Shi’ites call for revenge after day of carnage

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KARBALA, Iraq — Iraqis buried their dead yesterday following a day of carnage that left some Shi’ite Muslims demanding revenge against the Sunni Arab militants they blame for a suicide bombing in their holy city of Karbala.

Senior Shi’ite religious and political leaders urged restraint, telling followers to place their faith in the next government, slowly emerging from the Dec. 15 election and set to be dominated by Shi’ite parties.

U.S. military officials separately announced six more American troops had died Thursday in incidents in Baghdad, Fallujah and Ramadi, bringing the day’s toll to 11 — the fourth bloodiest day for U.S. forces since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Some Shi’ite clerics used the Muslim holy day to condemn the killers from the pulpit.

In Baghdad, one turbaned imam held an AK-47 assault rifle aloft as he addressed 5,000 worshippers.

“How long can we remain silent? Terrorists are pampered in Iraq,” cried Imam Hazim Araji, standing in front of an ornately tiled facade of the Khadimiya mosque.

In the western city of Ramadi, Sunni Arabs buried scores of young police recruits who were killed by another suicide bomber Thursday. That attack killed at least 56, including a U.S. soldier and a Marine.

In Karbala, where more than 60 were killed at a police recruiting center Thursday, grief was mixed with anger.

“Sunnis were behind this criminal act,” said shopkeeper Jabbar Nasr, surveying the debris from the bomb, which exploded yards from the golden-domed Imam Hussein shrine on a busy shopping street.

“I call on our religious Shi’ite institutions to give us permission to fight back,” he said.

In a new video broadcast yesterday on the Arabic-language Al Jazeera network, Al Qaeda’s deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri said President Bush’s plans for a possible withdrawal meant Washington had been defeated by the Muslims.

“Bush, you must confess that you have been defeated in Iraq and in Afghanistan and you will be in Palestine soon,” the top aide to Osama bin Laden said.

The video — which U.S. officials could not confirm was authentic — included English subtitles and carried the date of the Muslim lunar month that ended in December.

“I congratulate the Muslims on Islam’s victory in Iraq. I said more than a year ago that the Americans’ departure from Iraq is only a matter of time,” said the bespectacled al-Zawahri, seated with an assault rifle at his side.

The Pentagon has announced some U.S. troops will be recalled following last month’s largely peaceful election, but Mr. Bush has refused to set a timetable for a full American withdrawal from Iraq.

Condemnation of Thursday’s bombings has not been restricted to Shi’ites, and the country’s main Sunni and secular parties have also tried to ease sectarian strife.

After a series of recent bilateral meetings in Iraq’s Kurdish-dominated north, political leaders have agreed to meet in Baghdad soon to push their plan for an inclusive government that includes all Iraq’s sects and ethnic groups.

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