Iraqi premier calls for Muslim unity for Ramadan in amid ongoing sectarian killings

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Media: The Associated Press
Date: 24 September 2006


BAGHDAD, Iraq _ Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on Iraqi Shiites and
Sunnis to use the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to put aside their
differences and end sectarian violence, the day after 38 Shiites were killed
in a retaliatory bombing in the capital.

But a disagreement over the day Ramadan begins has served emphasize just how
deep the differences are between the country's two major Muslim sects. Sunni
Arabs began observing Ramadan on Saturday, while Iraq's most influential
Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani declared the start of Ramadan
on Monday.

In addition to those killed in the bombing in the Shiite slum of Sadr City
another 42 were injured as they stocked up on fuel for Ramadan. The attack
came just days after the U.S. military warned that sectarian bloodshed could
worsen during the Islamic holy month.

The group claiming responsibility said it carried out the bombing to avenge
a Friday attack by a suspected Shiite death squad on Sunni Arab homes and
mosques that killed four people in a mixed Baghdad neighborhood.

In a statement, al-Maliki pleaded for unity.

"We are all invited to make use of these days to strengthen the bonds of
brotherhood and avoid anything that could hurt the social fabric of the
Iraqi people," al-Mailiki said.

"Iraq is living in a very sensitive and historic period, either we live as
loving brothers side by side and undivided by sectarianism or Iraq will
shift into an area for settling accounts of political parties."

Al-Mailiki also pleaded for support for his nascent government, but an
incident in Tikrit served as a grisly reminder of the challenges faced.

Associated Press Television News footage in the Tikrit morgue showed medics
working to identify the severed heads of 10 Iraqi soldiers that were tossed
into a crowded market in nearby Beiji the day before by unidentified gunmen.

The covered body of police Col. Ismaiel Chehayyan, killed the night before
by gunmen while having his Ramadan fast-breaking dinner at a friend's house,
lay nearby in the morgue.

At least six people were killed Sunday when a car bomb exploded by a police
patrol near the Health Ministry, which was shelled earlier in the morning in
a mortar attack that wounded three.

The bomb attack killed four policemen and wounded four, while killing two
civilians and injuring two others, police said.

Another six people were killed and 25 injured in scattered violence around

In another attack, a car bomb targeting a police patrol in eastern Baghdad
killed two people and wounded 13.

An Iraqi soldier also died in east Baghdad in a morning attack, police said.
The soldier was gunned down in his car on his way to report to his unit at
7:30 a.m. (0330 GMT).

Meanwhile, two more Iraqi soldiers were killed and another two injured when
a suicide car bomber slammed into a checkpoint in Tal Afar, 420 kilometers
(260 miles) northwest of Baghdad. The soldiers opened fire on the car as it
sped toward the checkpoint but were unable to prevent the detonation, police

In Mosul, some 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, a bomb blast
wounded two civilians, police said.

One more person was killed and five others wounded in the town of
Al-Musayyab south of Baghdad in the Babil province when their house was hit
with a mortar shell, police said.

Police also found more apparent victims of sectarian death squads in the
capital, discovering five bodies bearing signs of torture, blindfolded with
their hands and legs bound, in eastern Baghdad, police said.

Sunni extremist group Jamaat Jund al-Sahaba _ Soldiers of the Prophet's
Companions _ claimed responsibility for the Saturday bomb attack on Shiites
in Sadr City, home to more than 2 million people and a stronghold of radical
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Police said the bomb went off as people crowded behind a kerosene truck to
buy fuel for Ramadan, during which people gather just after sunset for a
communal meal to break a daylong abstention from food and water.

Jamaat Jund al-Sahaba blamed al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia for the Friday
attack that killed four people in the Hurryah neighborhood, where a Shiite
militia last week openly threatened members of the Sunni minority.

"This operation comes in retaliation for the crimes perpetrated by the Mahdi
Army against our Sunni people in Baghdad," the group said, warning of more
attacks. The authenticity of the statement could not be independently

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, spokesman for the U.S.-led military
coalition, warned last week of the danger of Iraq's already severe sectarian
violence escalating during Ramadan.

Caldwell also said a spike in attacks by al-Qaida in Iraq could be coming
after the threat issued Sept. 7 by al-Qaida in Iraq's leader Abu Ayyub
al-Masri. Al-Masri was named the group's leader after a U.S. air raid killed
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June and earlier this month.

The organization on Saturday put a previously released video on the Internet
showing what it said was the group's new leader killing a Turkish hostage
two years ago. The statement identifying the masked killer as Abu Ayyub
al-Masri couldn't be independently confirmed.

The video posted on a Web site often used by Islamic extremists was the
first purported appearance of al-Masri since he was announced as the leader
of al-Qaida in Iraq.

In a statement accompanying the video, the group said the masked man shown
shooting a blindfolded Turkish hostage three times in the head was al-Masri.
The video was originally released Aug. 2, 2004, but none of the three
militants on it were identified at the time.