Violence surges in Iraq amid political stalemate as Gen Petraeus departs


IRAQ:VIOLENCE HAS spiked ahead of this week's departure of Gen David Petraeus, outgoing overall military commander in Iraq.

He has warned against declaring "victory" because the situation is "fragile" and security gains achieved over the past 20 months are "not irreversible".

An Iraqi source said Iraqis are sorry he is leaving because he "understands there must be political progress to consolidate security gains" .

The latest attacks are significant because they could stir up sectarian and ethnic tensions when parliament remains deadlocked. Yesterday five Iraqi policemen were killed and eight wounded by bombs in Jawala, north of Baghdad in the Sunni-majority Diyala province where resentment is growing against the Shia-dominated government and security forces.

On Saturday, at least 28 died and 40 were wounded. A leader of the US-backed Sunni "Awakening Councils" in Baghdad, his deputy and two bodyguards were among the victims.

Shias are deeply suspicious of the "Awakening Councils," which the government seeks to disband. Nine Kurdish peshmerga militiamen, including a colonel, died on patrol near the disputed city of Kanaqin.

Iraqi Arabs oppose the presence of Kurdish militiamen outside their autonomous area in the north, particularly in potentially oil-rich Kanaqin, and the contested city of Kirkuk, site of 7 per cent of the world's oil resources.

Iraqi government forces have recently challenged the deployment of peshmerga in areas meant to be under government control. The Kurds have taken over a 600km band of territory in four mixed provinces adjacent to their region where they mount checkpoints, fly the Kurdish flag and, say local Turkomen and Arabs, try to force non-Kurds to leave.

Four staff from the Sharqiyya television channel were kid- napped and killed near Mosul while filming a programme for the fasting month of Ramadan.

The head of the channel blames the official Iraqiyya television for the deaths of the journalists, bringing the total number killed in Iraq to 136 since 2003.

He argues that Iraqiyya has conducted a campaign of vilification against Sharqiyya, which Shias and Kurds allege is a Sunni station.

In Mosul, the country's second largest city, attacks have risen from 30 to 60-70 a week.

On Friday, a car bombing in the Shia market town of Dujail north of Baghdad killed 32.

Saddam Hussein was hanged over his brutal crushing of Shia dissidents in Dujail where they attempted to kill him in 1982.