- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 12, 2006

BAGHDAD — Police found a dozen bodies trapped in a grate in the Tigris River, and a roadside bomb killed two U.S. soldiers on foot patrol south of Baghdad yesterday as nearly 50 violent deaths were reported across Iraq.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki banned a Kurdish extremist party from operating in Baghdad in a move seen largely as a gesture to Turkey, which had threatened to send troops across the border to destroy the group’s bases in northern Iraq.

The 12 bodies were found in Suwayrah, 25 miles south of Baghdad, at one of a series of metal grates fixed in the river to block debris, said Mamoun al-Rubaie of the Kut city morgue.

All were men between 35 and 45 years old and had been bound, blindfolded and shot in the head or chest, Mr. al-Rubaie said. They appeared to have been the victims of sectarian death squads that operate in the religiously mixed communities in the Baghdad area.

Police also found 15 other bullet-riddled bodies of men who had been handcuffed and blindfolded in six neighborhoods throughout the Baghdad area, police Lt. Mohammed Khayoun said.

Another 21 persons were killed yesterday, mostly in Baghdad but also in Hillah, Mosul and Basra.

The roiling violence, especially between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in the Baghdad area, has alarmed U.S. commanders, prompting them to order nearly 12,000 more American and Iraqi soldiers into the capital.

The United States currently has about 32,400 troops in Baghdad and areas south of the capital. About 13,500 are in the city proper, Maj. Gen. James Thurman said yesterday.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have said the reinforcements will focus on four neighborhoods where Sunni residents do not trust the Shi’ite-dominated Iraqi security forces.

Nevertheless, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he would not rule out significant U.S. troop reductions this year.

Gen. Pace, who arrived in Baghdad yesterday, said such a decision would depend on improvements in the security situation and would be made after consultations with U.S. commanders in Iraq.

As part of the renewed security crackdown, the U.S. military yesterday said that 60 men had been rounded up the day before at a funeral in the southern Arab Jabour neighborhood, a mostly Sunni district.

The 60 men were thought to include members of an al Qaeda-affiliated cell that “specializes in bomb making” and carried out car bomb attacks in the capital, a U.S. statement said.

Women and children at the funeral were separated from the men and the arrests were made without incident, the statement said without giving any details.

“The group has been reported to be planning and conducting training for future attacks,” it said. “Multiple forms of credible intelligence led the assault force to the location, later determined to be a funeral gathering, where the suspects were detained.”

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