Iraqi leader announces plan to unite sects behind efforts to stop violence

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Media: The Associated Press
Byline: By LEE KEATH
Date: 03 October 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq_Iraq's prime minister announced a new plan aimed at ending the
deepening crisis between Shiite and Sunni parties in his government and
uniting them behind the drive to stop sectarian killings that have bloodied
the country for months.

The four-point plan, which emerged after talks between both sides, aims to
resolve disputes by giving every party a voice in how security forces
operate against violence on a neighborhood by neighborhood level.

Local committees will be formed in each Baghdad district _ made up of
representatives of every party, religious and tribal leaders and security
officials _ to consult on security efforts. A Sunni representative, for
example, could raise a complaint if he feels police are not pursuing a
Shiite militia after an attack. A central committee, also made up of all the
parties, will coordinate with the armed forces.

"We have taken the decision to end sectarian hatred once and for all," Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters. "We have vowed before Almighty God
to stop the bloodshed."

In a possible boost to the effort to rein in the violence, a radical cleric
who heads one of the most powerful Shiite militias, Muqtada al-Sadr, has
ordered his followers to put aside their weapons temporarily, a Sadr
spokesman told The Associated Press.

Al-Maliki announced his plan hours after gunmen abducted 14 computer shop
employees in a bold, midday attack in downtown Baghdad, the second mass
kidnapping in as many days.

The bodies of seven of the 24 captives seized Sunday were found dumped in
southern Baghdad. Sunni politicians blamed Shiite militias for both mass
kidnappings and demanded the government take action.

Al-Maliki is under increasing pressure to stop the violence, which has
killed thousands since February. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad warned
this week that al-Maliki must make progress within the next two months to
avert a crisis.

But al-Maliki's administration has been plagued by growing mistrust between
its Shiite and Sunni members, who each accuse the other of fueling the

Al-Maliki announced a 24-point reconciliation plan when he took office in
May, which laid down ways to tackle violence _ including an amnesty for
militants who put down their weapons as well as security crackdowns. So far,
the plan has done little to stem the daily killings.

Sunnis accuse the Shiite-led security forces of turning a blind eye to
killing of Sunnis by Shiite militias _ some of which are linked to parties
in the government. Sunnis have accused al-Maliki, a Shiite, of being
hesitant to crack down on the militias.

Shiites, meanwhile, accused Sunni parties of links to terrorists after a
bodyguard of a Sunni party leader, Adnan al-Dulaimi, was arrested by U.S.
forces on Friday and accused of plotting al-Qaida bombings. Some Shiite
politicians demanded a government reshuffle to push out Sunni parties.

The local committees aim to resolve these disputes.

"We will spare no efforts to succeed in this great initiative which we
agreed on today to stop the violence and killings in Baghdad and in all
Iraq," al-Dulaimi said at a news conference with al-Maliki. The two men
signed an agreement with other Sunni and Shiite politicians on the
four-point plan.

In addition to the local and central committees, the plan calls for
establishment of a media committee and a monthly review of progress,
al-Maliki said.

However, the new plan does not directly tackle the issue of cracking down on
Shiite militias, a step Sunnis demand but many Shiites oppose.

In theory, the committees would give Sunnis a venue to press security forces
to take action against militias. But Shiites on the committee would have an
equal chance to try to prevent action.

The top parties are to meet Tuesday to work out the details of how the
committees will work, but already divisions were showing _ even over
wording. Shiite parties want the new plan to be focused on "terrorism,"
which would suggest insurgents, while Sunnis want it to address "violence,"
which would include Shiite militias.

The most well-known of these militias is the Mahdi Army led by al-Sadr, who
on Friday ordered his fighters to put aside their weapons temporarily. He
told supporters "the resistance (should) be political. ... He does not want
to see a single drop of (Iraqi) blood shed," said Sadr spokesman Amir

The Mahdi Army has been blamed for many attacks on Sunnis since the bombing
of a Shiite shrine north of Baghdad in February sparked the wave of
sectarian violence. But U.S. commanders have suggested that since then some
militants have split from al-Sadr, saying he is not radical enough and
carrying out attacks on their own.

Violence has not slowed in the wake of al-Sadr's orders. A curfew slapped on
Baghdad on Saturday after the arrest of al-Dulaimi's bodyguard brought a day
of calm. But as soon as it was lifted, violence explode.

More than 50 bodies _ most bound and many of them showing signs of torture _
were found in Baghdad alone on Sunday, apparent victims of sectarian
killings, police said.

Midday Monday, gunmen wearing military-style uniforms pulled up to a group
of computer stores at the Technical University in downtown Baghdad and
pulled out 14 employees, forcing them into SUVs and driving off, police

On Sunday, gunmen stormed into a frozen meat factory in Baghdad and forced
24 workers into a refrigerator truck, shooting two others who refused to get

Hours later, seven bodies were found in a Sunni district of the Baghdad
neighborhood of Dora and were identified as workers from the factory. The
fate of the other abducted workers was not known. In similar mass
kidnappings in the past, the attackers have sorted out Shiites and Sunnis
and killed those of the rival sect.

Lawmakers from the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni political group, said the
kidnapped workers were all Sunnis and called on the government to act.

"It is the time the government takes serious and urgent steps to disband
these criminal organizations and to save the people from their harm," they
said in a statement.

At least 20 other people were killed in attacks around Iraq, including a
bomb blast in Baghdad's downtown Al-Nasir Square that killed four people and
wounded 13, and mortar barrages against two Sunni neighborhoods that killed
two people and wounded dozens.

The U.S command said five U.S. Marines died in Iraq's western Anbar province
over the weekend _ four in combat and the fifth in a vehicle accident.

Also, five U.S. soldiers were killed in and around Baghdad _ four Monday in
separate small-arms fire attacks around the city and a fifth Sunday in a
roadside bombing west of the capital, the military said.

A British soldier was killed and another wounded in a mortar attack in the
southern city of Basra. One shell hit a nearby house, killing two children.