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The Week in Iraq is a weekly assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties by IBC's news collector and Recent Events editor Lily Hamourtziadou.

The analyses and opinions presented in these commentaries are personal to the author.

Recent weeks

Healing the wounds of the past
  18 Jan 2009

Happy New Year
  11 Jan 2009

The sad numbers
  31 Dec 2008

  21 Dec 2008

The farewell kiss
  14 Dec 2008

Regrets –he’s had a few…
  7 Dec 2008


The Week in Iraq

A mixed bag

by Lily Hamourtziadou

25 Mar 2007

The good news this week is that 2,300 displaced families have returned to their homes in Baghdad since the implementation of the new security plan.

Another piece of good news is that the Iraqi government is having talks with Sunni insurgent groups. Saad Yousif al-Muttalibi of the Ministry of National Dialogue and Reconciliation has revealed that talks with the Sunni groups were initiated at the request of the insurgents and have been taking place inside and outside Iraq.

The bad news is that the negotiations were deadlocked over the insurgent groups’ insistence that they would lay down their arms only when a timetable for the withdrawal of US-led coalition troops in Iraq is announced. The government’s response was that this could only happen once security was restored.

More bad news: four years after invading Iraq, the US military still does not know how many tons of explosives were stolen from the country’s massive pre-war stockpiles or how many weapons caches remain unsecured, according to a government audit made public last Thursday. ‘Many of the looted munitions have since made their way into the roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices responsible for the bulk of US troop deaths in Iraq,’ reports the Los Angeles Times. Those bombs have actually been responsible mainly for the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians in the last four years. The number of unaccounted-for munitions ‘could range significantly from thousands to millions of tons’ (Los Angeles Times, 23 March).

Lack of manpower, inadequate planning and misplaced priorities were cited as being behind the military’s failure to account for and secure weapons during and after the invasion. The report pins particular blame on several incorrect pre-war assumptions, including a belief that Iraqi resistance would be short-lived and that Iraqi and US forces would immediately provide security.

Perhaps the most worrying piece of news this week is that the US is trying to prevent a ‘disastrous’ Turkish military intervention in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq that threatens to derail the Baghdad security surge and create a third front in the battle to save Iraq from disintegration. Turkey suspects Iraqi Kurds of seeking control of Kirkuk as a prelude to the creation of an independent Kurdistan. Abdullah Gul, Turkey’s foreign minister, MPs and military chiefs say that up to 3,800 PKK fighters are preparing for attacks in south-east Turkey, and Turkey is ready to hit back if the US fails to act. Turkish sources say that ‘hot pursuit’ special forces operations in Khaftanin and Qanimasi, northern Iraq, are already under way.

Among the bad news this week is that 560 civilians have lost their lives in the past 7 days.

On Monday 19 March 112 people are reported killed in attacks across the country, including 6 men shot dead outside a mosque in Baghdad, during a US raid, 18 killed in bomb attacks in Kirkuk, 8 blown up by a bomb in a bag in a Baghdad mosque, 30 found tortured, murdered and dumped in Baghdad streets and 25 more found murdered near an abandoned post office in Ramadi. On Monday 56 unidentified bodies are buried at Karbala cemetery.

Over 100 lose their lives on Tuesday 20 March. In clashes near Falluja, 17 policemen and tribal fighters die battling al-Qaeda supporters. Mortar rounds kill 7 in Abu Dsheer in Baghdad, a car bomb kills 10 in al-Halabsa, and 44 bodies are found in six cities, most of them in the capital.

Over 70 more are killed on Wednesday 21 March. Among the dead, 33 bodies found in Baghdad.

Just 40 are reported killed on Thursday 22 March, mostly in Baghdad. Among the dead, Ilhan Shaheen, a member of Baquba Provincial Council and mother of three, abducted from her home the previous day and found dead in the street on Thursday morning. Another victim, Tuhfa al-Bachari, a 19-year-old university student and women’s rights activist, is shot dead in Basra. In Baghdad, a further 25 bound and tortured bodies are found.

Just over 60 die on Friday 23 March, including 4 members of a family, a baby among them, shot dead in their house in al-Buajeel village. A car bomb kills 7 people in al-Habibiya in Baghdad, while a suicide attack on the Deputy PM kills 9 inside his house in Baghdad. The Deputy PM is injured. In Hibhib, meanwhile, clashes between US troops and insurgents end up killing 3 civilians, a father and his 2 sons, caught in the crossfire. Police find 34 bodies, a woman and her teenage daughter among them.

On Saturday 24 March, the bloodiest day of the week, 133 civilians die. Suicide car bombers kill 20 in attacks at a police station and checkpoints in Qaim, a suicide truck bomb attack followed by mortar fire kills 14 near a mosque in Haswa, another suicide bomber kills 10 in a market in Tal Afar, and 33 are reported dead in a suicide bombing attack at a police station in Dora, Baghdad. Police find around 40 bodies in six cities.

On Sunday 25 March, one of the quiet days, 40 are killed, most of them in Baghdad.

Since 14 February 3,100 civilians have lost their lives. Iraqis and coalition troops are finding the looted munitions the hard way.

Who knows? They may eventually find the Weapons of Mass Destruction too.