Updated at 7:35 p.m .EDT, Oct. 21, 2008
Yet another mass grave was discovered today. Like the others this week, the victims were buried for months, if not years. Overall, at least 27 Iraqis were killed or found dead, and another 56 were wounded in the latest reports. Also, Kazakhstan pulled its troops out of Iraq, as their five-year peacekeeping mission has ended. Meanwhile, the Vatican has asked Iraq to protect Christians in Mosul, and the Interior Ministry raided Buhriz in search of Sahwa members.
A mass grave containing nine bodies was found in Latifiya. They had been buried for over a year.
Clashes that left 15 dead and 40 wounded were reported in an area between Ramadi and Jurf al-Sakhar. Gunmen from Ramadi apparently attacked two tribes over property issues. The fighting occurred in Babel province, where U.S. forces are expected to hand over security to the Iraqis on Thursday.
In Baghdad, shelling wounded five people in Saidiya. A roadside bomb blast on Palestine St. left one dead and three wounded. Two civilians were wounded when a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol blasted them instead. One dumped body was found. Iraqi forces detained 29 suspects and defused a bomb. Coalition forces detained three suspects. A weapons cache was found in Sadr City. Also, almost 50 families were able to return home.
In Mosul, one body was found. A wounded gunman was captured during a clash. A car bomber was stopped before he could blow up his explosives. Two suspects were arrested, and police defused a bomb under a bridge. Three Iraqi soldiers were wounded during a roadside bombing. Also, a sniper wounded another Iraqi soldier.
Multiple bombs affected an area near Duluiya. In one blast, a civilian was wounded. Another attack destroyed a water treatment plant that was nearing completion. Lack of access to potable water is a significant problem in Iraq, which has suffered cholera epidemics due to tainted water supplies.
In Samawa, 500kg of explosives were found.
An al-Qaeda suspect was detained in Jalawla.
In Khanaqin, a weapons cache was found.
Four suspects were detained in al-Jadidah.
The Interior Ministry raided the home of an Awakening Council (Sahwa) leader in Buhriz this morning. Mullah Shihab al-Safi was not at home, but his father and brother were arrested, and Safi is now in hiding. A total of five members were detained across the city. Security forces from the Interior Ministry are also known as police commandos or national police. They are still feared by many Iraqis because sectarian death squads would blatantly operate from within the forces. Some reform has limited the killings, but corruption is still rampant within the ministry.
The Sahwa Councils formed last year when Sunni Arabs, tired of al-Qaeda, formed U.S.-backed security groups. They are also known as popular committees. At the beginning of October, the U.S. handed authority of the committees to the Iraqi government, but the government has been very slow integrating the fighters into the regular security forces. Many Sahwa members believe that the Shi’ite-led government will be unfavorable to them and have accused the government of targeting Sahwa for arrest even though they are now fighting against terrorism and are loyal to Iraq.
The Iraqi government has been desperate to reign in the volatile Diyala province, where Buhriz is located. A security operation over the summer was highly criticized for giving gunmen too much early notice. Security forces instead arrested many loyal Iraqis and harassed local government and security authorities. In particular, troops forcibly attempted to take over security from Peshmerga Fighters in Kurdish villages near the Kurdistan Autonomous Region. Although outright fighting ended there, the conflict was not adequately resolved and could re-ignite at any time.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis