View Full Version : Mosques Bombed, Tense Baghdad Under Curfew, "Iraq As A Political Project Is Finished"

07-21-2006, 01:01 PM
Mosques bombed, tense Baghdad under curfew


Fri Jul 21, 2006 10:49am ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Bombs killed two worshippers at mosques in Iraq during Friday prayers and the authorities extended a daytime curfew on Baghdad after one of the bloodiest weeks this year.

On the eve of a high-profile meeting intended to demonstrate reconciliation among sectarian and ethnic factions ahead of a White House visit by the prime minister, senior leaders admitted to despair about the chances of averting all-out civil war.

"Iraq as a political project is finished," a top government official told Reuters -- anonymously because the coalition of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki remains committed in public to a U.S.-sponsored constitution preserving Iraq's unity.

"The parties have moved to Plan B," the official said, saying Sunni, ethnic Kurdish and majority Shi'ite blocs were looking at ways to divide power and resources and to solve the conundrum of Baghdad's mixed population of seven million.

"There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into east and west," said the official, who has long been a proponent of the present government's objectives. "We are extremely worried."

Officials and delegates from a range of political, tribal, regional and religious groups will meet in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone government compound on Saturday for the inaugural meeting of the National Reconciliation Commission.

Maliki, who meets President Bush on Tuesday, has described a 24-point reconciliation plan outlined a month ago as a "last chance" for peace.

So far, however, it is unclear what substance it has beyond vague promises of amnesty for former rebels and a call for political parties' militias to disarm.

U.S. Republicans hope better news from Iraq will help the ruling party at congressional elections in November and maintain hopes that American soldiers can start coming home soon.

Bombs outside Sunni mosques in Khalis, north of the capital, and in the mainly Shi'ite east of Baghdad, each killed one man and wounded two during weekly prayers, police said.

There were also new clashes in Mahmudiya, a violent town just south of the city where nearly 60 people were killed in a mass assault by gunmen on Monday. Three police and three Iraqi soldiers were killed in Friday's fighting, police said.

U.S. troops killed two women and a three-year-old girl during a raid that, they said, also killed two suspected al Qaeda militants in violent Diyala province northwest of Baghdad.

State television announced a four-hour traffic ban in force in the city every Friday would be extended until 7 p.m. A nightly nine-hour curfew from 9 p.m. also remains in effect.

U.S. commanders see a looming fight to the finish in Baghdad between the two-month-old unity government and Sunni Arab rebels with links to al Qaeda and ousted president Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. ambassador has warned that a greater threat may be the mounting sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites.

That has brought a risk that millions of ordinary but almost universally armed Iraqis may be dragged into all-out civil war.

U.S., Iraqi and international leaders have sounded alarms this week as new data showed tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in fear of death squads and that some 6,000 civilians may have been killed in just two months.

U.S. data showed attacks on security forces in Baghdad averaged 34 a day over several days, compared to 24 in recent months. Baghdad morgue has taken in 1,000 bodies this month.

Describing the capital as a "must-win" for both the rebels and the government, U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell conceded on Thursday that a month-old clampdown in Baghdad had achieved only a "slight downtick" in violence.