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Violence in Iraq Spreads with Security Pressure
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Violence in Iraq Spreads with Security Pressure



This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

It was another bloody week in Iraq and the sectarian violence has continued to complicate any attempt at political bridge building. NPR's Jamie Tarabay has tracked a week of violence and political upheaval. Her report begins with events a week ago today.

JAMIE TARABAY: Saturday in Sadr City, five Iraqis were killed when a car bomb blew up in a parking lot outside a hospital.

(Soundbite of crowd)

TARABAY: Men collected fragments of the vehicle flung in every direction with the blast, piling them into a heap as television cameras recorded the scene. Sadr City is the domain of Shiite militiamen loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The people here blame Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his latest security push in Baghdad for this attack.

A local sheikh, Ali Hatim al-Rubai(ph), says the militiamen may have gone underground to avoid capture, but they're the only ones who can protect Sadr City.

On the same day, car bombs in Hilla, south of Baghdad, and Kirkuk in the north each killed two Iraqis. Saturday evening, a group of laborers traveling home south of Kirkuk came under fire. Ten were killed and just one survived.

The joint U.S.-Iraq security push in Baghdad was designed to create a window for Iraqi politicians to meet and work without having to focus on the daily violence.

Unidentified Man: (Speaking foreign language)

TARABAY: But as Saturday ended, Iraq's justice minister, Hashim al-Shibli, resigned from the so-called unity government, telling Arabiya Television he could no longer participate in a cabinet he claimed wasn't acting on important issues.

A spokesman for Shibli's political party denied the resignation was prompted by the government's decision to resettle Arabs from the northern city of Kirkuk. That's been a key demand of Iraq's Kurdish leaders who insist Kirkuk should be the capital of an autonomous Kurdistan.

Sunday, a holiday, the prophet Muhammad's birthday...

Mr. KARDUK OHASHEMI(ph) (Sunni Politician): (Speaking foreign language)

TARABAY: Sunni politician Karduk Ohashemi used the occasion to call on Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites to forgive killers from both sides and try to live together again as one nation. But the killings continued. Five Iraqis died in an explosion in a marketplace north of Tikrit.

Monday brought more of the same. Car bombs killed Iraqis in Kirkuk and Baghdad.

(Soundbite of crowd)

TARABAY: In a town in Diyala Province, just northeast of the capital, three demonstrations converged into one as locals protest the U.S. military operations in the area. There was still little movement on the political front. On Tuesday, Parliament met but again failed to take up the new draft law on de-Baathification, considered crucial to placating Iraq's Sunnis who largely supported Saddam's Baath party.

On the same day, car bombs killed at least eight in the capital. Baghdad's morgue reported receiving 43 bodies.

(Soundbite of crowd)

TARABAY: And the bombing in Baya, a Baghdad neighborhood, killed two civilians.

(Soundbite of crowd)

TARABAY: Wednesday. Iraqi government officials and lawmakers were supposed to meet in Dubai to discuss changes to the oil law, another legal step being necessary to quelling sectarian tensions. The meeting was postponed without explanation until later this month. In the Shiite holy city of Karbala, 93 unidentified bodies arrived for burial from various parts of the country.

Officials announced that a new security campaign had begun in the northern city of Mosul, where car bombs wounded at least seven Iraqi policemen.

Major General WILLIAM CALDWELL (Spokesman, U.S. Army): Good afternoon. As-Salamu Alaykum.

TARABAY: Thursday. U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell acknowledged that while the number of attacks in Baghdad had dropped, the number and severity of attacks elsewhere in Iraq was on the rise. And U.S. forces would be moved to tackle new trouble spots.

Maj. Gen. CALDWELL: They have in fact done sensational high-profile car bombs outside of the Baghdad province. And that has - when you look overall at the country writ large, you have seen a - not a great reduction that we had wanted to see thus far.

TARABAY: Thursday was also a deadly day for British forces operating in the southern city of Basra. Four were killed by a powerful roadside bomb while driving back to their base. Their Kuwaiti civilian translator was also killed and another soldier was wounded. Two other British soldiers were killed days earlier, making it one of the deadliest weeks for British troops since the 2003 invasion. At least 20 American soldiers were also killed this week.

Friday. Baghdad's morgue reported a disturbing sign that sectarian violence may again be on the rise in the capital. The number of bodies delivered to the morgue has steadily increased each day this week. The toll on Friday was 72.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.

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