Updated at 11:42 p.m. EDT, July 9, 2009
The string of blasts that vexed Ninewa province yesterday continued with a major strike on the city of Tal Afar today. Overall, at least 60 Iraqis were killed and 172 more were wounded across Iraq. A U.S. soldier was found dead at a U.S. facility. In political news, U.S forces released five Iranian diplomats who were detained on suspicion of aiding local militants in Arbil. Also, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for restraint from the Kurdish Regional Government.
U.S. forces released five Iranians who were detained on suspicion of aiding militants in Iraqi Kurdistan. The five officials were accused of belonging to Iran’s elite Quds Force. Iran strongly denied the charges. The group had been held without trial since January of 2007 in Arbil. They were released to the Iraqis as part of a program that transfers U.S. detainees to Iraqi authorities. The U.S. has maintained the right to detain anyone considered a threat to security, but last year’s S.O.F.A. pact forces the U.S. to release detainees or hand them over to Iraqi forces.
Prime Minister accused the Kurdish Regional Goverment of "provocations," but also called for restraint and continued diplomacy. Iraqi Kurdistan is a semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq that is home to the country’s Kurd minority. Although Kurdistan has been relatively peaceful throughout the occupation, a continuing power struggle between the regional government in Arbil and the central government in Baghdad could lead to violence. Some of the conflicting issues include oil and territory. Many of Iraq’s Kurds live outside the region in their ancestral homelands. The tension could be the cause of many attacks in northern Iraq, particularly around Mosul and Kirkuk.
A pair of suicide bombers struck near a judge’s house in Tal Afar this morning. At least 38 were killed and as many as 84 were wounded in the attack. The attack follows a pair of significant bombings only 40 miles away near the provincial capital of Mosul yesterday. The first bomber was dressed in a policeman’s uniform. When the judge, who is also an anti-terrorism investigator, opened the door, the bomber detonated his explosives. A second bomber struck amidst a crowd that had gathered at the site of the first blast.
This particular neighborhood in Tal Afar has a Shi’ite Turkmen majority. One of the villages attacked yesterday also has a Turkmen majority. Ninewa suffers from continued ethnic tensions, in particular that between Kurds and Arabs; however, Turkmen, Christians and other smaller groups are also targets of violence. The standard Sunni/Shi’ite issues are also at play here. A Turkmen lawmaker accused members of the former Ba’ath Party, religious fundamentalists, and foreign groups for the increase in attacks on Turkmen. Turkmen can belong to either the Sunni or Shi’ites sects.
In Baghdad, a pair of blasts in the evening left nine dead and 35 wounded, but the toll is expected to rise. The first bomb was left in a cart in the Adhamiya/Kisra area; a roadside bomb exploded immediately afterwards. Separately, a bomb killed one person and wounded five in the Karrada neighborhood; the victims were part of a bank convoy. Two separate blasts in Saidiya/Mawasalat left six wounded. Later, a bomb in Amil left one dead and five wounded.
A pair of bomb blasts at a market killed eight Iraqis and wounded as many as 30 more in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City. At least one more bomb was discovered and defused. Sadr City is home to well over a million Shi’ites, perhaps a third of Baghdad’s entire population.
No casualties were reported after a clash in Baiji, but 15 suspects were arrested.
The U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO, said that U.S. troops and contractors considerably damaged the ancient ruins of Babylon. The site became Camp Alpha after the invasion. Not only did heavy machinery and troop movement damage the archaeological site, looters were allowed to damage priceless artifacts as well. UNESCO wants the site labeled a “World Heritage site” and hopes to prevent further deterioration. In positive news, the Dutch government returned a number of looted antiquities to Iraq.