Tue, Aug 01, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Iraqi office workers kidnapped

BULLETS AND BEHEADINGS Despite a determined speech by the prime minister, violence continued, with workers kidnapped and gunned down in the capital city

AFP AND AP , BAGHDAD

An armed group wearing Iraqi national police uniforms kidnapped 25 workers at the offices of a telecoms company in central Baghdad yesterday, an interior ministry official said.

Riding in 15 jeeps painted as official transports, the kidnappers descended on al-Rawi firm, which sells mobile telephone handsets, in the Ararsat area of the capital, the official said.

Gunmen opened fire on municipal street sweepers in the capital yesterday, killing one and injuring two, while a senior intelligence official was shot dead in a drive-by shooting.

Yesterday's killings came after five people -- four policemen and a lawyer -- were ordered out of their car in northern Iraq, and beheaded on Sunday. Also yesterday, police discovered three bullet-riddled bodies -- two had their hands and feet tied, while the third showed signs of torture. Four roadside bombs and two car bombs yesterday injured 11 people in various parts of the country. One of the cars was driven by a suicide bomber, who also perished.

The dispersed violence came amid calls by lawmakers to replace the interior minister because of worsening security in Baghdad and surrounding towns, mostly blamed on conflict between the country's Shiite and Sunni communities.

Brick by brick

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in a speech yesterday, called for the defeat of sectarian forces.

"The power is in our hands ... and we will continue hitting terrorism and ... building Iraq brick by brick on the basis on equality and justice," he said.

About an hour before he spoke, intelligence officer Brigadier Fakhri Jamil was killed in a drive-by shooting while in his car in Baghdad, police First Lieutenant Mohammed Khayoun said.

Among the various bombings yesterday was a suicide attack targeting a joint US-Iraqi checkpoint on a bridge in the northern town of Rawah. The car bombing seriously wounding four Iraqi soldiers and destroying three Iraqi army vehicles, said an army lieutenant who refused to give his name.

A roadside bomb on Sunday seriously wounded two policemen in the central city of Samarra.

Funerals were performed yesterday for the five people who were beheaded by unidentified gunmen near the northern town of Hawija, 240km north of Baghdad, said police Colonel Burhan Tayeb.

Condemnation

Iraq's vice president yesterday accused Israel of carrying out "massacres" in Lebanon, the strongest criticism yet of the Jewish state by a top official of the US-backed Iraqi government.

"Today, massacres are also taking place in ... Lebanon and Palestine," Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi said in a speech in Baghdad, attended by Iraq's president, the prime minister and other top government officials.

"These horrible massacres carried out by the Israeli aggression, incites in us the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity," he said.

Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite, singled out Sunday's Israeli airstrike that killed at least 56 Lebanese, mostly women and children, in the village of Qana. The deadliest attack in nearly three weeks of fighting has triggered an international uproar.

"What happened in Qana is a repetition of these crimes that happened to our nation decades ago. It's time for this nation to stand up and stop this aggression and all forms of aggression that could affect any of its parts," Abdul-Mahdi said.

The comments were a notch harsher than the criticism leveled by Iraq's president and the deputy prime minister on Sunday.

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