Iraq: sectarian war escalating fast
At least 40 were killed in clashes that raged overnight after militants launched coordinated attacks on two Iraqi prisons July 22. The attacks on the prisons at Taji and Abu Ghraib, both outside Baghdad, included car bombs and mortar strikes on the front gates before gunmen assaulted the guards. At least 500 prisoners escaped. (AFP, July 22) A coordinated wave of seven car bombs tore through bustling streets July 20 in Shi'ite areas of Baghdad, leaving some 45 dead. (AP, July 20) On July 19, a bomb blast at a Sunni mosque during Friday prayers in the town of Wajihiya, Diyala, killed 20 people. Violence has killed at least 200 in Iraq since the start of Ramadan. (Rudaw, July 22; RFE/RL, July 19)
At al-Zad, a town near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, gunmen killed five members of the Kurdish militia forces at a checkpoint in northern Iraq on July 21. In a separate attack, gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul, killing two. "The holy month of Ramadan should be a time for spirituality and forgiveness instead of increasing violence and division," said Martin Kobler, in his final statement as the United Nations envoy to Iraq. "I am deeply saddened that my last words as the SRSG (UN Secretary-General's Special Representative) for Iraq have to be linked to violence and criminal acts." (Reuters, July 21)
Shi'ite militant Wathiq al-Battat, calling himself secretary-general of Hezbollah in Iraq, admitted in a TV appearance on July 11 to carrying out killings and bombings in Baghdad, through a militia called the Mukhtar Army. Iraqi forces then decided to arrest the station's staff who had conducted the interview—without arresting Battat himself. Battat announced in February the formation of a militia designed to kill al-Qaeda members and Ba'athists, in retaliation for the attackls on Iraq's Shi'ites. Iraq's judicial authorities months ago issued an arrest warrant for Battat, which has yet to be implemented. (Al-Monitor, July 21)
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