BAGHDAD, Iraq - As enraged crowds protested the hanging of Saddam Hussein
across Iraq's Sunni heartland Monday, government officials reported that 16,273
Iraqi civilians, soldiers and police died violent deaths in 2006, a figure
larger than an independent Associated Press count for the year by more than
A US Army soldier from the 2nd
Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment scans a street from the top of a
Humvee in Baghdad, Iraq, on Monday, Jan. 1, 2007 [AP]
The tabulation by the Iraqi ministries of Health, Defense and Interior,
showed that 14,298 civilians, 1,348 police and 627 soldiers were killed in the
violence that raged in the country last year.
The Associated Press accounting, gleaned from daily news reports from
Baghdad, arrived at a total of 13,738 deaths. The United Nations has said as
many as 100 Iraqis die violently each day, which translates into 36,500 deaths
In Samarra, a mob broke the locks off a bomb-damaged Shiite shrine and
marched through carrying a mock coffin and photo of the dictator.
The demonstration in the Golden Dome, shattered in a bombing by Sunni
extremists 10 months ago, suggests that many Sunni Arabs may now more actively
support the small number of Sunni militants fighting the country's
Shiite-dominated government. The Feb. 22 bombing of the shrine triggered the
current cycle of retaliatory attacks between Sunnis and Shiia, in the form of
daily bombings, kidnappings and murders.
Monday's protest came on a day that saw the US military kill six Iraqis
during a raid on the offices of a prominent Sunni political figure, who was
suspected of giving al-Qaida in Iraq fighters sanctuary.
Until Saddam's execution Saturday, most Sunnis sympathized with militants but
avoided taking a direct role in the sectarian conflict - despite attacks by
Shiite militia that have killed thousands of Sunnis or driven them from their
homes. The current Sunni protests, which appear to be building, could signal a
Sunnis were not only outraged by Saddam's hurried execution, just four days
after an appeals court upheld his conviction and sentence. Many were also
incensed by the unruly scene in the execution chamber, captured on video, in
which Saddam was taunted with chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada."
The chants referred to Muqtada al-Sadr, a firebrand Shiite cleric who runs
one of Iraq's most violent religious militias. He is a major power behind the
government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Many Sunnis are also upset that Saddam was put to death the day that Sunni
celebrations began for Eid al-Ahda, a major Muslim festival. The judge who first
presided over the case that resulted in Saddam's death sentence said the former
dictator's execution at the start of Eid was illegal according to Iraqi law, and
contradicted Islamic custom.
The law states that "no verdict should implemented during the official
holidays or religious festivals," said Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, a Kurd.
Rizgar presided over Saddam's trial on charges he killed 148 Shiite men and
boys in Dujail, north of Baghdad, in a botched assassination attempt in 1982.
The judge was removed from the case after Shiite complaints that he was too
In a Sunni neighborhood in northern Baghdad, hundreds of demonstrators
mourned the executed leader. Some praised the Baath Party, the outlawed
nationalist group that under Saddam cemented Sunni Arab dominance of Iraq.
"The Baath party and Baathists still exist in Iraq, and nobody can
marginalize it," said Samir al-Obaidi, 48, who attended a Saddam memorial in the
In Dor, 77 miles north of Baghdad, hundreds more took to the streets to
attend the dedication of a giant mosaic of Saddam. Children carried toy guns and
men fired real weapons into the air.
Mourners at a mosque in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit slaughtered sheep as a
sacrifice for their former leader. The mosque's walls were lined with condolence
cards from tribes in southern Iraq and Jordan who were unable to travel to the
Saddam's eldest daughter briefly attended a protest Monday in Jordan -
her first public appearance since her father was hanged.
"God bless you, and I thank you for honoring Saddam, the martyr," said Raghad
Saddam Hussein, according to two witnesses. She addressed members of the
Professional Associations - an umbrella group of unions representing
doctors, engineers and lawyers - in the group's office parking lot in west
In the midst of the protests, US forces continued operations in Iraq.
Six Iraqis were killed in a US-led raid on the Baghdad offices of a top Sunni
politician, Saleh al-Mutlaq. The US military and Iraqi police said they
suspected the offices were being used as an al-Qaida safe house.
Al-Mutlaq is a senior member of the National Dialogue Front, which holds 11
of the 275 seats in Iraq's parliament.
US forces said they took on heavy fire from automatic weapons and
rocket-propelled grenades as they sought to enter the building. Ground troops
were backed by helicopters that "engaged the enemy with precision point target
machine gun fire," the military said.
It was unclear whether the deaths resulted from the ground assault or fire
from U.S. helicopters.
Associated Press Television News footage showed masses of rubble in the area
and what appeared to be a long smear of blood where a body had been dragged
across the floor of one of the buildings.
Walls were pitted with what appeared to be bullet and shrapnel holes.
The US death toll, meanwhile, climbed to at least 3,002 by the final day of
2006 as the American military reported the deaths of two more soldiers in an
explosion Sunday in Diyala Province, northeast of the capital. With the
announcement, the Associated Press count of fatalities showed that at least 113
US service members died in December. That makes it bloodiest month of 2006.
Iraqi authorities Monday reported that 16,273 Iraqis - including 14,298
civilians, 1,348 police and 627 soldiers - died violent deaths in 2006. The
total exceeds the Associated Press count by more than 2,500.
On the first day of the New Year, Iraqi Police reported finding the 40
handcuffed, blindfolded and bullet-riddled bodies in Baghdad. A police official,
who refused to be named out of security fears, said 15 of the bodies were
discovered in the mainly industrial Sheik Omar district of northern Baghdad.
An Iraqi worker for the Algerian Embassy in Baghdad was shot to death, police
Also Monday, the Iraqi government raided and sealed the offices of a
privately owned television station, charging it had incited violence and hatred
in its programming. In its coverage of the execution of Saddam over the weekend,
a newscaster had worn black mourning clothes.
The satellite television channel Al-Sharqiya, which broadcasts from Dubai,
remained on the air late Monday. The station is owned by Saad al-Bazzaz, a
one-time chief of radio and television for Saddam.