Monday, February 25, 2008

Iraq - bombings and incursions leave 200 dead

Turkish incursions are increasing concerns in the region

Iraq has seen further suicide bombings this weekend killing at least 50 people. Yesterday a blast killed 40 when bombers targeted Shi’ite pilgrims making their way to Karbala. At least another 60 were wounded according to the Iraqi police. Another attack targeted Shi’ite Muslims as they left southern Baghdad near to the town of Iskandariya. Three died in that attack when gunmen opened fire and threw hand-grenades at a crowd of pilgrims. The attacks will increase tensions amongst members of the Mehdi army after Moqtada al-Sadr declared a continuation of his six-month old ceasefire. Today in another apparent cynical ploy of using the mentally ill and vulnerable, a man in a wheelchair was sent into a building before the bomb strapped to his seat exploded [CNN]. Three police officers died in the blast which happened north of Baghdad in the town of Samarra. Earlier in the month two mental patients were used as ‘mules’ in a double suicide attack at two Baghdad markets. A doctor was subsequently arrested for allegedly ‘supplying’ the patients for that attack.

Meanwhile further efforts are being made to put Iraq’s oil industry back on track. Despite having the one of the biggest oil reserves the output still remains low, even less than during Saddam Hussein’s reign while under sanctions. Though attacks on Iraq’s oil infrastructure they are nonetheless still occurring. According to Iraqi Pipeline Watch there has only been one attack this year; at the Bayji Refinery, injuring 36 workers. It is at least the 27th attack at the facility since March 2003. The continuing violence and recent incursions into Iraq by Turkish troops have not helped oil prices which have already hit $100 a barrel for the second time this year. The rigs and pipelines around Kirkuk account for about one third of Iraq's oil output, now running at 2.4 million barrels per day [CNN].

The Iraqi government have made representations to Turkey after troops made further incursions into northern Iraq in an attempt to root out fighters belonging to the PKK. Nouri al Maliki’s government has called the incursion a “threat to peace”. The Turkish military said Sunday that a total of 15 soldiers and 112 rebels had died during the most recent incursion which started last Thursday. Eight Turkish soldiers and 33 rebels died in Sunday’s fighting alone. The military also said they lost one helicopter in the raids near Sirnak on the Turkish Iraqi border. The US also lost two troops Sunday in Baghdad during two separate attacks bringing the death toll to US 3,972 since hostilities began in 2003 [CNN]

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