IMAGE: Iraqi women mourn
Wissam Al-Okaili  /  AFP - Getty Images
Women mourn the death of relatives outside the morgue of a hospital in Baghdad early Tuesday. The fatalities were the result of a car bombing in Baghdad late Monday.
updated 10/10/2006 1:41:14 PM ET 2006-10-10T17:41:14

Iraq’s government forged ahead with a plan aimed at ending sectarian attacks, even as a bombing in the capital killed 10 people Tuesday and officials discovered scores of new death-squad victims.

The bomb, planted under a car in the mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhood of Dora in south Baghdad, ripped through a line of people waiting in line outside a bakery—the worst of the day’s attacks, which left a total of 18 dead around the country.

The U.S. command announced the deaths of two more soldiers, one killed Monday on patrol in Baghdad and the other near Tikrit on Sunday when a roadside bomb blew up next to his vehicle.

The military also said Iraqi and U.S. troops killed at least nine fighters in clashes with the Mahdi Army—Iraq’s most powerful Shiite militia—in the southern city of Diwaniya on Monday, the second straight day of battles there.

The fight started when two grenades were thrown at U.S. and Iraqi soldiers who had stopped to talk to Iraqi police, the military said in a statement. The patrol then came under fire from gunmen wearing Iraqi police uniforms, the statement said.

60 bodies found
On Sunday, U.S.-Iraqi forces in Diwaniya battled for hours with members of the Mahdi Army, loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The military said 30 fighters were killed.

Authorities also discovered the mutilated bodes of 60 men in the 24-hour period ending Tuesday morning, police 1st Lt. Mohamed Khayon said.

The bullet-riddled bodies found dumped in several Baghdad neighborhoods all had their hands and feet bound and showed signs of torture — hallmarks of death-squad killings. The victims ranged in age from 20 to 50, he said.

Baghdad has been plagued by escalating sectarian violence that has seen thousands killed this year, and the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry and its police forces have been accused of complicity in allowing militias to roam freely.

Under intense pressure to put an end to it, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a week ago announced a four-point security plan aimed at uniting the divided parties behind efforts to stop Shiite-Sunni killings.

A plan for committees
In a first step, officials said Tuesday that all security checkpoints in Baghdad would soon be manned by an equal number of Shiite and Sunni Arab troops to ensure the security forces do not allow sectarian attacks.

Al-Maliki’s overall plan called for the creation of local Shiite-Sunni committees that will oversee policing in each district of Baghdad, reporting back to a Central Committee for Peace and Security to coordinate with the security forces and the prime minister.

The effort to balance the checkpoints that dot the streets of Baghdad underlines the deep mistrust between Shiites and Sunnis within al-Maliki’s government. Each side accuses the other of backing militias, and Sunnis in particular say the Shiite-dominated police force often allows Shiite militias to carry out kidnappings and murders.

The parties agreed Saturday on the makeup of the central committee, said a member, Bassem Sherif, who represents the Shiite Fadila party on the body.

The committee includes four representatives each from the Shiite coalition that dominates parliament and the main Sunni coalition, along with one representative each from the Kurds and the Iraqi List, a mixed, secular party, Sherif said.

The parties also agreed each checkpoint in Baghdad will have an equal number of Sunni and Shiite troops, whether police or military, “so no violations can take place,” said Hassan al-Shimmari, a spokesman and lawmaker from the Shiite Fadila party.

The troops at a checkpoint can keep an eye on each other to ensure neither side lets by a Shiite or a Sunni armed group to carry out an attack or covers up for a militia after an attack takes place, he said.

Sherif and another participant in the negotiations, Khalaf al-Alayan, head of the Sunni National Dialogue Council party, confirmed the details.

The central committee will meet in the coming days to work with the Interior and Defense ministries on arranging the balanced checkpoints, Sherif said.

Spoiled food blamed for sickness
In other developments, the head of a hospital that treated police officers who fell ill after a Sunday evening meal at their base said spoiled food served at a mess hall was the cause.

Dr. Matheel Alwan, the head of Kut General Hospital, said samples of the yogurt and hamburgers served at the police base in Numaniyah had been sent to Baghdad to see which of them were contaminated. “It was either spoiled hamburger, or spoiled yogurt,” he said.

Kut hospital admitted 53 of the estimated 350 to 400 policemen for treatment, and pumped the stomachs and immediately released many others, Alwan said. They were suffering from severe vomiting with traces of blood, dehydration and diarrhea—typical symptoms of food poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The final policeman treated was discharged Tuesday, Alwan said.

The question remains whether the policemen were knowingly served spoiled food or if it was accidental.

On Monday, military spokesman Brig. Qassim al-Moussawi said the man in charge of the mess hall had been arrested along with several others and that an investigation was ongoing.

At that time, he said investigators were pursuing the theory that spoiled food could have been served as part of a corruption scheme by the contractors or officers at the base to skim off funds for the food. He suggested that it was more likely, however, that the food had been poisoned as part of an “intentional sabotage” attempt.

Al-Moussawi did not answer repeated phone calls Tuesday.

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