Sun, Nov 26, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Curfew inspires no peace in Baghdad

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS Haunted by fears of being attacked, Iraqis lie awake listening to the sound of spiraling violence as bombings and executions and the death toll climb

AGENCIES , BAGHDAD

Fearful Iraqis spent sleepless nights guarding their homes and asking who would be next after gunmen burned mosques and houses in a Sunni enclave following the worst bomb attack since the US invasion.

The city of 7 million was under a tight curfew for a second full day since Thursday's bombing in which more than 200 Shiites died.

The government called for calm, desperate to avert the sort of sharp escalation in violence that followed an attack on a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February. This time, many fear, such revenge attacks could push Iraq over the edge.

"Everybody is tense, everybody is expecting something may happen at any moment," said Abu Marwah, 40, a Sunni Arab translator who spent much of the night on the roof of his house with his Kalashnikov at hand, keeping watch for attacks.

Exploding mortar bombs kept other Baghdad residents awake.

The president, prime minister and leaders from all sides were due to meet again later yesterday to discuss security.

Gunmen raided two Shiite homes in Diyala Province and shot and killed 21 men in front of their relatives, police said yesterday.

The attack by suspected insurgents on Friday night targeted members of the al-Sawed Shiite tribe in the village of Balad Ruz, 70km northeast of Baghdad, a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his own security, as officials often do in the increasingly volatile province.

US and Iraqi forces also killed 22 insurgents and an Iraqi civilian, and destroyed a factory being used to make roadside bombs, during several raids north of Baghdad yesterday. No coalition casualties were reported.

The escalating violence was particularly gruesome on Friday, when suspected Shiite militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left prayer services at mosques and burned them alive with kerosene in an attack in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Hurriyah.

Iraqi soldiers at a nearby army post failed to intervene in the assault by suspected members of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia or subsequent attacks that killed at least 19 other Sunnis, including women and children, in the same neighborhood, said police Captain Jamil Hussein.

In recent months, most of the thousands of dead bodies that have been found dumped across Baghdad and other cities in central Iraq have been of victims who were tortured and then shot to death, police said.

The suspected militia killers often have used electric drills on their captives' bodies before killing them. The bodies are frequently decapitated. But burning victims alive introduced a new method of brutality that was likely to be reciprocated by the other sect as the killings continue in unprecedented numbers.

US President George W. Bush is due to meet IraqiPrime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Jordan on Wednesday at what is shaping up to be a crisis summit.

But aides to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have threatened to quit the government if he meets Bush.

Bush aides indicated the meeting was still on.

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