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Sunday, November 26, 2006

The clock is ticking

(Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters)

Angry Shiites hurl stones at Maliki's motorcade
By Louise Roug, Times Staff Writer
12:13 PM PST, November 26, 2006

BAGHDAD -- Angry Shiite Muslims pelted Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's motorcade with stones today after the Iraqi leader pleaded for national reconciliation at a memorial in Sadr City held for victims of a large-scale bombing attack last week.

Maliki, who is also a Shiite, left the scene after he tried without success to calm a crowd of mourners calling for revenge against Sunni Arabs. His pleas were met with shouts of "coward" and "collaborator."

Thursday's series of suicide and car bombings killed at least 215 people inside the Shiite neighborhood on the eastern edge of Baghdad, worsening the country's civil war.

Iraqi political leaders have sought to rein in the violence. Baghdad's international airport was closed on Thursday and a general curfew imposed, and the measures continued today.

The heckling by Maliki's fellow Shiites came after a Baghdad meeting at which he appealed for peace, standing alongside Iraq's Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, as well as the speaker of parliament and a vice president, both Sunnis. However, even state television on today substituted its usual placid rhetoric with footage of the Shiite deputy health minister lashed out at residents of various Sunni neighborhoods, accusing them of fostering violence.

Mortars fired from the southern edge of Sadr City today hit an American military base, starting a fire. Others were directed at the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Amariyah, a U.S. military spokesman said.

"I can confirm there was a strike, but I'm not going to give out any assessment," said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, the spokesman for U.S. forces in Baghdad.

When asked about what the U.S. military is doing to counter the violence in the capital, he said he would not comment for "operational reasons." He added that American forces are "working hand-in-hand with the Iraqi security forces [to create] the most secure environment."

But Sunnis in several Baghdad neighborhoods say they have seen few American patrols and that Iraqi security forces are either not doing anything to protect the Sunnis or are even complicit in the killing of Sunnis.

In Hurriya, one neighborhood where Shiite militias have driven out most of the Sunni residents, Iraqi police and soldiers stood by Friday as other uniformed police men in police vehicles launched rocket-propelled grenades into houses and fired their guns at Sunni mosques, according to a policeman who was present.

The head of the Sunni bloc, Adnan Dulaimi, came under attack in Baghdad's Adel neighborhood today. For an hour, his guards held off armed men who had already lobbed mortar shells toward his house but missed. Eventually, Iraqi and American forces arrived and the gunmen fled, Dulaimi said in an interview later.

Reality check. It is a day or so away from when an Iraqi Army unit or men in Iraqi Army uniform kill a bunch of Sunnis.

We need to stop pretending that the Iraqi security forces are anything but militia in uniform. I'm sure Sadr and the Hakims are quite happy with our training.

posted by Steve @ 6:22:00 PM

6:22:00 PM

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