Iraq violence claims nearly 50

Published August 13, 2006

BAGHDAD - Police found a dozen bodies trapped in a grate in the Tigris River, and a roadside bomb killed two U.S. soldiers on a foot patrol south of Baghdad on Saturday as nearly 50 violent deaths were reported across Iraq.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki banned the Kurdistan Workers Party, a Kurdish extremist party, from operating in Baghdad in a move seen largely as a gesture to Turkey, which had threatened to send troops across the border to destroy the group's bases in northern Iraq, a government statement said Saturday. The party, known by its acronym PKK, seeks autonomy in southeastern Turkey and is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

The PKK operates clandestine bases in the Kurdish-self ruled provinces of northern Iraq, where central government authority is limited.

Also Saturday, a state commission said nearly 40 top officials of the past two governments have been ordered to appear in court to answer allegations of corruption. They include former ministers of defense, labor and electricity, the commission said.

The independent Commission for Public Integrity said the corruption allegations had been filed against 39 top officials in the governments of former Prime Ministers Ayad Allawi and Ibrahim al-Jaafari, said the commission's spokesman, Ali Shabbout.

Shabbout said the officials include former Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan and former Labor Minister Laila Abdul Latif, both of whom served in the Allawi government, and Abdul Muhsin Shalash, the electricity minister under Jaafari.

Some have fled the country, but Abdul Latif was released on bail, Shabbout said.

The commission, set up by the United States and now run by the Iraqi government, has been investigating corruption since 2004, looking into hundreds of cases.

In violence Saturday, the 12 bodies were found in Suwayrah, 25 miles south of Baghdad, at one of a series of metal grates fixed in the river to block debris, Mamoun al-Rubaie of the Kut city morgue said.

All were men between 35 and 45 years old and had been bound, blindfolded and shot in the head or chest, Rubaie said. They appeared to have been the victims of sectarian death squads that operate in the religiously mixed communities near Baghdad.

Police also found 15 other bullet-riddled bodies of men who had been handcuffed and blindfolded in six neighborhoods throughout the Baghdad area, police Lt. Mohammed Khayoun said.

Another 21 people were killed Saturday, mostly in Baghdad but also in Hillah, Mosul and Basra.

The violence has alarmed U.S. commanders, prompting them to order nearly 12,000 more American and Iraqi soldiers into the capital.