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Baghdad bans vehicles in fear of backlash

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published June 15, 2007


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BAGHDAD - A citywide clampdown emptied Baghdad's streets of vehicles Thursday in an attempt to hold off what authorities dread: a storm of Shiite attacks in revenge for the bombing of one of their main shrines.

The tactic appeared to keep a lid on widespread violence, but extremists fired shells into the city's protected Green Zone during a visit by the State Department's No. 2 official.

The barrage of rockets and mortars included one that hit on a street close to the Iraq Parliament less than a half hour before Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte passed nearby.

The attack again showed militants' resilience - including their ability to strike the heavily protected zone - despite a U.S.-led security crackdown across the city that began exactly four months ago. But officials paid much closer attention to any signs that Shiites could unleash another wave of retaliation against Sunnis for the blasts Wednesday at the Askariya mosque compound in Samara.

The U.S. military issued a statement Thursday saying Iraqi forces had arrested the commander and 12 police officers responsible for security at the shrine.

The vehicle ban was expected to last through Saturday.

Fast Facts:

Other developments

- Overwhelmed by the number of soldiers returning from war with mental problems, the Army is planning to hire at least 25 percent more psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. A contract finalized this week calls for spending $33-million to add about 200 mental health professionals to help soldiers.

- Al-Qaida-linked insurgents in Iraq released a video showing the execution-style deaths of 14 Iraqi soldiers and police officers after the expiration of a 72-hour deadline for the Iraqi government to meet the militants' demands.

 

[Last modified June 15, 2007, 01:20:42]


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