Gunmen and bombers claimed at least 69 lives in Iraq on Sunday, even as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki repeated the assertions of Iraqi and U.S. leaders that violence was easing from a wartime high set earlier this summer.
While U.S. and Iraqi forces have deployed additional troops in Baghdad to deal with the surge of sectarian violence, the deadliest of the attacks Sunday occurred outside the capital, in cities to the north.
The attention of Iraqi and U.S. officials since this spring has been focused on the rivalry between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Muslims in Baghdad. Sunday's violence, however, highlighted the country's many other dangers since the war began: rising crime and growing tensions among Iraq's other faiths and peoples.
The most lethal attack came in the town of Khalis, near Baqubah, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Gunmen stormed the house of a local judge, Hamdi al-Ubaidi, shot one of his brothers and moved to abduct another, police said.
When men from a nearby cafe ran to the aid of the family, gunmen opened fire, killing 12 of the would-be rescuers and injuring 25, police Brig. Safa al Mandalawi said.
The kidnappers escaped, with the judge's brother as their captive, Mandalawi said.
The above, noted by Martha and Cole, is from Ellen Knickmeyer's "At Least 69 Killed in Attacks Across Iraq" (Washington Post). How will the Happy Talkers spin that? They already are. From Paul von Zielbauer's "Bomber Attacks Baghdad Paper on Day When 52 Are Killed" in this morning's New York Times:
And yet, in remarks closely following similarly upbeat statements by American military officials in Baghdad, the prime minister also sought to lend optimism to his government’s efforts to bring security to Baghdad and other parts of the country, and to rule out the possibility of civil war.
"We are not in a civil war; Iraq will never be in a civil war," he said, through an interpreter, in an interview with CNN on Sunday. "The violence is in decrease, and our security ability is increasing."
Mr. Maliki’s statement stood in contrast to a far bleaker assessment he made in a speech to Parliament on July 12, when he said the country had one "last chance" to eliminate the sectarian and insurgent attacks destabilizing the country, and warned lawmakers that "if that fails -- God forbid -- I don’t know what will be Iraq’s fate."
It's also in contrast to the remarks he made on Saturday when meeting with tribal heads and imploring that everyone come together ("over me" apparently as the John Lennon & Paul McCartney song says) for the good of something (his puppet leadership). The claim also is contradicted by the response to the British abandoning their base on Thursday in Amara where either the Iraqi military and government took part in looting (as more recent reports seem to indicate) or the Iraqi military watched and did not stop the looting because, as one Iraqi soldier quoted in the press on Friday said, there were just too many looters.
The British abandoned the base that had been attacked "nightly" by mortar rounds. A wave of Operation Happy Talk tried to paint that as "We're turning it over to them" but the base was stripped of doors, paneling, everything within hours of the British abandoning it. That's not fitting in too well with al-Maliki's rosey picture.
He's a puppet whose strings are being pulled a little too tightly as the crackdown continues to crack up and as chaos and violence show no signs of ending.
Cole notes that seventeen people were disappeared by the Times when contrasted with Knickmeyer's article (69 were reported dead in Iraq).
By the way, thanks to Ty and Jess for grabbing last night's "And the war drags on . . ." entry.
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