Grisly finds highlight escalating violence

BAGHDAD, Iraq – When they saw the box in the street, villagers feared the worst: a bomb or a prop for an ambush. The content of the box, however, was grisly, not explosive. Inside, officers found the decomposing heads of nine men, each tucked inside a black plastic bag.

The discovery Tuesday was the second of its kind near the city of Baqouba in recent days, according to police.

As Iraqi politicians have continued to bicker over who should be named for the government’s top security jobs, killings and brutality have escalated across the country, claiming thousands of lives since the election.

In Baqouba, a mixed city north of the capital, murders and attacks against Iraqi security forces have recently soared. On Saturday, eight other heads were found in banana crates near the city. One of the heads was wrapped like a present. None of the bodies has been found.

But Baghdad continues to be the epicenter of violence.

On Tuesday, authorities reported that a car bomb went off near a funeral in a southwestern neighborhood, killing six people and injuring 18. In a different part of town, a roadside bomb exploded at a bus stop, killing one woman and wounding two men.

Earlier in the day, the principal of Hamza primary school, Amer Azzawi, a Sunni Muslim, was driving his Shiite Muslim assistant, Suaad Rubaie, home when a drive-by gunman shot and killed them.

The pair was slain in the eastern part of the capital inside the vast Shiite slum of Sadr City.

On the west side of town, police found the body of a young woman who had been shot several times.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military announced that an American soldier with the 49th Military Police Brigade was killed Monday when insurgents attacked his convoy with an improvised explosive device in the capital.

In a news conference, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised to implement a new security plan for Baghdad soon but refused to outline its details. Al-Maliki instead focused on the release of 2,500 detainees from Iraqi and U.S.-run prisons in Iraq as part of a campaign of “national reconciliation.”

However, the nation has seemingly come further apart since the election.

Basra, a key port city in the south close to Iranian and Kuwaiti borders, has recently become a problem area, with violence exploding between competing Shiite factions. After a recent visit, al-Maliki imposed martial law in the city.

West of the capital in Ramadi, described as the “philosophical heart of the insurgency” by U.S. commanders, insurgents continue to attack U.S. troops on a daily basis. Several neighborhoods are controlled by insurgents, according to residents.

On Tuesday, the U.S. military announced that Iraqi soldiers have taken over from American troops in Habbaniya, a town located in the Anbar province between Fallujah and Ramadi. It was the first division-level transfer of authority in the western province, according to the military.


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