Updated at 7:10 p.m. EST, Mar. 19, 2009
At least 17 Iraqis were killed and three more were wounded in light attacks. Also, a third body was found in a mass grave that possibly dates to 1991. Meanwhile, the Arab League Secretary-General arrived in Iraq, just as Iraqi leaders warned of potential destabilization. Separately, Moqtada al-Sadr issued a new order to end violence and the Camp Ashraf drama continued.
Amr Moussa, who heads the 22-member Arab League, visited Iraq and pushed for reconciliation and stability. This was his first trip since 2005. Many Arab nations have kept their distance from Iraq so as not to imply any approval of the U.S.-led invasion. They are now moving closer to prevent Iran from exerting too much influence. Moussa said that the two most important things needed for stability were the exit of U.S. troops and an end to the sectarian polarization. However, Iraqi lawmakers were united in wondering whether Iraq’s stability can meet the upcoming challenges. One of those challenges is the reintegration of former Ba’ath Party members.
Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr again asked his violence to renounce violence. Last year, the popular firebrand asked most of his Mahdi Army militia to lay down their arms, while retaining a small fighting force. This was seen as an effort to rid the group of unmanageable elements within the army and to re-enter mainline politics.
Iraq is asking foreign nations to take over 3,000 Iranian refugees based at Camp Ashraf. Some members belonged to the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI) but have allegedly given up armed struggle. Saddam Hussein welcomed the group into Iraq when relations with Iran were low. Their continued presence, however, is a thorn in the side of the new Iran-friendly Shi’ite government. Some residents have claimed abuse at the hands of the new Iraqi government, but they can neither go home for fear of execution nor can they find a third country to take them. Meanwhile, Germany welcomed 122 Iraqis refugees.
U.S. troops killed 10 gunmen during clashes in Balad Ruz.
In Baghdad, gunmen killed a top official from the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) while he was in Adhamiya celebrating the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday.
Talkeef police found a body bearing gunshot wounds.
Gunmen killed the mayor of Doberdan village east of Mosul.
A body was found in Kut.
At least one more body was pulled from a mass grave near Basra that already gave up two bodies earlier this week. Authorities believe the graves dates to a 1991 crackdown on a Shi’ite uprising. A province-wide security operation netted 30 suspects and liberated one hostage.
In Rashad, security forces found 237 explosive devices stashed at a former hideout for armed groups.
Four suspects were captured in the marshes south of Amara.
U.S. forces expect to close Bucca prison later this year, after the so far successful release of detainees. The U.S. has retained the right to indefinitely hold people believe to be dangerous, but many are held without trial or even evidence suggesting they might be guilty. About 13,300 detainees remain out of a total of 100,000. Meanwhile, a Virginia judge rejected claims CACI International Inc. is immune to lawsuits stemming from abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis