Violent Weekend in Iraq Kills Over 220
- From: "Bob Brock" <bbrock@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 8 Jul 2007 15:42:21 -0400
Prominent Shiite and Sunni politicians called on Iraqi civilians to take up
arms to defend themselves after a weekend of violence that claimed more than
220 lives, including 60 who died Sunday in a surge of bombings and shootings
The calls reflect growing frustration with the inability of Iraqi security
forces to prevent extremist attacks.
Police also reported they found the bodies of 29 men Sunday scattered across
Baghdad - presumed victims of sectarian death squads. Four other people were
killed Sunday in separate shootings in Baghdad, police said on condition of
anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information.
The string of attacks in the Iraqi capital showed that extremists can still
unleash strikes in the city despite a relative lull in violence here in
recent weeks amid the U.S. offensives in and around Baghdad.
Regardless of the precise figure, the attack was clearly among the deadliest
in Iraq in months. It reinforced suspicions that al-Qaida extremists were
moving north to less protected regions beyond the U.S. security crackdown in
Baghdad and on the capital's northern doorstep.
During a press conference Sunday in Baghdad, al-Bayati criticized the
security situation in Armili, saying its police force had only 30 members
and that the Interior Ministry had finally responded to requests for
reinforcements only two days before the attack.
In the absence of enough security forces, al-Bayati said authorities should
help residents "arm themselves" or their own protection.
The call for civilians to take up arms in their own defense was echoed
Sunday by the country's Sunni Arab vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, who
said all Iraqis must "pay the price" for terrorism.
"People have a right to expect from the government and security agencies
protection for their lives, land, honor and property," al-Hashemi said in a
statement. "But in the case of (their) inability, the people have no choice
but to take up their own defense."
He said the government should provide communities with money, weapons and
training and "regulate their use by rules of behavior."
Another prominent Sunni lawmaker, Adnan al-Dulaimi, said Prime Minister
Nouri al-Maliki had failed to provide services and security but he stopped
short of saying his followers would seek to topple the Shiite-led
"The situation has become terribly bad," al-Dulaimi told The Associated
Press. "All options are open for us. We are going to study the situation
thoroughly, and we are going to look into the possible measures which go
with the interests of the Iraqi people. We will also consider whether to
keep on with the government or not."
The idea of organizing local communities for their own defense has caught on
here in recent months following the success of Sunni Arab tribes in Anbar
province that took up arms to help drive al-Qaida from their towns and
U.S. and Iraqi officials have said they hope to replicate the "Anbar model"
elsewhere in the country, albeit under government supervision and control.
On Sunday, Lt. Gen. Ali Gheidan said the Iraqi army planned to raise
volunteer forces in Diyala province, where U.S. and Iraqi forces have driven
al-Qaida fighters from part of the capital of Baqouba. He said more than
3,800 volunteers had already been recruited.
"Their mission will be like the police, working under the Iraqi police,"
Gheidan told reporters. "They work as a protection for each area, and they
will only be from the residents of that area. Their role is to hold onto
territory after it has been cleansed by the military."
U.S. commanders have long believed the key to restoring security was the
ability of Iraqi forces to hold on to areas cleared by American troops.
Several senior U.S. officers have questioned whether the Iraqi police and
army were capable of preventing insurgents from returning once the Americans
Local defense forces would offer a way to compensate for weaknesses in the
Iraqi police and army, but without careful controls, the system could
backfire by promoting more militias in a country already awash in weapons.