Violence flares in Iraq
Violence increased across Iraq after a lull following the December 15 parliamentary elections, with at least two dozen people—including a United States soldier—killed in shootings and bombings mostly targeting the Shi’ite-dominated security services.
Officials blamed the surge in violence on Monday on insurgent efforts to deepen the political turmoil surrounding the contested vote. Preliminary figures—including some returns released on Monday from ballots cast early by expatriate Iraqis and some voters inside Iraq—have given a big lead to the religious Shi’ite bloc that controls the current interim government.
The violence came as three opposition groups threatened a wave of protests and civil disobedience if fraud charges are not properly investigated. The warning came from the secular Iraqi National List, headed by former Shi’ite prime minister Ayad Allawi, and two Sunni Arab groups.
Iraq’s Electoral Commission said on Monday that final results for the 275-seat Parliament could be released in about a week.
Sunni Arab and secular Shi’ite factions are demanding that an international body review more than 1 500 complaints, warning they may boycott the new legislature.
They also want new elections in some provinces, including Baghdad. The United Nations has rejected an outside review.
“We will resort to peaceful options, including protests, civil disobedience and a boycott of the political process, until our demands are met,” Hassan Zaidan al-Lahaibi, of the Sunni-dominated Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, said in neighbouring Jordan, where representatives of the groups have met in recent days.
Among the complaints are 35 that the election commission considers serious enough to change some local results. But, said Farid Ayar, a commission official: “I don’t think there is a reason to cancel the entire elections.”
He also said preliminary results from early votes by soldiers, hospital patients and prisoners and overseas Iraqis showed a coalition of Kurdish parties and the main Shi’ite religious bloc each taking about a third. Those nearly 500 000 votes are not expected to alter overall results significantly.
Preliminary results previously released gave the United Iraqi Alliance, the religious Shi’ite coalition dominating the current government, a big lead—but one unlikely to allow it to govern without forming a coalition with other groups.
Bahaa al-Araji, a member of the Shi’ite alliance, said the group is preparing to negotiate with other political blocs and has already met the Sunni Arab Iraqi Islamic Party.
Al-Araji also said likely candidates for prime minister are current Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who heads the Islamic Dawa party, and Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who belongs to the other main Shi’ite party, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Every time there has been a defining event in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, there has been a period of calm.
They included the June 28 2004 transfer of power from the US-led coalition provisional authority, the January 30 elections and the October 15 Constitution referendum.
The recent lull in violence ended on Sunday, with the deaths of 18 people.
On Monday, a suicide car bomber slammed into a police patrol in the capital, leaving three dead, officials said, and a suicide motorcycle bomber rammed into a Shi’ite funeral ceremony, killing at least two, said Major Falah Mohamadawi, of the interior ministry. A mortar then killed two people in a predominantly Shi’ite neighbourhood.
Four other car bombs killed at least two people and gunmen killed five officers at a police checkpoint 48km north of Baghdad, officials said.
A US soldier serving with Task Force Baghdad was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle while on patrol in the capital, the military said. The name of the soldier was withheld pending notification of next of kin.
In Jordan, a lawyer for Saddam and a Jordanian newspaper claimed on Monday that the former ruler’s half-brother rejected a US offer of a ranking Iraqi government position in exchange for testimony against the deposed leader.
The half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim, reportedly made the claim on Thursday before the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Court that is hearing the cases against him, Saddam and six other co-defendants for the deaths of more than 140 Shi’ites after a 1982 attempt on Saddam’s life in the town of Dujail.
The lawyer spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to give details of the closed session.
Saddam’s chief Iraqi lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, made the same allegations in Monday’s editions of the independent Jordanian daily Al Arab Al Yawm. Dulaimi and US officials were not immediately available for comment on Monday, which was a US holiday.
But chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Mousawi denied that there were attempts to cut a deal with Ibrahim during the closed session.
“The defence team should respect the profession and should not make false statements,” al-Mousawi said. He refused to divulge what happened during the closed session.
Associated Press reporters Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Shafika Mattar in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this story