Suicide bombers ripped through a Shiite market in northern Iraq yesterday and mortars crashed on rival Baghdad neighborhoods, ramping up sectarian tension a day after the bloodiest bombing of the conflict killed 202 people.
As political leaders pleaded for restraint and imposed a curfew on the capital to avert all-out civil war, two bombers killed 22 people at Tal Afar near the Syrian border.
The Shiite faction that controls Baghdad's Sadr City slum, target of Thursday's attack, demanded the prime minister cancel a summit next week with US President George W. Bush.
The demand was made as the people of Sadr City bore away their dead, marching behind coffins and chanting in anger and sorrow for the victims.
Followers of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr warned they will suspend their membership in parliament and the Cabinet if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki meets with Bush in Jordan next week, a member of parliament said. Bush and al-Maliki are scheduled to meet on Wednesday and on Thursday in Amman, the Jordanian capital.
"We have asked Maliki to cancel his meeting with Bush as there is no reason to meet the criminal who is behind terrorism in Iraq," said Faleh Hasan Shanshal, a top political aide of al-Sadr's. "We will suspend our membership in parliament and the cabinet if he goes ahead."
Bush has been expected to discuss with Maliki ways of giving Iraqi security forces more control to raise the prospect of US troops starting to withdraw. But the competence and sectarian loyalties of the US-trained Iraqi forces are in grave doubt.
Maliki is under pressure from an increasingly anxious Washington to make good on promises to disband Sadr's and other Shiite militias, which US officials say control parts of the police and army. But the prime minister is dependent on Sadr and his fellow Shiite Islamists to maintain his own position.
Sadr, whose Mehdi Army rose up twice in 2004 against US forces, has long demanded their withdrawal and seemed to be seeking to capitalize on the carnage in his Baghdad stronghold to press his case. Another 250 were wounded in the series of six car bombs and several mortar blasts late on Thursday afternoon.
He called for restraint from his followers, although similar public statements after the bombing of a major Shiite shrine at Samarra in February failed to prevent thousands of reprisal killings, much of which Sunni leaders blame on the Mehdi Army.
‘NO EQUILIBRIUM’: Taiwan’s increased defense spending is a good step, but it needs to do more to have the ability to deter aggression from China, a senior US official said The US plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems — including mines, cruise missiles and drones — to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said. Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which US military sales to Taiwan were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing. However, US President Donald Trump’s administration has this year become more aggressive with China, and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, lingering trade tensions, disputes about the
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
ON THEIR OWN: The KMT has decided not to participate as a party at this year’s forum, and if any members do go, they would not be representing the party, Alicia Wang said The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday announced that it would not send a delegation “as a political party” to this year’s Straits Forum, after a Chinese TV program described the planned visit to the annual meeting as “suing for peace.” The 12th forum is scheduled to open in Xiamen, China, on Saturday. On Tuesday last week, the KMT announced that former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) would lead the party’s delegation to the forum, with KMT Secretary-General Lee Chien-lung (李乾龍) as deputy head. However, on Thursday last week, China Central Television’s (CCTV) Yangshipin (央視頻) program, hosted by Li Hong (李紅), included a headline
RIVERSIDE CAMP: As rescuers continued their search for a missing man, Taipower said that the floodgates at a hydro plant on the Lishi Creek opened due to a malfunction Three people have been confirmed dead and one was missing after being swept away by a flash flood while camping in Nantou County’s Renai Township (仁愛), police said yesterday. Six people from two families were camping near Lishi Creek (栗栖溪) when the riverbanks were suddenly flooded just after 4am, carrying away four of the campers — including two children — who were asleep in their tents, police said. A man who was among those swept away was able to climb ashore and call for help, police said, adding that another man had gone missing in the turmoil at the campsite.