No let-up in Iraq sectarian killings

Fighting in Balad has brought the number of dead to 95 since sectarian violence erupted last Friday, US army officials say.

    A surge in sectarian violence has taken a tragic toll in Balad

    US forces went back to patrolling the streets of the Shia town on Tuesday after five days of sectarian violence.


    Across Iraq, 36 other people were killed in violent attacks and 16 more corpses were found in Baghdad, hands and legs bound and showing signs of torture, police reported on Tuesday.


    Iraq's 4th Army, rated one of the nation's best trained units, has so far been unable to stem sectarian violence since taking full control of Salaheddin province a month ago.


    Forty mortar rounds had poured into the city overnight and into the morning, killing at least four more people.


    The fighting in the city began on Friday with the slaying of 17 Shia Muslim workers.


    Revenge-seeking Shia death squads then killed 74 Sunnis, causing people to flee across the Tigris River to the nearby Sunni-dominated city of Duluiyah.


    Low profile


    US forces have kept a low-profile in the fighting, although the military said on Tuesday that US troops had responded to requests to back up Iraqi security forces.


    "We continue to conduct our normal patrols in the city and provide support for Iraqi security forces as they lead operations in stopping the sectarian violence in Balad," said Lt. Colonel Jeffery Martindale.


    A wounded Iraqi elder is rushed
    to hospital

    US forces were also firing back at fighters launching mortar attacks on civilians in the area, Martindale said.


    Police in neighbouring towns and Sunnis fleeing the fighting have said that local officers teamed up with Shia militiamen to attack Sunnis in Balad, a predominantly Shia enclave of 80,000 people surrounded by Sunni communities.


    Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Iraqi parliament's security committee, said Balad was being blocked-off to prevent more insurgents entering, but violence continued.


    "There are still painful incidents in there," said al-Amiri, a key member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, Iraq's main Shia religious party.


    Spate of shootings


    In addition to the Balad deaths, 10 people were killed in a spate of shootings in the southern, predominantly Shia city of Basra, 550 km southeast of Baghdad.


    Unidentified men in both police and civilian vehicles gunned down victims, including four students outside the city's university and a doctor, said a Basra police captain on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.


    In Karmah, 80km west of Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed five Iraqi soldiers as their convoy passed through the town in the early morning, lieutenant Ahmed Ali said.


    Two policemen in a patrol car were killed at noon by assailants in a drive-by-shooting in the centre of the western city of Falluja, police lieutenant Husam Mohammed said.


    Kurdish victim


    In the northern city of Mosul, assailants killed a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two main Kurdish political parties, police said.


    Police recruits face brutal death
    in the line of daily duty

    Two suicide car bombers blew themselves up in a botched attack near the police academy in Kirkuk, police said. There were no reports of other casualties in the attack.


    Unidentified assailants attacked a facility belonging to the central Euphrates electricity distribution authority in the town of Hilla, killing a technician and wounding five guards.


    One policeman was killed and three injured in a car bombing in the Baghdad, lieutenant Maitham Abdul-Razaq said. Two others died in other incidents.


    Two blindfolded and bound bodies were found dumped in west of Baghdad early on Tuesday, Abdul-Razaq said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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