Monday, May 16, 2005

BAGHDAD — At least eight Iraqis were found shot near a Baghdad dam and a slain Iraqi Kurd was left in a garbage dump in northern Iraq, police said yesterday.

The deaths raised the number of bodies recovered in recent days to 50. The government vowed to track down those responsible, saying terrorists were seeking to exploit sectarian rivalries.

Elsewhere, a series of attacks killed at least 19 Iraqis, including nine soldiers who died when two car bombs exploded in quick succession at a crowded Baghdad market.

Anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also appeared in public for the first time since his fighters clashed with American forces in Najaf and Baghdad in August, delivering a fiery speech demanding that coalition forces leave Iraq and that Saddam Hussein be punished.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, meanwhile, paid a surprise visit to the home of Iraq’s top Shi’ite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, in the holy city of Najaf, an al-Sistani aide said. It was the leader’s first meeting with Ayatollah al-Sistani since the new government was formed.

Batches of bodies were found in various areas over the weekend, from a garbage-strewn vacant lot in Baghdad’s Sadr City slum to a Latifiyah chicken farm south of the capital in a region dubbed the Triangle of Death.

A spokesman for Mr. al-Jaafari condemned the killings and said security forces were determined to catch those responsible.

The attacks “aim to create sectarian fighting in the country because such clashes could bring more recruits to [militant] groups,” spokesman Laith Kuba said. “The government is aware of that and will not let this plan succeed.”

Most of the bodies were found over the weekend, including those of two Iraqi journalists in their car south of Baghdad, 10 soldiers in the city of Ramadi, two truck drivers lying with nine other bodies in the chicken farm and a judge found nearby. Seven others were discovered elsewhere in the Latifiyah area, 20 miles south of the capital. Many of the victims had been blindfolded, bound and shot multiple times in the head.

Another body was found yesterday. This time, an Iraqi Kurd was shot in the head and chest and left in a garbage dump in Kirkuk, police and witnesses said.

Associated Press Television News obtained footage yesterday showing at least three more bodies, who police said had been shot in the head, being brought into a Baghdad hospital.

Police said they were among six bodies found late Sunday near a dam in the capital’s Shi’ite-dominated eastern Shaab neighborhood. Two other victims were found alive, but died later in the hospital.

An influential association of Sunni Muslim clerics identified the victims as from the Sunni minority and said the two victims who briefly survived told relatives they were seized by members of the government’s own security forces and shot during a series of raids.

Defense Minister Saadoun al-Duleimi denied the accusation, saying the killings were carried out by “terrorists” wearing military uniforms.

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