Several killed in Iraq blast

A bomber has killed at least five people at an Iraqi customs post and authorities have discovered 12 more bodies of people shot execution-style in escalating violence.

    Hundreds have died in worsening violence in recent weeks

    Iraqi politicians meanwhile pressed ahead with efforts on Monday to reach out to Sunni

    Arabs, who were dominant under Saddam Hussein, hoping to lessen their support for the anti-government campaign which has killed over 400 people since a new government was announced late last month.

    Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Iraq's top Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani told him in a meeting in the sacred city of Najaf that Sunni Arabs should have a bigger role in the government and drafting the constitution.

    The Shias and Kurds who dominate Iraq's parliament are

    trying to give Sunni Arabs a greater role in politics.

    Al-Jaafari also

    said the government would crush efforts to inflame sectarian tensions.

    The Iraqi prime minister promised
    stern actions to restore order 

    "The government will hit with an iron fist anyone who harms

    the Sunnis or the Shias or any of the Iraqi people," he said.

    Deadly attack

    In the day's deadliest attack, a bomber drove towards US troops near the customs post in the town of Rabia near the Syrian border and blew himself up, killing at least five people and wounding

    30, according to Nassar al-Rakaad, chief administrator of the town in northwest Iraq.

    Violence also hit Baghdad. A blast targeting a Western

    security convoy killed two Iraqis, police said, and a mortar hit

    Mustansiriya University, killing two people.

    Two car bombs exploded in Baghdad's Doura district, killing

    two people and wounding 12, hospital officials said.

    And in the latest gruesome discovery, police found 12 bodies

    of Iraqi men dumped on Baghdad's outskirts, raising to 46 the

    number of corpses found dumped around Iraq since Saturday.

    Escalating violence

    Iraq's new leaders have promised stability but anti-government fighters have gained fresh momentum, raising fears that the bloodshed will spill over into a full-blown sectarian and ethnic conflict.

    Iraqi security forces have struggled in their new role.

    And after years under Saddam, Iraqis are

    now resentful of what they say are aggressive soldiers.

    Civilians are often the victims of 
    the raging violence

    Seeking to ease tensions, Iraqi Defence Minister Saadoun

    al-Dulaimi said on Monday that troops would be barred from

    raiding mosques in response to complaints about their conduct.

    "We received many complaints over the last days. We shouldn't be a source of fear among Iraqis," he told a news conference.

    "We hear soldiers are raiding mosques and places of worship and terrifying civilians, children and worshippers."

    Aside from trying to build confidence in the security forces, Iraqi leaders are also struggling to balance the interests of sectarian and ethnic factions who have been at odds since 30 January polls dramatically changed the power structure.

    But despite efforts by the Shias and Kurds to win over

    more Sunni Arabs, many remain angry.

    Sunni accusation

    The influential Sunni Muslim Clerics Association accused the

    government on Monday of state terrorism.

    "There is an unjustified silence that may be interpreted as

    acceptance of security violations that are undertaken by Iraqi

    soldiers and militias that cooperate with them," Muthanna

    al-Dari, the group's spokesman, told a news conference.

    Iraqi security forces are being
    accused of being aggressive

    "We are facing state terrorism and the terrorism of security

    organisations using their official name as a cover to achieve

    their targets. Over the last two days soldiers have carried out

    a campaign of invasions (of mosques) and arrests."

    Iraqi officials accuse the al-Qaida leader in Iraq,

    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, of ordering bombings against

    Shias in a bid to spark a full-scale sectarian conflict.

    Most Shias have heeded calls by religious leaders to show

    restraint. But the violence has raised questions over how long

    moderation can last.

    Iraqi leaders appointed Saadoun al-Dulaimi, a Sunni, as defence minister, and he has been frank in his assessment of Iraq's complex security crisis.

    Violent crossroads

    Al-Dulaimi said the people who were shot and dumped in Baghdad were killed by men wearing uniforms worn by police and army special forces.

    "Iraq has become a crossroads for international terrorism

    and there are many parties who want to weaken this government,"

    he told a news conference.

    "Therefore there are some who wear uniforms that resemble

    those of the Iraqi army or the Ministry of Interior and commit

    terrorist acts and kill people."

    In other violence on Monday, anti-US fighters fired mortars at an

    Iraqi army base in the town of Khan Bani Saad northeast of

    Baghdad, killing four soldiers, the Iraqi military said.

    The government said it had arrested in Mosul a fighter,

    Salim Yussef Ghafif Hussein, responsible for preparing

    bombs and who is affiliated with al-Qaida's network in Iraq.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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