News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraq24 Iranians, held for illegal entry, escape from Iraqi...

24 Iranians, held for illegal entry, escape from Iraqi prison

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New York Times: The Iraqi police acknowledged Sunday that 24 Iranians who had been detained for entering the country illegally and using fake passports had escaped from a prison on the Iraqi side of the porous border. The New York Times

By ALISSA J. RUBIN
Published: July 16, 2007

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BAGHDAD, July 15 — The Iraqi police acknowledged Sunday that 24 Iranians who had been detained for entering the country illegally and using fake passports had escaped from a prison on the Iraqi side of the porous border.

When the police realized there had been a prison break, they imposed a curfew on Badra, the town where the prison is, and caught four of the escapees. But the others remained free, said a police official in Badra.

Iraq’s long border with Iran is exceedingly difficult to police. American troops have been working to intercept the flow of weapons and weapons parts that appear to be coming from Iran. Some of the Iranians who cross the border illegally are pilgrims who have not obtained legal travel documents for trips to worship in the Shiite pilgrimage cities of Najaf and Karbala, but Iraqi and American security officials contend that some Iranians also cross the border to aid insurgents.

Kidnappings occurred throughout the country on Sunday, documenting the atmosphere of fear that seems hard to stem despite the increased number of American troops and a drop in the number of large-scale attacks.

In Kut, a Shiite area about 70 miles southeast of Baghdad, the wife of the provincial council leader was killed, along with the couple’s 8-year-old son, by gunmen who broke into their house at 6 a.m. and shot them. The woman died immediately, said a Kut police official. The child was rushed to the hospital by the police, but died before they could get there.

In Baghdad, 22 bodies were found around the city, eight of them in the Wishash neighborhood, a Shiite area. The eight had been tortured and then shot to death, officials said. The bodies of two women, one of whom worked for the Social Affairs Ministry, were found in other locations. In the largely Sunni Adel neighborhood, a gunman killed a civilian. In Saidiya, the neighborhood where an Iraqi reporter for The New York Times was killed Friday, gunmen wounded two civilians.

Also in Baghdad, a car bomb exploded at 4 p.m. in a square filled with takeout and ice cream shops, killing at least five people and wounding 15, said an Interior Ministry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not an official spokesman. Other estimates from local hospitals gathered by The Associated Press put the number of dead at 10 and the wounded at 25.

The American military announced that a soldier had been killed near Baghdad on Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle.

In Iraqi politics, the Shiite-dominated government appeared to be trying to reach out to Sunni Arabs, who have complained bitterly that they are left out of decision making. In the past two weeks the Parliament has had difficulty mustering a quorum and rarely has had enough members in the chamber to vote on legislation. Both the Sunni Arab bloc, and the Shiite members who represent the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, are boycotting the Parliament.

Behind the scenes negotiations have been under way for the past week in an effort to get both groups to return. On Sunday, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki met with Adnan Dulaimi, a member of Parliament and one of the leaders of the largest Sunni Arab bloc to negotiate an end to the boycott.

They are searching for a way to finesse the resignation of the speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab who has been criticized both by Sunnis and others in the Parliament. Parliament voted in mid-June to oust him from the position, but he has resisted resigning from the post. They also are trying to resolve a dispute over the culture minister, a Sunni Arab accused of killings. Sunni Arabs would like an independent investigation of the charges.

In another sign of outreach to Sunnis, the state-run television station, Al Iraqiya, for the first time covered the story of the insurgents in the Amiriya neighborhood in western Baghdad, a Sunni Arab stronghold, who had turned against the militant group that calls itself Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The group, a homegrown Sunni Arab insurgent organization with some foreign participation, had previously effectively controlled the neighborhood.

The station showed a video featuring a masked man standing by a newly paved street, saying: “We are the revolutionaries of Amiriya. We will fight the Qaeda organization until we bring back the old situation of our district when the Sunnis, Shiites and Christians lived peacefully together.”

Iraqi employees of The New York Times contributed reporting from Kut, Diyala, Hilla, Kirkuk and Baghdad.

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