Iraqi militants kill at least 18 soldiers, including commander

RAMADI, Iraq Sat Dec 21, 2013 10:50am EST

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RAMADI, Iraq (Reuters) - Militants killed at least 18 Iraqi officers and soldiers in Sunni-dominated Anbar province on Saturday, including a commander who oversaw a crackdown on Sunni protesters earlier this year, military sources said.

Islamist militants' posts on online forums called the slain commander, Mohammed Ahmed al-Kurwi, a "criminal" and celebrated the attack, which security sources described as carefully planned and executed.

Al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants have intensified attacks on Iraq's security forces, civilians and anyone seen as supporting the Shi'ite-led government in recent months in the country's deadliest violence in five years.

The circumstances of Saturday's attack were in dispute.

The Defense Ministry said Kurwi, commander of the army's Seventh Division, and several other high-ranking officers were killed by a roadside bomb while pursuing militants from an al Qaeda training camp in Anbar's desert.

But other military sources said the officers were killed when three suicide bombers wearing explosive belts detonated themselves among them in the western town of Rutba, 360 km (225 miles) west of Baghdad.

"All that we know so far is three suicide bombers wearing explosive vests came from nowhere and detonated themselves among the officers," a military officer who was at the scene told Reuters by phone.

Some security officials suggested informants may have lured the commanders to the area under the pretext of raiding the al Qaeda camp.

No specific group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but suicide bombing is the trademark of al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate, which merged this year with counterparts in Syria to form the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The assistant commander of the Seventh Division, the commander of its 27th Brigade, and several other high-ranking officers were also among those killed in the attack, sources said. Another 32 soldiers were wounded.

HAWIJA'S GHOST

Militant Islamists online portrayed Kurwi's death as retribution for the killings of more than 40 people in a raid by security forces on a Sunni protest camp in the northern town of Hawija in April.

"The criminal who was killed today at the hands of al-Baghdadi's men was the leader of the Hawija massacre," said one user on Twitter, referring to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The April raid - which Kurwi oversaw - came after months of protests by Sunnis against what they see as marginalization of their sect by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government.

ISIL insurgents have since stepped up attacks on strategic targets in parts of western Iraq in a bid to establish a state ruled by strict Sunni Islamic practice.

In a separate incident, the commander-in-chief of the police force in Shirqat, 300 km north of Baghdad, was killed and four of his officers were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded by his convoy, police and medical sources said.

Another two soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb went off as their military patrol was passing through Riyadh, a small town near Hawija, police said.

In Latifiya, a town 40 km south of Baghdad, two Shi'ite pilgrims were killed by rocket fire, police said. Another two Shi'ites were killed when militants raided a supermarket in the capital's southeast.

Iraqi security services are expecting more attacks ahead of the Shi'ite holy day of Arbaeen next week.

(Reporting by Kamal Namaa in Ramadi, Ghazwan Hassan in Tikrit; Writing by Suadad al-Salhy; Editing by Alexander Dziadosz, Alison Williams and Sonya Hepinstall)

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Comments (2)
boonteetan wrote:
Muslims are decimating themselves, and the rest of the world stays quiet with indifference. Is UN still functioning?

Dec 21, 2013 12:19am EST  --  Report as abuse
Murderous Iraqi Sunni extremists funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar may soon regret sectarianism that, ultimately, see millions of Iraqi Sunni either expelled or killed by the Shi’ia majority tired of being attacked and who remember that Saddam was a Sunni who killed tens of thousands of Shiite for pleasure and hundreds of thousands more in Iraq’s battle with Iran a few decades back.
As well, the huge Iraqi Kurdish population has already set up a semi-autonomous state within Iraq and when combined with the Kurdish section of disintegrating Syria, will become a very large nation that Turkish Kurds and Iranian Kurds, living in their own Kurdish regions, will want to join: Producing a rich and powerful Kurdish super state superior to anything else in the Middle East, including Israel.
Meanwhile FYI: Around 65% of Muslims in Iraq are Shia, and around 35% are Sunni, says Wiki. Arabic is the majority language, Kurdish is spoken by approximately 15–20% of the population,
The UN High Commission for Refugees has estimated that nearly two million Iraqis have fled the country after the Multi-National invasion of Iraq in 2003, mostly to Syria and Jordan. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates an additional 1.9 million are currently displaced within the country.
In 2007, the U.N. said that about 40% of Iraq’s middle class is believed to have fled and that most are fleeing systematic persecution and have no desire to return. Refugees are mired in poverty as they are generally barred from working in their host countries.

Dec 21, 2013 1:14pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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