BAGHDAD- Sunni gunmen ambushed a convoy of
minibuses Saturday night at a fake checkpoint on the dangerous highway south of
Baghdad, killing 10 Shiite passengers and kidnapping about 50. Across the
country at least 52 other people were killed in violence or were found dead,
five of them decapitated Iraqi soldiers.
Police said the mass kidnapping and killing was near the volatile town of
Latifiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad in the so-called Triangle of Death.
Shiite Muslims, a minority in that district, have routinely come under attack
from Sunni insurgents who control the territory. The highway passing through the
region from Baghdad leads to Najaf, the holiest Shiite city in Iraq. Shiite
pilgrims have become a favorite target of Sunni gunmen, although it was not
immediately known where the victims of Saturday night's assault were headed.
Sectarian revenge killings in Baghdad and the mixed Sunni-Shiite regions
surrounding the capital have reached civil war proportions. Morgues across a
wide sweep of the center of the country are full as Shiite militiamen and death
squads range through the region killing Sunnis.
The Shiites are falling in large numbers as well in attacks from a growing
network of Sunni insurgent groups, including radical organizations such as
al-Qaida in Iraq. The U.S. military has admitted in recent weeks that its
mission to pacify the capital has not met expectations. And now the problem
appears to spreading outward at an extraordinarily rapid rate.
The spiraling violence coincides with increasingly strident demands from the
Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for American
forces to pull back into bases and leave Iraq's cities and towns under the
control of his military and police forces. But the highly partisan troops and
police are believed to be involved in sectarian killings themselves or to look
the other way, allowing Shiite death squads and militias to operate unmolested.
In the capital, the United States military offered a $50,000 reward for an
Iraqi-American soldier kidnapped nearly three weeks ago.
Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie, a 41-year-old translator from Ann Arbor, Michigan, was
handcuffed and driven away by gunmen of a rogue Shiite militia while visiting
his Iraqi wife and her family on Oct. 23.
Al-Taayie's uncle last week said he had received through an intermediary a
demand of $250,000 from the kidnappers, but there was no word on further
There were no reported deaths among America's 152,000 service men and women
in Iraq on Saturday. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey, the
top commander in Iraq, oversaw a Veterans Day ceremony at which 75 members of
the armed forces from 33 countries were sworn in as American citizens.
In Baghdad, eight people died and at least 38 were wounded when two bombs
hidden under parked cars exploded among noontime shoppers in downtown Baghdad's
Hafidh al-Qadhi square. Police and a medical workers said at least 38 others
were injured in the explosion at the formerly bustling area on the eastern bank
of the Tigris River.
A Slovak and Polish soldier were reported killed overnight by a roadside
bomb. Slovakian defense ministry spokesman Vladimir Gemela said the two died
when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb near Kut, 100 miles southeast of
Baghdad where coalition troops have fought fighters with the Mahdi Army militia
loyal to the radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The deaths marked the 18th among Polish troops and fourth among those from
Slovakia, which has about 100 troops in Iraq operating jointly with the 900
Polish troops in the country.
Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico has said his country will pull its
troops out of Iraq in February.
Baghdad police 1st Lt. Thayer Mahmud said his men found 25 corpses dumped in
several parts of the capital in the 24 hours from 6 p.m. Friday.
A Samarra police captain, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he
feared retribution, said the city morgue had received the beheaded bodies five
soldiers who were kidnapped last week in the Meshahda area, 20 miles north of