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Sectarian violence continues

Tue., March 21, 2006, midnight

BAGHDAD, Iraq – At least 39 people were killed by insurgents and shadowy sectarian gangs, police reported Monday – continuing the wave of violence that has left nearly 1,000 Iraqis dead since the bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine last month.

As the Iraq war entered its fourth year, police found the bodies of at least 15 more people – including that of a 13-year-old girl – dumped in and near Baghdad. The discoveries marked the latest in a string of execution-style killings that have become an almost daily event as Sunni and Shiite extremists settle scores.

Sectarian killings have swept across Iraq since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine in Samarra. An Associated Press tally, including the deaths reported Monday, put the toll at 993 since the golden dome atop the Askariya shrine was left in rubble by two bombers, who are believed still to be at large.

Among those killed in scattered violence Monday were 10 policemen, who are prime targets of insurgents, most of them Sunni militants trying to break the will of the mainly Shiite police force.

As night fell Monday, a bomb struck a coffee shop in northern Baghdad, killing at least three civilians and injuring 23 others. The bomb had been left in a plastic bag inside the shop in a market area of the Azamiyah neighborhood, police Maj. Falah al-Mohammadewi said.

At about the same time, gunmen killed two oil engineers leaving work at the Beiji refinery north of Baghdad. An electrical engineer and technician were gunned down at a nearby power station, Beiji police Lt. Khalaf Ayed Al-Janabi said.

In a separate incident, the owner of a small grocery store in downtown Baghdad was shot and killed.

In southeast Baghdad, also toward evening, a roadside bomb blew apart a minibus, killing four pilgrims returning from the holy city of Karbala, where millions of Shiite faithful had gathered to mark the 40th and final day of the annual mourning period for Imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Mohammed. Five pilgrims headed to Karbala were wounded in a drive-by shooting earlier in the day, police said.

Otherwise, the commemoration passed largely without incident and absent the violent bomb attacks that have hit pilgrims there the past two years.

Authorities in Baghdad closed the international airport until today, citing the need to protect the Karbala commemoration, apparently from any attackers who might try to fly into the country.

Jordan closed its border with Iraq until further notice to “prevent those without valid travel documents from entering the country,” said Maj. Bashir al-Da’ajah, spokesman for Jordan’s Public Security Department.


 

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