- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2006

BAGHDAD — Gunmen yesterday killed the Shi’ite dean of Baghdad University’s school of administration and economics, the 155th Iraqi academic slain in sectarian violence and revenge attacks since the 2003 U.S. invasion.

In another attack against majority Shi’ites, a motorcycle bomb struck a crowded market in Sadr City, killing seven persons and wounding 45, police said, two days after the U.S. lifted a military blockade of the Baghdad district on the orders of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The rigged motorcycle was left in a section of the Mereidi market that specialized in the sales of secondhand motorbikes and spare parts. The attack raised the total number of people killed or found dead across Iraq yesterday to 49.

Sadr City is a stronghold of militia loyal to radical anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The U.S. military also confirmed yesterday that a kidnapped soldier was an Iraqi-American man who was married to an Iraqi woman. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell identified him as Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie, a 41-year-old reserve soldier.

The military spokesman said there was “an ongoing dialogue” in a bid to win the soldier’s release, but he would not say with whom or at what level.

The statements coincided with sharp criticism of Mr. al-Maliki’s five-month-old government for its perceived failure to make progress toward crushing the Sunni-led insurgency and disband Shi’ite militias blamed for much of the violence. Mr. al-Maliki also is under fire for doing too little to improve services and create jobs.

The government’s main backer, the United States, has added to the pressure, presenting Mr. al-Maliki last week with a timeline to end the violence and achieve reconciliation among the country’s various religious and ethnic groups.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said yesterday that his country could send U.S.-led troops home in two to three years, once Iraq has set up its own domestic security forces.

“Two to three years are needed to build our security forces and say bye-bye to our friends,” Mr. Talabani said at a conference during a visit to Paris.

The Shi’ite university dean, Jassim al-Asadi, was driving home after picking up his son from school and his wife from her teaching job when a group of armed men pulled alongside and sprayed his car with bullets, police Lt. Ahmed Ibrahim said. Mr. al-Asadi’s wife and son also were killed in the attack.

Iraqi academics, along with doctors and other professionals, have become frequent targets of threats, kidnappings and slayings. At least 155 have been killed since April 9, 2003, when Saddam Hussein was ousted, according to Education Ministry statistics.

Thousands of others have fled the country, starving Iraq’s education, legal and health care systems of much-needed expertise and deepening a pervasive sense of hopelessness.

A prominent Sunni academic was killed Monday as part of a pattern of tit-for-tat sectarian attacks since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shi’ite shrine in Samarra.

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