Thursday, April 16, 2009

Iraq War Bulletin: Bomb Blast Kills 16 in West of the Country

Suicide bomber kills 16 in west Iraq base: army

By Aseel Kami Aseel Kami

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives killed at least 16 people and wounded 50 others Thursday at a military base in Iraq's western Anbar province, the army and police said.

An eyewitness said the bomber was wearing a military uniform when he detonated himself among soldiers on parade at the base, while army and police sources said the explosion took place at the base's cafeteria.

All the casualties were soldiers, the army and police said.

Anbar had once been overrun with al Qaeda and other Sunni Islamist insurgents, but became one of Iraq's quietest provinces after Sunni tribal sheikhs turned on militants in their midst in late 2006.

The sheikhs formed a political party which last week confirmed its domination of Anbar's bitterly contested local council after January polls, in which the party did well on a platform of security after routing al Qaeda from the province.

The blast is the new council's first serious attack since it came to office.

The sheiks' decision to turn on al Qaeda was copied elsewhere in Iraq, and U.S.-backed Sunni militias were formed to battle insurgents. Shi'ite-led government forces clashed with a Sunni militia in Baghdad late last month after they arrested a militia leader, raising tensions.

Thursday's bombing was one of a string of high-profile attacks in Iraq in recent weeks, as provinces finalize new alliances and choose new governors after January's vote.

The new political landscape is likely to set the scene for a national election scheduled for December, leading some analysts and Iraqis to point to political motives for the attacks.

Others say insurgents are trying to exploit tensions between the government and the Sunni militias, of whom many were former insurgents and could return to al Qaeda's ranks if they feel threatened by the state.

Wednesday an attack targeting a bus carrying police assigned to guard northern Iraq's oil industry killed 10 people in the city of Kirkuk. The explosion could have been caused by a parked car bomb or a car driven by suicide bomber, police said.

(Writing by Mohammed Abbas: Editing by Richard Williams)

Thursday, April 16, 2009
16:08 Mecca time, 13:08 GMT

Suicide bomber hits Iraq army base

Security officials said the blast took place near a cafeteria on the joint US-Iraqi base

A suicide bomber has killed at least 16 soldiers and wounded 40 people at a military base in Iraq's western Anbar province, the army says.

"Sixteen soldiers were killed and 50 others were wounded, including officers, when a suicide bomber blew himself up among the soldiers, who were in a queue waiting to enter the cafeteria," a defence ministry official said on Thursday.

"The attacker was wearing an Iraqi army uniform," he said, adding that no civilians were allowed into the joint Iraqi-US army base in Habbaniyah, about 70km west of Baghdad.

Heigtened violence

Thursday's blast followed an attack on a bus carrying police assigned to guard oil companies in Iraq's in northern city of Kirkuk on Wednesday.

Ten people were killed in that explosion, which police said may been caused by a parked car bomb or a car driven by suicide bomber.

Local officials blamed the attack on al-Qaeda in Iraq, which previously had a heavy presence in Anbar.

But the province turned into one of Iraq's quietest after Sunni tribesmen paid by the US military turned their guns on al-Qaeda in Iraq in late 2006.

Thursday's attack took the number of people killed in violence in Iraq so far this month to at least 99, with 297 wounded, according to an AFP news agency tally based on reports by police and security officials.

Source: Agencies

Thursday, April 16, 2009
01:35 Mecca time, 22:35 GMT

US soldier guilty of Iraqi murders

The prosecutor said there was a complete breakdown of discipline in the incident

A US sergeant has been found guilty of the murder of four Iraqi prisoners in spring 2007.

A court martial in Germany on Wednesday found Master Sergeant John Hatley guilty of shooting the blindfolded and bound detainees in the head before dumping them in a canal in Baghdad's West Rasheed neighbourhood.

The eight-member military jury found the defendant guilty of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder after a three-day trial.

Hatley, 40, was acquitted of another murder in January 2007 of an Iraqi opposition fighter, who medics said was shot when already close to death.

Derrick Grace, the army prosecutor, said testimony had conveyed "a complete breakdown of discipline and crimes that are among the worst of a soldier".

"On two separate occasions, the accused became the judge, jury and executioner," he said.

Hatley will be sentenced on Thursday at the US army's Rose Barracks in southern Germany and faces up to life in prison without parole.

He had pleaded not guilty and showed no emotion on hearing the verdict, after which he embraced his wife, fellow soldiers and friends.

'No physical evidence'

The incident for which Hatley was convicted occurred in March or April 2007, when Hatley's unit had exchanged fired with a group of four Iraqis.

Weapons were then found in a building the four had fled to, and the men were taken into custody.

Hatley was accused of overseeing the shootings of the detainees and telling his colleagues that they were to "take care" of them and kill them.

The defence asserted that there was no physical evidence of the deaths as no bodies, witnesses or blood have been found.

Hatley was the highest ranking of three soldiers tried for killing the prisoners, the other two were convicted of the murders separately earlier this year.

Two other soldiers were also convicted of involvement in the spring 2007 incident.

All were with the 1st battalion, 18th infantry regiment, 2nd brigade, 1st infantry division in Baghdad. The unit is now part of the Germany-based 172nd infantry brigade.

Hatley had previously served in the first Gulf War and Kosovo.

Source: Agencies

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