Video: Bloody end to Ramadan in Iraq

msnbc.com news services
updated 10/23/2006 11:45:47 AM ET 2006-10-23T15:45:47

Fearing new attacks, Iraqi Sunnis largely shunned public celebrations of the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on Monday, huddling in their homes following market bombings that killed at least nine people the day before and a total of at least 44 across the country .

The U.S. military reported the death of a member of the international force training Iraqi policemen in a roadside bombing in eastern Baghdad on Sunday. Four soldiers were also wounded in that attack, the military said, without giving details.

Five soldiers were reported killed from gunfire or roadside bombs on Sunday, bring total U.S. troop deaths in October to 85 — the highest monthly toll since 2004.

U.S. commanders and Iraqi officials have said they hope for a reduction of violence following Ramadan, during which killings had spiked to an average of more than 40 a day from a previous daily average of about 27.

Facing growing impatience with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s failure to stem the carnage, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said international forces must not abandon Iraq or give while the situation there remained volatile.

“I do believe there is no option for the international community to cut and run,” he told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Tony Blair in London. He said Iraqis and the international community need to be realistic, “but not defeatest.”

“We need to understand that there is a need of utmost urgency to deal with many of the problems of Iraq but we must not give in to panic,” he said.

About 7,000 British troops are assigned to southern Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition force there.

More attacks planned
Defense Minister Abdul Qadir Jassim told local state channel al-Iraqiya the ministry had received intelligence that militias were planning more attacks on police stations.

The government also said it had ordered its military forces to confront any attempts by armed groups to break the law.

The U.S.-backed, Shiite-led government is struggling to exert its authority over Shiite militias blamed for reprisal killings and to build a viable police force.

“Lately, unlawful armed operations have increased, which is putting the security and the political stability of the country in danger,” the statement from the government said in a clear message to the Mehdi Army, a Shiite militia loyal to powerful cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

“Everybody should know that orders were given to our armed forces to confront any attempts at violating the law, whoever is the source.”

‘The situation is very tense’
Amara, a town of around 250,000 people, is the provincial capital of Maysan province, home of the Marsh Arabs persecuted by former President Saddam Hussein. British forces plan to hand full control of Maysan to Iraqis in the coming months.

British military spokesman Major Charlie Burbridge said there were around 3,000 Iraqi soldiers in Amara to patrol the streets. British forces have a 600-strong contingent on standby in the outskirts of the town.

A man killed by gunmen lies in the back of a police vehicle in Baghdad
Reuters
A man killed by gunmen lies in the back of a police vehicle in Baghdad on Sunday.
“The situation is very tense ... violence could erupt at any time,” he said.

The clashes in the Shiite town have exposed a power struggle in the ruling Shiite coalition that threatens to further complicate U.S. efforts in Iraq.

Under mounting U.S. pressure, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has pledged to disband militias including the Mehdi Army.

But Maliki, a Shiite, is politically dependent on parties with ties to the militias. Sadr has a large block in parliament which provides key support to Maliki’s coalition and moving against him could weaken Maliki’s five-month-old government.

Maliki last week met Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to enlist their support in curbing sectarian violence.

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