Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Iraq War News Update: Round-up of Daily Violence; Senate Approves Funding for Continued Occupation

Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq

Sahar Issa | McClatchy Newspapers
June 24, 2009 09:28:55 AM

The daily Iraq violence report is compiled by McClatchy Newspapers Special Correspondents in Baghdad from police, military and medical reports. This is not a comprehensive list of all violence in Iraq, much of which goes unreported. It's posted without editing as transmitted to McClatchy's Washington Bureau.


A roadside bomb targeted a U.S. military convoy behind the general hospital in Habibiyah neighbourhood, northeastern Baghdad at 8.30 a.m. Wednesday, injuring two civilians and causing damages to a U.S. military vehicle. No casualties were reported by the U.S. military.

A guard in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, in central Baghdad, was targeted by sniper fire at 2.30 p.m. Wednesday. He was injured and taken for treatment.


An insurgent threw a home made bomb at a U.S. military convoy in Bab al Toob neighbourhood, central Mosul at 8 a.m. Wednesday injuring eight civilians.

A roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi army patrol in Denadan neighbourhood, central Mosul at 9 a.m. Wednesday killing one soldier and injuring three soldiers and two civilians.

A roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in al Farooq neighbourhood late tuesday killing one police officer and injuring four others.

Mosul River police found the body of a woman around 45 years of age on the bank of the Tigris in central Mosul. There was evidence of gun fire shots to the head and chest.


Insurgent Yaseen Salam died Wednesday when an IED he was planting in Rashad neighbourhood exploded while he was handling it.

A roadside bomb targeted street cleaners in downtown Kirkuk seriously injuring four, one of whom is in critical condition.

2009 McClatchy Newspapers

US military deaths in Iraq war at 4,316

By The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 7:43 PM

As of Tuesday, June 23, 2009, at least 4,316 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The figure includes nine military civilians killed in action. At least 3,455 military personnel died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is two fewer than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Tuesday at 10 a.m. EDT.

The British military has reported 179 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia and Georgia, three each; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand and Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan and South Korea, one death each.

Since the start of U.S. military operations in Iraq, 31,368 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the Defense Department's weekly tally.

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Monday, June 22, 2009
23:30 Mecca time, 20:30 GMT

Iraq reels from deadly bombings

Students in Baghdad's Sadr City were among the scores of people wounded in Monday's blasts

A spate of attacks have killed dozens of people and wounded scores more in Baghdad and surrounding areas.

The surge in volence comes before next week's planned withdrawal of US soldiers from urban areas in Iraq.

The AFP news agency put Monday's death toll at 31 while the Associated Press casualty count stood at 33.

More than 100 people have died in three days of violence, mostly from bombings but also from shootings.

In the first of the day's attacks, a roadside bomb exploded next to a bus carrying high school students to their final examinations in Baghdad's Sadr City neighbourhood, killing at least three people and wounding 13, including three of the students, police said.

The US military said only one civilian was killed and eight others wounded in the explosion.

In another attack, at least five people were killed and 20 more wounded by a bomb planted near a car in the Karrada district of Baghdad, on the east side of the Tigris river.

The bomb exploded on a road leading to a checkpoint that controls access to a bridge into the Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi government and US embassy.

The US military put the casualty toll at two killed and six wounded.

Mayor's office hit

A third roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in a commercial area of eastern Baghdad's Ur district, killing three and wounding 25, according to police, although the US military said two people were killed.

North of Baghdad, a parked motorcycle loaded with explosives blew up in an open-air public market in the predominantly Shia area of Husseiniya, killing five people and wounding another 22, police and hospital officials said.

Separately, a suicide car bomber targeted the mayor's offices in Abu Ghraib, a predominantly Sunni district west of Baghdad.

The explosion occurred when the car struck a civilian vehicle before reaching the government building, damaging a nearby American vehicle that was providing security for a meeting, Major David Shoupe, a spokesman for US forces in Baghdad, said.

He said four civilians were killed and 10 people were wounded, including three US soldiers, while a local police officer said seven civilians were killed and 13 wounded.

In Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, roadside bomb struck an Iraqi army patrol killing three soldiers, near Khanaqin, close to the Iranian border, according to the province's security headquarters.

In Khalees, also in Diyala, a former al-Qaeda member who had recently been released from the US prison facility at Camp Bucca was assassinated, an official said.

Assailants also killed at least seven people in separate attacks in the northern city of Mosul, including a woman and four Iraqi security officers, according to separate police reports.

Still missing

The bombings on Monday came just two days after the year's deadliest attack - a lorry bombing that killed at least 75 people near the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

Rescue crews continued searching on Monday for at least 12 people still missing in Saturday's explosion, which destroyed a Shia mosque and numerous mud-brick houses around it.

Starting from June 30, most of the 133,000 American troops left in Iraq will be housed in large bases outside Baghdad and other cities - unable to react unless called on for help.

The withdrawal is part of an agreement under which all US soldiers are to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Source: Agencies

Iraq hit by fresh wave of attacks

Bomb attacks in the capital Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq have killed at least 29 people and wounded 75, police say.

In the latest attack, a roadside bomb killed four people in a marketplace in Baghdad's Husseiniya district.

Other victims included three students on their way to sit exams and a child of four. More than 70 people died in a truck bombing in Kirkuk on Saturday.

The attacks come days before US troops are scheduled to pull out of Iraq's towns and cities.

With so many attacks in such a short space of time, it appears insurgents are determined to make things look as unstable as possible as the pull-out deadline approaches, the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged Iraqis on Saturday: "Don't lose heart if a breach of security occurs here or there."

He said the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq's towns and cities by the end of this month would be a "great victory".

Ending operations

Police reported at least half a dozen bomb explosions in different parts of Baghdad and outlying areas with the number of people killed in each ranging between two and seven, with many others injured.

Monday's deadliest attack was caused by a suicide car bomb at municipal offices in Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad. Seven people died and 13 were wounded, police said.

A roadside bomb tore through a minibus carrying students to sit their exams in Baghdad's Shia neighbourhood of Sadr City.

Three students died and 12 others as well as the driver were wounded in the rush-hour attack.

Another roadside bomb killed three people and wounded 30 near a market in the Shaab district of north Baghdad. A woman and a four-year-old child were among the dead, the AFP news agency reports.

Five people were killed and 20 wounded by a parked car bomb in central Baghdad's Karrada district.

Gunmen killed at least four people in separate attacks in the northern city of Mosul.

Three soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Diyala province, north-east of Iraq.

Most of the 133,000 US troops are due to have moved from Iraq's cities and towns to military bases by 30 June.

The withdrawal is part of an agreement that will see combat operations across Iraq end by September 2010 and all US troops out of the country by the end of 2011.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/06/22 19:51:38 GMT

Posted on Sun, Jun. 21, 2009

70 die in truck blast near Kirkuk

By Ali Al Winadawi and Ned Parker
Los Angeles Times

TAZA KHURMATU, Iraq - A suicide truck bomb killed at least 70 people and wounded 182 others yesterday in a primarily Turkmen town in northern Iraq, less than two weeks before the withdrawal of most U.S. forces from Iraq's cities.

The bombing, which could exacerbate ethnic tensions in the volatile Kirkuk region, came as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned that more attacks were expected as U.S. soldiers exit from urban centers.

Residents of the Shiite Turkmen town of Taza Khurmatu, about 10 miles south of the city of Kirkuk, had just finished prayers at the local mosque when the attacker detonated his explosives-laden truck.

Witnesses said the blast leveled more than 80 clay-brick homes and heavily damaged the mosque.

Medical officials said at least 70 people had been killed and an additional 182 wounded. They worried that the casualty figures would rise in the latest in a series of attacks on northern Iraq's Turkmen minority.

Taza Khurmatu sits in an oil-rich area that is home to a fractious mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. Kurds wish to annex the Kirkuk region to Kurdistan, their semiautonomous zone in northern Iraq. Arabs and Turkmen fiercely oppose such a move. Observers worry that the competition for control of the region could spark communal violence.

"The impact of the blast threw me into a store. A big fireball was coming my way," said Mohammed Bashir from his hospital bed in Kirkuk. Three of his relatives were killed, he said.

Bashir demanded to know why his rural district had been targeted again and asked that the U.S. military not reduce its troop presence in the area.

"We demand for the American forces to stay, because their withdrawal means the return of al-Qaeda and . . . the return of sectarian war in all parts of Iraq," he said, "even after the relative security improvements."

Turkmen politician Ali Medhi, who sits on Kirkuk's provincial council and is a leader of the Kirkuk branch of the Turkmen Front party, called on Baghdad to give his community its own security force.

In the last year, U.S. forces in the north have increasingly played the role of mediator as the government and the region's emboldened Arab population have asserted themselves against the Kurds.

Earlier yesterday, Maliki celebrated the scheduled June 30 departure, calling the day a "big wedding" for Iraqis, but he warned that the state's enemies would test Iraq's security forces.

Remains Returned to Britain

The bodies of two British hostages kidnapped in Iraq in 2007 have been handed over to U.K. officials, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said yesterday. He said the government feared three other Britons taken hostage with them were in grave danger.

Information-technology consultant Peter Moore and his four bodyguards were kidnapped May 29, 2007, by heavily armed men believed to be Shiite militants outside the Finance Ministry in Baghdad. Since then the hostages have been seen only on a few videos, and the British government has released little information about efforts to free them.

The bodies have not been formally identified.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office said the British leader was "saddened and dismayed by the news."

In a written statement, Miliband referred to "the remains of two bodies," suggesting the men had died some time ago. He said forensic tests are being conducted to identify the bodies.

The British government has been criticized for not seeking publicity for the case, preferring a low-key negotiation strategy.

Moore was working in Iraq for BearingPoint, a U.S.-based management consulting firm. The four other men - identified only as Alan, Alec, and two men named Jason - worked for Canadian security firm GardaWorld. The full names of the four bodyguards have not been released at their families' request.

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War zone contractors likely here to stay

By Suzanne Simons

CNN Executive Producer and Author, Master of War

Editor's note: CNN executive producer Suzanne Simons is the author of "Master of War: Blackwater's Erik Prince and the Global Business of War."

The company formerly known as Blackwater, now called Xe much to its chagrin, has been at the center of the contractor debate for years.

From the time four of its men were ambushed and murdered in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, to a shooting involving a team of its men in a Baghdad neighborhood in which at least 14 Iraqi civilians were killed in 2007, the company has drawn unwanted headlines.

Blackwater owner Erik Prince downsized the company earlier this year when business failed to keep pace with investment. He changed the company's name after the Iraqi government banned it from doing business there. But those who thought contractors were going away under President Obama's administration couldn't be more wrong.

According to the Department of Defense, there are some 68,000 contractors in Afghanistan today and more than 132,000 in Iraq. But those numbers aren't an accurate reflection of the total number of contractors because they don't include those working for other government agencies such as the Department of State.

Many of those tens of thousands are third-country nationals, meaning they were hired from a third country to go to Iraq. Many earn between $400 and $700 a month; while Americans, particularly those performing dangerous security duties, can earn as much in a day.

Despite being kicked out of Iraq, Xe still does a healthy business in Afghanistan, flying military personnel from one location to another and helping train Afghan border police charged with making the country's massive, porous borders more secure. It's one of the many jobs that the U.S. military just isn't staffed to tackle on its own.

In fact, the U.S. military today is beefed up by a force of nearly a quarter million private contractors. There are even cases where contractors oversee the contractors. And that's the problem. The U.S. has come to rely on them so heavily, in such a short period of time, that the government has come under fire for not managing them adequately.

Even among the eight-member team that makes up the Wartime Contracting Commission, a congressionally mandated effort to review the contracting process in Iraq and Afghanistan, the question of whether the United States needs the contractors isn't even an issue. The issue, rather, is how well the government is managing this massive support force called up in the immediate aftermath of the war in Iraq.

In its interim report released this month, the Commission found that "neither the military nor the federal civilian acquisition workforces have expanded to keep pace with recent years' enormous growth in the number and value of contingency contracts." The report also said, "the government still lacks clear standards and policy on inherently governmental functions. The decision has immediate salience given the decisions to use contractors in armed-security and life-support tasks for military units."

One of the biggest nightmares for legislators is that the force that has grown into such a critical modern-day military support structure was for a long time operating in a legal gray zone with no clear avenue of justice should something unsavory occur. That has led to some tough work for both prosecutors and the FBI, as they take on the task of investigating allegations of wrongdoing by contractors overseas.

Doug Brooks, head of the IPOA, an industry-friendly voluntary organization made up of 62 companies, spends much of his time doing outreach and making sure member companies measure up to the internal standards. "We have the power to kick people out of the association," Brooks said, but that's about where it ends. They can't prosecute anyone.

But to say that there has been no progress on the legal front wouldn't be fair. Legislation has been passed that essentially holds contractors accountable for their actions under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, but with everything in this business, there was a hang-up with that, too.

The legislation was written to cover contractors working in support of the Department of Defense, but there are even more contractors working in support of the State Department and other U.S. agencies.

The Special Inspector General for Iraq, Stuart W. Bowen Jr. produced a report in February titled Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience. He then testified before Congress that "the United States government was unprepared and ill-equipped to mount a major contingency relief and reconstruction program in Iraq in 2003. For the last six years we have been on a steep learning curve."

He also told members of Congress that the United States relies too heavily on the hired help, testifying that "outsourcing management to contractors should be limited because it complicates lines of authority in contingency reconstruction operations." Something that retired Lt. Gen. Richard Sanchez would undoubtedly agree with.

Sanchez, who led the U.S. military operation in the early days of the Iraq war, has launched an information campaign aimed at bringing more accountability to the debate. He's even called for a truth commission to investigate policies regarding the interrogation of detainees.

Guess what. Contractors were involved in that scandal, too.

As for Blackwater, scandal, or the suspicion of it, played a significant role in its downturn. Plagued by lawsuits and federal investigations, the company now called Xe is a shell of what Blackwater was five years ago. Most of Prince's top executives are gone, budgets have been dramatically curtailed and the company has largely returned to its roots, as a training facility for law enforcement and special forces.

Is Blackwater's fate a sign that things are sour in the industry? Hardly.

As IPOA's Brooks puts it, they're here to stay, its about time we made it work. "I think the other conclusion that companies have come to is that we're going to be working with the private sector. Nobody wants soldiers to go back to flipping eggs, guarding gates, that kind of thing."

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Senate Approves Funding for Occupations

By David Lightman | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — The Senate approved a $105.9 billion emergency war-spending bill Thursday after the White House assured lawmakers that it would bar the release of photos of detained terrorism suspects by an executive order if necessary. The vote was 91-5.

The bill, which now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature, includes $79.9 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, $10.4 billion in diplomatic and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and other countries in the region and $7.7 billion to help control the flu pandemic. The money is for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

The legislation passed only after overcoming two major hurdles.

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., tried to strip from the bill $1 billion for a "cash for clunkers" auto-purchase subsidy program, and Democrats mustered the bare minimum 60 votes to block him, succeeding only after some last-minute arm-twisting on the floor.

The other obstacle was lifted Wednesday after Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., spoke to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel about controversial photos that show Guantanamo Bay detainees being abused.

"I have been personally assured by Rahm Emanuel that if Congress fails to do its part in protecting these photos from being released, President Obama will sign an executive order classifying the photos," Graham said.

The senator was threatening to block Senate business unless he got assurance that either the Senate would act to bar the photos or the president would issue such an order.

He wound up with both. The Senate unanimously approved the ban on releasing the photos without debate late Wednesday. Graham also said that Emanuel "assured me these photos would not see the light of day." Emanuel's office didn't answer requests for comment.

Gregg was upset that the bill included money to boost the ailing auto industry. The "cash for clunkers" program would give consumers up to $4,500 each for trading in aging gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles, but Gregg argued that it had no place in a war spending bill.

In addition, he said, "it's a billion dollars of new cost put on our children's shoulders," one day after Obama and Democratic leaders announced that they wanted new pay-as-you-go rules to bring discipline to congressional spending.

"He didn't list this bill, which spends a billion dollars and is not paid for," Gregg said. "We couldn't get through a day without following the rules."

However, few senators appeared eager to let those qualms block legislation that supports American troops, especially when the Pentagon has said that the current funds are likely to run out sometime next month.

The bill's bumpy passage through Congress contained warnings for the Obama administration. Such emergency measures usually win quick approval, but this one took more than a month.

It barely passed the House of Representatives earlier this week, getting eight votes more than a majority, as Republicans had reservations about $5 billion to help the International Monetary Fund and anti-war Democrats were upset about the lack of a detailed plan for the Afghanistan war.

From the June 23, 2009 edition -

Iraq: forgotten and in trouble?

Saturday's massive bomb in Kirkuk, combined with political gridlock, raises questions about how ready Iraq is for the withdrawal of US troops from cities by June 30

By Howard LaFranchi
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Fresh concerns about the US-Iraq relationship are rising as the draw-down of US forces approaches. A suicide bombing in Kirkuk Saturday was the deadliest in Iraq in more than a year. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government continues to fail to approve crucial laws for administering the country.

With the 133,000 US troops in the country set to be withdrawn from Iraqi cities by June 30, demands on the diplomatic relationship between the two countries will only grow, some Iraq specialists warn.

Going further still, some of them worry that Iraq will be neglected as the US turns its focus to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. If that happens, Iraq could slip back into instability and violence, reemerging as a top American security issue.

"President Obama cannot afford to lose Iraq," says Kenneth Pollack, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "If nothing else, there's so much potential for spillover into Saudi Arabia, Syria, and elsewhere in the region."

Harsh reminder of perilous security

Saturday's suicide truck bombing near the ethnically mixed northern city of Kirkuk, which killed 75 people, is a reminder of Iraq's continuing fragility. It is part of a recent uptick in violence that appears designed to try to rekindle sectarian tensions and includes bombings and other violence in Baghdad Monday that claimed 33 more lives.

The Iraqi government's failure to pass several important pieces of legislation also poses a threat to the country's political stability. They include:

•Approving a national oil law for an equitable distribution of the country's oil revenues.

•Finding a solution to Kirkuk's ethnically based territorial dispute.

•Passing legislation to help combat rampant corruption.

A key task for the US

The US must figure out how to continue to nudge Iraq to address issues of mutual concern, even as the US footprint lightens, some analysts say.

"Stability in Iraq is going to continue to be based for some time on an American security presence, and we have not done a good job of communicating that reality to either the Iraqi people or the American people," says John Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security, a defense policy think tank in Washington.

A less physically imposing but still robust American military and diplomatic presence should focus on developing "good governance" principles at all levels of the Iraqi government, says Mr. Nagl, author of a new report, "After the Fire: Shaping the US Relationship with Iraq." Moreover, the US must concentrate on building professionalism within the Iraqi military.

Despite recent events, Nagl sees little likelihood that Iraq will slide to the brink of civil war, as it did in 2006.

"This is a different, stronger Iraq today, and that fact, plus a still-substantial American commitment for the next several years, mean it's likely Iraq will not resume civil war and will not export instability to the region."

Others are less confident that the US is sufficiently focused on Iraq.

Mr. Pollack of Brookings recommends that President Obama add to his list of czars and special envoys a White House "point person" for Iraq. "The message right now is that they [in the administration] don't really care about Iraq, and that is being signaled to the Iraqis," he says. "It's encouraging the good guys [in Iraq] to do the wrong things."

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