Iraqi forces deployed 5,000 additional security personnel to thwart attacks against Arbaeen pilgrims on their way to the holy city of Karbala. Over 60 have been killed in three successive days of attacks. Today, at least eight Iraqis were killed and another five were wounded in light attacks; however, 40 bodies were found in a mass grave near Baghdad. Meanwhile, the first large-scale effects of recent provincial elections are coming to light. Also, the cautious observance of Valentine’s Day could mark a change in attitudes towards Islamic conservatism.
In what may be the first significant political re-alignment following the provincial elections, Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr reached out to political rival Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in hopes of forming a strong coalition. The two had been allies until 2007, when Sadr accused Maliki of not being firm enough with the United States. Since then, Maliki formed friendly alliances with the Kurds and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI) but was also accused of targeting Sadr’s followers for harassment. Now, the Kurds and ISCI say that Maliki has become two powerful. The ISCI would like to follow the Kurds in forming their own autonomous region across the south.
Police found a mass grave in al-Midaan village, just outside Baghdad. About 40 bodies were in the grave. Experts estimated the grave to date back to 2006 when sectarian was at its height.
In Mosul, a roadside bomb killed two people and wounded four others, including an Iraqi soldier. An Iraqi soldier was wounded in a separate bombing. Two al-Qaeda suspects were detained. Also, a weapons cache was confiscated.
Three bodies were found inside a vehicle in Aziziya.
Two bodies were discovered near Samarra. The men bore gunshot wounds.
A woman’s body was found north of Arbil. She was shot to death.
In Baghdad, 20 suspects were captured, including three wanted men.
Seven suspects were detained in Basra. One kidnapped child was freed.
Six suspects were captured in Mandali.
A suspected al-Qaeda leader was arrested in Kirkuk.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis