Al-Qaeda threatens diplomats in Iraq

Sunni-led insurgents killed six Iraqi police at a checkpoint on Friday and fired a mortar round that struck a home outside the capital, killing a mother and child, as Shi’ites began celebrating a major Muslim holiday. Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda in Iraq threatened more attacks on diplomats in the country.

Also on Friday, the United States military said it killed five senior al-Qaeda in Iraq figures during an air strike last Saturday in Husaybah near the Syrian border. The five, including at least one North African, were responsible for bombings against US and Iraqi forces, the announcement said.

Friday’s worst attack by insurgents occurred at an Iraqi police checkpoint in Buhriz, 55km north of Baghdad.

The insurgents fired mortar rounds and then arrived in eight cars and opened fire, a police officer said.
At least six police officers were killed and 10 wounded in the ensuing gun battle, and it was not immediately known if any militants were hurt, the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concern for his own safety.

On the outskirts of Baghdad, near the US-run Abu Ghraib detention centre, insurgents fired a mortar round that missed an American base but hit a village home, killing a child and wounding the mother and another one of her children, said police First Lieutenant Ahmed Ali.

Suspected insurgents also shot and killed Tarijk Hasan, a former colonel in the Iraqi air force, as he drove through Baghdad on Thursday, said police Captain Talib Thamir.

Late on Thursday, a US soldier also died near Talil, 270km south-east of Baghdad, the military said. The death, apparently of non-hostile causes, brought to at least 2 038 the number of US military service members who have died since the Iraq conflict began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Threat to diplomats

The al-Qaeda threat to foreign diplomats was contained in a statement posted on an Islamic website. It was posted one day after the country’s most feared terror group announced it had condemned two Moroccan embassy employees to death.

“We are renewing our threat to those so-called diplomatic missions who have insisted on staying in Baghdad and have not yet realised the repercussions of such a challenge to the will of the mujahedin,” the Friday statement said.

Last July, al-Qaeda in Iraq kidnapped and killed two Algerian and one Egyptian diplomat in an apparent campaign to prevent Arab and Islamic countries from strengthening ties to the US-backed Iraqi government. Senior envoys from Pakistan and Bahrain also escaped kidnap attempts. More than 40 diplomatic missions are currently in Iraq.

Eid celebration

The latest al-Qaeda statement appeared as majority Shi’ites began the three-day religious holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which ends a month of fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Most of Iraq’s minority Sunni Arabs began to celebrate Eid on Thursday—based on their different interpretation of the lunar calendar. In war-torn cities such as Baghdad, Sunnis marked the holiday by dressing up, taking their children to local amusement parks and serving lavish meals to friends and relatives at their homes.

Shi’ites did the same thing on Friday.

In Sadr City, a large Shi’ite area of Baghdad, crowds of children wearing new outfits formed lines to get on Ferris wheels and other rides at small local amusement parks.

But security by police and local militias remained tight, given all the insurgent attacks that occur in the capital, including suicide car bombs, drive-by shootings and roadside bombs.

“We cannot fully enjoy Eid because of all the explosions we hear,” said Karar al-Aboudi (25), the owner of a clothes stall near one park. “We have no reason to celebrate under occupation and terrorism. We pray to God that in the next Eid, our country will be stable and free.”

In a speech marking Eid in another part of Baghdad, a top Shi’ite leader urged voters to support his coalition in Iraq’s December 15 parliamentary election.

Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq, told a crowd gathered at his party headquarters that the aim of his candidates is “to protect all Iraqis, not only Shi’ites but also minority Sunnis and Kurds”.

Two major religious parties—Sciri and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Dawa Party—form Iraq’s top Shi’ite alliance. Both parties have been criticised for their close ties to Iran.

When Iraq elected its current interim Parliament on January 30, many Sunnis boycotted the vote, and the Shi’ite alliance won the biggest share of seats. But many Sunnis are expected to vote in the December 15 ballot for a new Parliament, one that will remain in power for four years.—Sapa-AP

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