Updated at 6:51 p.m. EDT, March 23, 2010
Although few casualties were reported today, a message from an al-Qaeda leader is raising fears of a coming surge in violence. At least two Iraqis were killed and 15 more were wounded in today’s attacks. Also, a Saddam-era mass grave gave up about 20 victims. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stressed that he will not recognize election results until there is a recount. In the U.S., a four star general testified in a hearing concerning the murder of Iraqis in Haditha five years ago.
In election news, P.M Maliki’s State of Law party may be discussing a merger with the Iraqi National Alliance to eclipse Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya party. The merger could also sideline Maliki as followers of his political rival, Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, make up a large part of the INA. Also, the Kurdistan Alliance pulled ahead of Iraqiya in Kirkuk, which is a multhi-ethnic city with a history of sectarian tensions. In the southern half of Iraq, nine provinces have asked for a recount.
A man claiming to be Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, posted an audio message calling for continued jihad against occupying forces in Iraq and also claimed that Sunnis mostly boycotted this month’s elections. Baghdadi is apparently the nom de guerre for an individual who is the presumed leader of Islamic State of Iraq. He has been captured and killed several times over and may also never have existed.
General James Mattis testified in a hearing involving Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich. Wuterich is the last defendant charged in the killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha in late 2005. A similar case was dropped when the judge there determined that Mattis was unduly influenced by Col. John Ewers, who was prevented from offering legal advice to Mattis because he was also an investigator in the case.
In Missan province, about 20 bodies have been uncovered in a mass grave dating to the Saddam era.
One soldier was killed and seven more were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in Jalawla.
In Baghdad, a blast near the Olwiya Hospital left four wounded. Two more people were wounded during a bombing in Karrada. No casualties were reported after another blast in Karrada.
An Awakening Council (Sahwa) leader was killed in Balad Ruz when a roadside bomb blasted his motorcycle.
A sticky bomb wounded a driver in Amara.
Gunmen south of Kirkuk wounded a civilian.
A rocket fell in the archaeological site of Ur, but no casualties were reported. U.S. forces have a base there.
A bomb found in a civilian vehicle driving in Fallujah was defused without leaving casualties.
In Mosul, no casualties were reported after a mortar attack.
Eleven suspects were arrested and a bomb was defused in Basra province.
Seven suspects were captured in Saidiya.
A machine gun and ammunition was found in Huwija.