and US troops work together to inforce civil war among Iraqis to split them into three main cantons.
Victims Nazi Bush
Associated France Press (AFP) 27/8/2006
Insurgents kill 14 as Iraq violence rages
by Dave Clark
BAGHDAD (AFP) - Sectarian violence claimed at least 14 victims around Iraq as Muslims from the bitterly divided Sunni and Shiite communities gathered in their respective mosques to pray for peace.
Preachers at the mosques pleaded for an end to the fighting, which has undermined the authority of Iraq's embattled national unity government.
Iraq is in the grip of a dirty war between rival sectarian and political factions, while local security forces and the US military are battling to restore their authority in the lawless region in and around Baghdad.
"Why are you afraid?" demanded Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai -- a follower of Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- in a message to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government during a sermon in Karbala.
"Go out to the people and undergo their circumstances. Live their suffering and the brutality of their lives," he said, his words aimed at government officials who work in Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone."
"Are you afraid of the death facing this wounded people every day and every hour? Are your souls and blood dearer than the souls and blood of the citizens?" he demanded.
Once again, the bulk of the killings were recorded in Diyala province and its capital Baquba, a mixed Sunni and Shiite region just north of Baghdad where death squads and insurgent gangs launch daily attacks.
The capital itself was rocked by a series of explosions in the hours before a vehicle curfew decreed to protect worshippers heading to their rival mosques, but there was no immediate confirmation that anyone had been hurt.
"There were clashes between terrorists and friendly forces in Shuala neighbourhood," said Brigadier General Abdul Karim Khalaf, the spokesman at the Iraqi interior ministry's new press office.
Khalaf also said there had been two mortar attacks in Madaen which is south of the capital and is another area of intense sectarian conflict.
US and Iraqi forces have deployed 30,000 personnel in Baghdad for "Operation Together Forward," a combined military and political drive to isolate flashpoints, sweep them for illegal weapons and assert government authority.
US officers believe the campaign has begun to yield results, and that August's death toll for the capital will be much lower than that in July -- the most violent month since the US-led invasion in March 2003.
"In the month of July in Baghdad, there were 52 violent actions a day," said brigade commander Colonel Robert Scurlock. "And in the two weeks since we began the operations, the attacks have dropped down 41 percent."
Outside the capital, however, the carnage continued.
In the Sunni city of Ramadi, a hotbed of insurgents, US troops fired tank shells into a mosque from where they had been attacked with "small arms and machine gun fire, rocket propelled grenades, hand grenades" and a bomb.
"The mosque suffered serious structural damage to the dome and minaret," a US military statement said. "One coalition force soldier was wounded in the attack and later returned to duty. Enemy and civilian casualties are unknown."
Ten civilians were killed by in separate attacks in and around Baquba -- including three young footballers who were killed in a bomb attack on their pitch which left 11 others wounded -- security forces told AFP.
A roadside bomb attack had killed an Iraqi army officer and wounded four of his soldiers Thursday in the Khan Bani Saad district outside Baquba.
Two bakers were killed and three wounded by gunmen in the northern town of Tikrit Friday. Some Islamist insurgents target bakers if their recipes do not conform to those available in the era of the Prophet Mohammed.
Meanwhile, in Nasiriyah in the mainly Shiite south of the country, members of the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia clashed with fellow Shiites, the guards of a local mosque, police sources said.
Two people were killed in the firefight, an officer said.
Security forces in the divided northern city of Kirkuk, a centre of the oil industry where there is tension between Kurds and Arabs, said three tortured and bullet-riddled bodies were found by the roadside Thursday.
Weapons searches in the city turned up 31 Kalashnikov assault rifles and several other arms, officers said.
Maliki set up a coalition government in June, raising hopes of reconciliation between warring political and religious factions and the promise that US-led coalition forces might soon be able to return home.
Instead, Iraq sank deeper into chaos and the death toll from rebel attacks and sectarian murders gathered pace. Observers now warn that Maliki must reassert control within months, or face the risk of an all-out civil war.