Iraq War Week: Sunni, Shia Explode Despite Maliki Resolution

The Iraqi parliament passed a unanimous resolution this week to crack down on Shia militias and Sunni insurgents, as the latest campaign of deadly bombings continued in Baghdad.

“I ask everyone to excuse us as we do the job,” Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told Iraqis in a live televised address on Thursday. “No school, house, mosque or husseiniya [Shia mosque] will be out of reach of our forces if they are harboring outlaws. The same for political party headquarters.

“It’s a law-and-order oriented plan and it’s not targeted against any sectarian group as claimed by some media outlets. Some say it’s targeting Shia; others say it’s targeting Sunnis. I say it’s targeting everyone, everyone that is outside the law.”

All 160 MPs present in the 275-seat parliament voted for Mr Maliki’s plan, codenamed Operation Imposing Law, including Sadrist loyalists who returned to work on Sunday after ending a two-month boycott ordered by firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, to protest Mr Maliki’s meeting with President Bush in November.

The week began with the arrest in Baghdad of over 600 militiamen from Mr Sadr’s Mahdi Army. Then on Tuesday, a Blackwater (US private security firm) helicopter was shot down over central Baghdad as it tried to help a US embassy convoy that had come under fire in a Sunni area. All five occupants were killed, with four bearing execution-style gunshot wounds to the head, although it is still unclear whether they were still alive when shot. Two separate insurgent groups have claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Wednesday, US and Iraqi troops waged fierce battles with Sunni insurgents in Fadhel, Adhamiya and the notorious insurgent stronghold of Haifa Street in central Baghdad. During the battle for Haifa Street, helicopters circled overhead as US-Iraqi forces traded heavy gunfire with insurgents in the streets and plumes of smoke poured from buildings. After the day-long battle, which began at 6am, 30 insurgents had been killed and 35 taken into custody. The following day, insurgents fired rockets into the fortified Green Zone, wounding five people.

On Thursday, insurgents also targeted several commercial and residential areas in predominantly Shia districts on the east bank of the Tigris River.

Hours after the historic vote in parliament, a suicide car bombing near a police patrol in Karada’s shopping district killed 30 people and wounded 61. The blast left a bus filled with passengers engulfed in flames. After this second bombing in Karada within the same week, angry residents chanted, “We want the Sunnis out!”

Earlier, a bomb strapped to a motorcycle ripped through central Baghdad’s oldest market area of Shorja, killing four people and wounding twenty. Then two roadside bombs, detonated seconds apart in the shopping district of Al-Bayah in Baghdad’s south west, killed three people and injured ten.

In Sadr City in the northeast of the capital, a roadside bomb near a minibus exploded leaving 12 people wounded. Meanwhile, mortars fired into another nearby Shia neighborhood killed one resident and wounded four others.

Then on Friday, a bomb disguised as a birdcage killed 15 people and wounded 55 in a pet market in Ghazel, leaving a macabre scene of charred body parts, dead animals and the mixed sounds of chirping birds and wailing sirens as emergency vehicles converged on the scene.

Further violence is expected in the coming days as the Shia religious mourning festival of Ashura draws to a close on Monday.

Hundreds of thousands of Shia from around the country are expected to make the pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala, 60 miles southwest of Baghdad, to mark the slaying of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein. There are fears that Sunni insurgents will target this gathering in an effort to maximize carnage.

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