Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Post-vote violence escalates in Iraq

BAGHDAD—At least two dozen people and a U.S. soldier were killed yesterday in shootings and bombings mostly targeting the Shiite-dominated security services.

Officials blamed the surge in violence on insurgent efforts to deepen the political turmoil surrounding the contested Dec. 15 vote. Preliminary figures have given a big lead to the religious Shiite bloc that controls the current interim government.

The violence came as three opposition groups threatened a wave of protests and civil disobedience if fraud charges are not properly investigated. Sunni Arab and secular Shiite factions are demanding that an international body review more than 1,500 complaints, warning they may boycott the new legislature. The United Nations has rejected an outside review.

Yesterday's violence included a suicide car bomber who slammed into a police patrol in Baghdad, leaving three dead, and a suicide motorcycle bomber who rammed into a Shiite funeral ceremony, killing at least two. A mortar then killed two people in a predominantly Shiite neighbourhood.

Four other car bombs killed at least two people and gunmen killed five officers at a checkpoint north of Baghdad.

A U.S. soldier serving with Task Force Baghdad was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle while on patrol in the capital, the military said.

In Jordan, a lawyer for Saddam Hussein and a Jordanian newspaper claimed yesterday that the former ruler's half-brother rejected a U.S. offer of a ranking Iraqi government position in exchange for testimony against the deposed leader. Barzan Ibrahim reportedly made the claim Thursday before the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Court, which is hearing the cases against him, Saddam and six other co-defendants.

Saddam's chief Iraqi lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, and U.S. officials were not immediately available for comment.

But chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Mousawi denied that there were attempts to cut a deal with Ibrahim.



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