2 US troops among 23 killed in Iraq
BAGHDAD: Insurgents have killed 21 Iraqis and two US soldiers in recent assaults, showing there has been no respite in the fight against US-led forces and their allies since Sunday’s election.
The Army of Ansar al-Sunna posted a video on its Website on Saturday showing seven National Guards captured in an ambush near Baghdad on Thursday being shot as they knelt blindfolded. The Islamic Army in Iraq said in an Internet statement it had killed three policemen captured after the same attack. The video did not show the killings, but had images of the hostages in tears. “After they admitted that they worked with occupation forces ... God’s just sentence was carried out against them,” the group said in a statement.
Insurgents attacked the police convoy on Thursday. Police said two policemen were killed, 14 wounded and 16 went missing.
While attacks by insurgents against foreign and Iraqi forces have slowed since the election, they have not ceased during a week when electoral officials have been busy counting ballots. “You should not cooperate with the new Iraqi government,” one of the hostages said on Ansar al-Sunna’s video, dated February 4.
The count so far puts a Shia coalition in the lead with two thirds of the poll, based on results from 35 percent of voting centres. Buoyed by the strong showing, a top Shia official told Reuters the Shia alliance would insist on the job of prime minister in the new government.
The post is now held by Iyad Allawi, whose bloc is in second place. But this could change as votes from the Kurdish-dominated north are counted, reducing his chances of keeping his job as a compromise candidate. “Shias want the prime ministership, we are insisting on it and will not give it up,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Hamed al-Bayati, who is a senior official in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The SCIRI is a key player in the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shia bloc which has polled 2.2 million of the 3.3 million votes counted so far from 10 of 18 provinces.
Allawi’s Iraqi List has about 18 per cent, but the Kurds are still awaiting the results in their three northern provinces, where turnout was high and is expected to secure them a powerful voice in the new 275-seat National Assembly.
As violence continued unchecked, police said four Iraqi Army soldiers were killed by a bomb in the southern city of Basra, which has been relatively peaceful.
Four other Iraqi servicemen died in three separate incidents in Samarra in the restive Sunni triangle region north of Baghdad, hospital sources and the Iraqi military said.
Civilian casualties also rose. Two children playing outside their home were killed when a landmine exploded, and a local government official was assassinated in a drive-by shooting in the Adel area in western Baghdad.
The US army said two US soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb while patrolling in armoured Humvees near Baiji, north of Tikrit, on Friday. Four other soldiers were wounded.
An Italian reporter, Giuliana Sgrena, was taken away from a street on Friday while she was interviewing people near the Baghdad University. reuters