Updated at 5:30 p.m. EST, Jan. 20, 2009
Tensions between Kurdish authorities and the central government increased dramatically today when the Kurd leader openly spoke against tribal councils. Elsewhere, at least five Iraqis were killed and 21 more were wounded in violent attacks. One U.S. soldier died in a non-combat incident as well. Meanwhile, Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged Iraqis to vote in upcoming elections even if they were disappointed by previous results. Also, a lawyer working for show-throwing journalist, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, said his client is seeking political asylum in Switzerland, but one of Zeidi’s brother’s denied it.
In what could be a precursor to an armed conflict between Kurdistan and the central Iraqi government, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani condemned Maliki-backed tribal councils in Kurdistan and threatened war should Arabs join such councils in neighboring provinces. Relations between the two governments have eroded in recent months over disputes involving oil and territory. Although the Kurdish provinces remain under the authority of Baghdad, they mostly operate under their own laws and government. One MP, however, claimed that Kurdish militiamen are forcibly influencing voters in Ninewa province. The governor of the province made light of the accusation.
In Baghdad, a bomb killed an off-duty police officer and wounded eight other people in the Zaafaraniya district. In Amil, a roadside bomb wounded five people. Also, two Iraqi soldiers were wounded during security operations that also netted 22 suspects.
In Mosul, a roadside bomb targeting an army patrol wounded four civilians instead. Two soldiers were wounded in a separate blast. Police killed a gunman during a firefight. Gunmen killed a man in a bakery. Also a bomb and a rocket were defused in separate incidents.
A roadside bomb killed two people in Ishaqi.
A U.S. military vehicle was destroyed in a bomb blast near Duluiya.
Police seized 38 cannonballs near Kut.
Two gunmen were arrested in Kirkuk.
Sixteen al-Qaeda suspects were arrested in Diyala province.
Police found explosives buried near Sinjar.
A "special groups" leader was arrested in Suwayra. "Special groups" refers to militia suspected of receiving aid from Iran.
The Babel Police Acadamy graduated 123 policewomen.
Karbala police will deploy about 15,000 personnel across the province ahead of provincial elections. Wassit province has also implemented its own security plan.
A resident of Camp Ashraf reportedly confessed that he was ordered by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran to undertake a suicide bombing. Iraqi authorities wish the refugee group would leave Iraq, but the group cannot return to Iran for fear of torture and execution. Although the PMOI is considered a terrorist organization, the group turned over their weapons and has observed a cease-fire since the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis