Shiites outraged over raid; suicide bomb kills 40 in Iraq
Published March 28, 2006
BAGHDAD - Shiite politicians raged at the United States and halted negotiations on a new government Monday after a military assault killed at least 16 people in what Iraqis say was a mosque in northeast Baghdad.
Fresh violence erupted, with 40 killed in a suicide bombing. At least 151 people have been killed over the past two days.
There were numerous conflicting statements from Iraqis and the Americans about the raid. Iraqi police, Shiite militia officials and major politicians have all said the structure attacked was the al-Mustafa mosque. But the U.S. military disputed this, saying no mosques were entered and that the raid targeted a building used by "insurgents responsible for kidnapping and execution activities."
Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, deputy commander in Iraq, and Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, which is in control of Baghdad, said today that 25 U.S. forces were in a backup role to 50 Iraqi special operations troops.
The mission, the generals said, was developed by the Iraqis on their intelligence that a kidnapped Iraqi dental technician was being held in an office complex.
Associated Press reporters who visited the scene of the raid identified it as a neighborhood Shiite mosque complex.
Gunmen opened fire as Iraqi special operations troops closed in. The troops then killed 16 insurgents and wounded three "during a house-to-house search," detained 18 men, found a significant weapons cache and freed the hostage, Chiarelli said.
The general said he believed that the scene was disrupted after the raid to make the building look like something other than a terrorist headquarters, including by planting religious paraphernalia. "After the fact someone went in and made the scene look different than it was, for whatever purposes," he said.
Iraqi police said gunmen fired on the joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol from a position in the neighborhood but not from the mosque.
Police and representatives of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said all those killed were in the complex for evening prayers and none was a gunman. Police put the death toll at 17 - seven members of Sadr's militia, seven civilians and three Shiite political activists.
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said that he called U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and that they decided to form an Iraqi-U.S. committee to investigate.
The United Iraqi Alliance, the largest Shiite bloc in Parliament, canceled Monday's session of negotiations to form a new government because of the raid, said lawmaker Jawad al-Maliki. The Baghdad governor and the Baghdad provincial council cut ties with the United States.
Monday's major suicide bombing took place at an Iraqi army recruiting office near the gate of a U.S.-Iraq military base about 20 miles east of Tal Afar. At least 40 Iraqis were killed and 30 were wounded, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said.
Elsewhere, 29 bodies were found and at least 12 people were killed.
--Information from the New York Times was used in this report.
[Last modified March 28, 2006, 03:01:29]
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