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Thousands of families displaced in Iraq

Sectarian violence has forced about 100,000 families across Iraq to flee their homes, a top Iraqi official said, as six more Iraqis were killed in violence on Saturday.
Iraqi boys ride bicycles in a camp in Ba
Iraqi boys ride bicycles Saturday in a camp in Baghdad for people displaced by sectarian violence in the restive Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad.Wisam Sami / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sectarian violence has forced about 100,000 families across Iraq to flee their homes, a top Iraqi official said, and 16 Iraqis were killed Saturday, six of them tortured in captivity.

An American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in the capital, raising to 70 the number of U.S. service members who have died in Iraq this month, according to an Associated Press count.

Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi told reporters in the southern city of Najaf that 90 percent of the displaced were Shiites like himself and the rest Sunnis, the minority that held sway under former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Other estimates of the number of displaced families have been lower.

Dr. Salah Abdul-Razzaq, spokesman of the Shiite Endowment, a government body that runs Shiite religious institutions, put the number of displaced families at 13,750 nationwide, or about 90,000 people.

That includes 25,000 Iraqis who have fled their homes since an attack on a Shiite mosque in Samarra on Feb. 22 triggered a wave of sectarian attacks on Sunni mosques and clerics.

No ‘widespread movement’
Earlier this week, U.S. spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch told reporters that U.S. forces had found no “widespread movement” of Shiites and Sunnis away from religiously mixed areas, despite reports to the contrary by Iraqi officials.

The Army soldier was killed by a roadside bomb southwest of the capital, the military said. The soldier’s identity was not released.

At least 2,399 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began, according to an AP count.

Evidence of torture
In Saturday’s worst violence, the bodies of six handcuffed, blindfolded and tortured men were found in the Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, said police Capt. Jamil Hussein. The area has seen frequent sectarian violence.

Also, gunmen kidnapped a Sunni policeman and his brother from their home in the Sunni-dominated town of Jurf al-Sakhar early Saturday and shot them to death, said police Capt. Muthana Khalidin. The town, 43 miles south of Baghdad, is near the mostly Shiite city of Musayyib.

Eight other Iraqis were killed in scattered violence.

  • Insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades attacked an Iraqi army convoy 25 miles south of Baghdad, killing two soldiers and wounding six, said army Lt. Fikrat Mohammed Hassan.
  • Gunmen in a village 90 miles north of Baghdad attacked a minibus carrying female students from Diyala University, killing a woman and her father, who was driving, police said.
  • A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol killed one policeman and wounded two in the Ghazaliyah neighborhood of west Baghdad, said police Lt. Mohammed Hanoun.
  • Also in the capital, a drive-by shooting killed two Iraqi brothers who worked for a foreign contracting company as they walked through the eastern neighborhood of New Baghdad, said police 1st Lt. Ali Abbas.
  • In western Iraq, a mortar round hit a home in Tal Afar, about 90 miles east of the Syrian border, killing one Iraqi civilian and wounding two children, police Brig. Ibrahim al-Jibouri said.
  • In southern Iraq, Iranian forces detained four engineers from Iraq’s ministry of water who were on a boat on the Arvand River, which runs along the border and into the Persian Gulf, Iraqi police Capt. Mushtaq Kadhim said. Iran and Iraq have long argued about their line of control on the waterway.

A roadside bomb in Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, hit a convoy Friday night carrying the city’s police chief, Col. Sofian Mustafa, missing him but killing two of his bodyguards and wounding three others, said police Capt. Arkan Ali said.