicide attacker blew himself up in a crowd of police and civilians who had rushed to the scene, Ali said. ‘

Al-Hilla is a largely Shiite city that has suffered from violence at the hands of Sunni guerrillas, and was enraged by a massive bombing last spring done by a Jordanian terrorist.

Al-Hayat:: Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the United Iraqi Alliance that dominates parliament called Saturday for the defense of “clerics and holy sites” in confronting “a war of extermination” launched by extremists and by the supporters of Saddam on the Shiites. He warned that “Iraqis are losing their faith in the [new] regime.” He emphasized “the need to guard against” falling eventually into the sectarian struggle “that the enemy desires.” He called for the security forces to redouble efforts to hit the “armed groups.”

Al-Hayat reads the speech rather more darkly than does AP, which leads with this last call to Shiite restraint. But Mariam Fam notes that he also continues to call for punitive measures against Baath Party members, which implies an exclusion of most Sunni Arabs from civil life. He has also called for Shiite neighborhoods to form vigilance committees to watch for (Sunni) infiltrators.

The US released Shaikh Muhammad al-Tabataba’i without comment Saturday, after holding him for a year. A senior aide of clerical nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr, al-Tabataba’i had been arrested during the Sadrist Shiite uprising of spring, 2004. Sadrists have been demonstrating in places like Kut and Najaf for the US to release the Sadrist leaders it holds, most often without charge.

Al-Hayat says that the head of the Sunni Endowments Board, Muhammad Salman al-Dulaimi, called Saturday for the government to guarantee the safety of prayer leaders in their mosques, emphasizing that 60 prayer leaders and hundreds of worshippers have been assassinated in Iraq since the fall of the Baath regime. He condemned the kidnapping Friday of Sunni cleric Shaikh al-Takriti, as well as the assassination of Shiite cleric al-Ghuraifi.

A mixed force of Iraqi military and US Marines will remain at Hit after a sweep of the city, rather than withdrawing altogether as in the past. Local officials, rather than welcoming the promise of the establishment of security, complained that a permanent military presence would paralyze the ordinary workings of the city.

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