- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

BAGHDAD — Sunni gunmen ambushed a convoy of minibuses yesterday night at a fake checkpoint on a dangerous highway south of Baghdad, killing 10 Shi’ite passengers and kidnapping about 50. Across the country at least 52 other people were killed in violence or were found dead, five of them decapitated Iraqi soldiers.

Police said the mass kidnapping and killing took place near the volatile town of Latifiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad in the so-called Triangle of Death.

Shi’ite Muslims, a minority in that district, routinely come under attack from Sunni insurgents who control the territory. The highway passing through the region from Baghdad leads to Najaf, the holiest Shi’ite city in Iraq. Shi’ite pilgrims have become a favorite target of Sunni gunmen, although it was not immediately known where the victims of last night’s assault were headed.

Sectarian revenge killings in Baghdad and the mixed Sunni-Shi’ite regions surrounding the capital have reached civil war proportions. Morgues across a wide sweep of the center of the country are full as Shi’ite militiamen and death squads range through the region killing Sunnis.

The spiraling violence coincides with increasing demands from the Shi’ite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for American forces to pull back into bases and leave Iraq’s cities and towns under the control of his military and police forces. But the highly partisan troops and police are thought to be involved in sectarian killings themselves or to look the other way, allowing Shi’ite death squads and militias to operate unchecked.

In the capital, the U.S. military offered a $50,000 reward for an Iraqi-American soldier kidnapped nearly three weeks ago.

Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie, 41, a translator from Ann Arbor, Mich., was handcuffed and driven away by gunmen of a rogue Shi’ite militia while visiting his Iraqi wife and her family on Oct. 23.

There were no reported deaths among America’s 152,000 servicemen and women in Iraq yesterday. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, oversaw a Veterans Day ceremony at which 75 members of the armed forces from 33 countries were sworn in as American citizens.

In Baghdad, eight persons died and at least 38 were wounded when two bombs hidden under parked cars exploded among noontime shoppers in downtown Baghdad’s Hafidh al-Qadhi square. Police and medical workers said at least 35 others were injured in the explosion at the formerly bustling area on the eastern bank of the Tigris River.

A Slovak and Polish soldier were reported killed overnight by a roadside bomb. Slovakian defense ministry spokesman Vladimir Gemela said the two died when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb near Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad where coalition troops have fought fighters with the Mahdi Army militia loyal to the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The deaths marked the 18th among Polish troops and fourth among those from Slovakia, which has about 100 troops in Iraq operating jointly with the 900 Polish troops.

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