U.S., Iraqis Prepare to Enforce Curfew




 
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October 13th, 2005  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: U.S., Iraqis Prepare to Enforce Curfew


By THOMAS WAGNER - Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - (AP) U.S. and Iraqi forces stepped up security
across the country Thursday and prepared to impose an overnight curfew to
try to reduce insurgent attacks aimed at wrecking this weekend's
constitutional referendum.
One day after Iraqi lawmakers approved a set of last-minute
amendments to the constitution without a vote, sealing a compromise designed
to win minority Sunni Arab support for the charter, cities such as Baghdad
were unusually quiet Thursday as a four-day national holiday began.
Government offices and schools were closed ahead of Saturday's vote.

The government ordered a 10 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew to begin Thursday,
and Iraq's borders will be closed Friday and all travel among its provinces
stopped.
Working under cover of darkness, U.S. and Iraqi forces raided
suspected militant safe houses in cities such as Baghdad, and built
4-foot-tall concrete barriers topped with concertina wire in front of
polling places such as schools. The walls are designed to protect the areas
from bombing by insurgents.
Police went even further in Mosul, a city northwest of Baghdad that
has suffered many militant attacks, imposing a ban Wednesday night on all
civilian vehicles. A roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. military convoy
there Thursday, killing two Iraqi civilians and wounding one, said police
Brig. Gen. Saeed Ahmed al-Jibouri.
A car bomb also hit an Iraqi police patrol in the northern city of
Kirkuk, killing two policemen and wounding two, said police Brig. Sarhad
Qadir.
In the last 18 days, at least 442 people have been killed as the
insurgents try to scare voters away from the polls. Most of the deaths have
been caused by suicide car bombs, roadside bombs and drive-by shootings. The
bodies of many other Iraqis who had been kidnapped and killed have been
found in isolated areas.
"Our soldiers recognize that they are not here to influence the
election, but they are here to allow the Iraqi people the opportunity to
vote," said U.S. Lt. Col. Jeff Edge, as his battalion delivered barriers to
a volatile, mostly Sunni area of southwest Baghdad.
During the first three days this week, Iraqi and U.S. forces in the
capital, backed by Black Hawk helicopters, reported capturing 75 suspected
insurgents, seizing three large weapons caches and rescuing an Iraqi man who
had been kidnapped by insurgents.
There are now 156,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, a total that has been
rising in recent weeks as the 101st Airborne returns, along with lead
elements of the 3rd Corps Support Command. Before that regularly scheduled
rotation, the number was about 140,000, the military said.
In another development, thousands of Iraqi detainees who have not
been brought to trial were allowed to vote early in the constitutional
referendum at U.S. prisons such as the notorious Abu Ghraib detention
center.
It was not immediately known if the voters included Saddam Hussein.
The Independent Electoral Commission in Iraq had said the imprisoned former
leader would be allowed to vote, but its general director, Adel Allami, said
Thursday he did not know.
Saddam's long-awaited trial begins Wednesday. He and seven of his
regime's henchmen are accused of ordering the 1982 massacre of 143 people in
a mainly Shiite town north of Baghdad following a failed attack on Saddam's
life.
Iraqis watching state-owned Al-Iraqiya television on Wednesday night
saw the National Assembly approve a set of last-minute amendments to the
constitution without a vote, sealing a compromise designed to win Sunni
support and to boost its chances in the referendum.
At least one major Sunni party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, said it
will now support the draft at the polls. But some other Sunni parties
rejected the amendments and said they would still campaign for a "no" vote.
Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani,
also weighed in, ordering Shiites to vote "yes" in the referendum, according
to one of his aides, Faisal Thbub. It was the most direct show of support
for the charter by al-Sistani, whose call brought out huge numbers of voters
to back Shiite parties in January elections.
But the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars urged the
Iraqi Islamic Party to withdraw its support for a constitution that would
"fragment Iraq and destroy its identity." In a statement, the association
urged Sunnis to vote "no."
The National Assembly's most significant change is the introduction
of a mechanism allowing Sunni Arabs to try to make more substantive changes
in the constitution later, after a new parliament is elected in December.
Sunnis want to weaken the considerable autonomous powers the Shiite
and Kurdish mini-states would have under the constitution. But there's no
guarantee they will succeed: They will still likely face strong opposition
from majority Shiites and Kurds in the new parliament.
The amendments also made some key symbolic concessions to Sunnis,
starting with the first article underlining that Iraq will be a single
nation with its unity guaranteed _ a nod to fears among the disaffected
minority that the draft as it stood would fragment the country.
The changes will likely split the Sunni vote enough to prevent them
from defeating the draft constitution. It will be rejected if more than
two-thirds of the voters oppose it in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces, and
Sunnis have the potential to do so in just four.
The charter's passage is a key goal of the United States, since
failure would mean months more political instability and would delay U.S.
plans to start pulling out troops.
Sunni Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer said the amendments meant Sunnis
had to work harder in the December parliamentary elections to ensure a
strong presence in the next parliament to try for future, deeper changes in
the constitution.
They have only 17 lawmakers in the 275-member parliament after
largely boycotting Jan. 30 elections.
Tuesday's hour-long session, attended by 159 members _ ended without
a vote on the amendments, but Parliament Speaker Hajim al-Hassani said no
actual vote was necessary and that the compromise was approved.
Another significant amendment assures Sunni Arabs that they will not
be purged in Iraq's de-Baathification program simply for belonging to
Saddam's ousted Baath Party. Many current Sunni Arab political leaders were
Baath members and insist only those who actually committed crimes should be
prosecuted.