Updated at 8:50 p.m. EST, Dec. 30, 2009
Deadly bomb attacks in two Iraqis cities overshadowed the news that a British hostage was released after two and half years in captivity. At least 41 were killed and 138 more were wounded in those explosions and in other violence across the country. Also, Iraq sent a memo to Iran protesting Iranian forces at the Fakka oil field.
Iraqi militants have handed over a British hostage to Iraqi authorities. Peter Moore, a 36-year-old computer consultant, and his four British bodyguards were the targets of a bold kidnapping that took place in May 2007. Moore is in good health and was treated well, but the bodies of three guards were returned earlier this year. A fourth bodyguard is still missing. In an agreement that was structured loosely to avoid any criticism of dealmaking, Moore was essentially exchanged for Shi’ite cleric Qais al-Khazali, who leads the Asaib al-Haq group. Khazali was captured by the British S.A.S. just two months before Moore’s abduction and is believed responsible for the deaths of American soldiers. Officially, however, the release is part of reconciliation efforts.
At least 31 people were killed and as many as 105 more were wounded during a pair of suicide blasts in Ramadi. The first bomber detonated a car bomb at a checkpoint near provincial government buildings. Shortly thereafter another suicide bomber, this one on foot, targeted the first responders. An Awakening Council (Sahwa) leader, Hekmat Mohammad Sarhan, warned that security forces in Anbar are very weak currently. Indeed, attacks are on the increase in once quiet Anbar province. The last major attack in Ramadi occurred in October.
There are conflicting reports on the notables who were injured or killed in the Ramadi blasts. The provincial governor may have been the original target. He and other officials were among the wounded, but some early reports said the governor was killed. At the very least, he was flown to Baghdad for medical care. The deputy police chief was also reported killed and scores of policemen were among the casualties. At least one more blast was reported.
In Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official and his son were wounded when gunmen fired upon their car in the Mansour district.
An I.E.D. blast wounded three patrolmen in Imam Weis.
A sticky bomb left on a vehicle belonging to an Asayesh member killed him when it exploded in Touz Khormato. The Asayesh are Kurdish intelligence agents. Many operate in parts of Iraq that are heavily populated by Kurds, but still under the authority of the central government. Many of these border areas want to be folded into the Kurdish Autonomous Region, but the central government prefers to have authority over them and their oil wealth.
In Basra, there was a rare report of a female body in the downtown river. She apparently was the victim of an honor killing. Although many women have been killed in Basra, their deaths have been severely underreported.
Police confiscated 1,200 mortar shells in Taji.
Iraqi and Iranian soldiers are still standing watch over an inactive oil well that is part of the Fakka oil field. No shots have been fired. Iraq wants to resolve the issue diplomatically. Both countries claim the area, but Iraq dug these wells in the 1970s. In any case, the border between the two countries is poorly marked at best, especially since a devasting war between the two neighbors in the 1980s.