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IRAQ ROUNDUP News on war front


Published: Wed, March 1, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


The latest developments in Iraq:
Sunnis and Shiites traded bombings and mortar fire against mainly religious targets in Baghdad well into the night Tuesday, killing at least 68 people a day after authorities lifted a curfew that had briefly calmed a series of sectarian reprisal attacks. At least six of Tuesday's attacks hit clearly religious targets, concluding with a car bombing after sundown at the Shiite Abdel Hadi Chalabi mosque in the Hurriyah neighborhood that killed 23 and wounded 55. A separate suicide bombing killed 23 people at an east Baghdad gas station, where people had lined up to buy kerosene. In addition to those known to have been killed Tuesday, police found nine more bullet-riddled bodies, including a Sunni Muslim tribal sheik, off a road southeast of Baghdad.
The Iraqi government issued a statement declaring that 379 people had been killed and 458 wounded as of 4 p.m. Tuesday in the sectarian violence tied to the Shiite Askariya shrine bombing Feb. 22. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that more than 1,300 people were killed in the reprisal attacks. The Cabinet statement, however, said "what was reported in a foreign newspaper were inaccurate and exaggerated numbers of victims."
U.S. intelligence agencies repeatedly warned the White House beginning more than two years ago that the insurgency in Iraq had deep local roots, was likely to worsen and could lead to civil war, according to former senior intelligence officials who helped craft the reports. Among the warnings, Knight Ridder has learned, was a major study, called a National Intelligence Estimate, completed in October 2003 that concluded that the insurgency was fueled by local conditions -- not foreign terrorists-- and drew strength from deep grievances, including the presence of U.S. troops. The existence of the top-secret document, which was the subject of a bitter three-month debate among U.S. intelligence agencies, has not been previously disclosed to a wide public audience. The reports received a cool reception from Bush administration policymakers at the White House and the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to the former officials, who discussed them publicly for the first time. President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld and others continued to describe the insurgency as a containable threat, posed mainly by former supporters of Saddam Hussein, criminals and non-Iraqi terrorists -- even as the U.S. intelligence community was warning otherwise.
In a day short on drama but rich on documents, prosecutors presented what they described as a paper trail linking Saddam Hussein to the execution of nearly 150 people, some of them children, in a Shiite village. The two-hour proceedings had little of the theatrics that have come to characterize the trial of the former Iraqi president. Instead, the session was dominated by the introduction of papers allegedly showing Saddam signing off on the execution of 148 Shiites from the town of Dujail after a failed assassination attempt against him there in 1982.
Key documents brought up during the two-hour proceedings were signed by Saddam, after an "imaginary trial," said Jaafar al-Moussawi, the lead prosecutor.
Source: Combined dispatches


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