AFP: Three farmers were killed and leaflets pinned to their bodies Wednesday, warning against cooperation with American and Iraqi forces in a brutal act of intimidation as thousands of US troops leave.
by Ali al-Tuwaijri
BAQUBA, August 18, 2010 (AFP) – Three farmers were killed and leaflets pinned to their bodies Wednesday, warning against cooperation with American and Iraqi forces in a brutal act of intimidation as thousands of US troops leave.
The attack came a day after a suicide bombing at an army recruitment centre in Baghdad killed 59 people, most of them prospective soldiers, in the bloodiest attack in Iraq this year.
The violence, which saw 11 people killed overall on Wednesday, coincides with the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, when insurgents typically step up their activity.
In the village of Rabiyah, northeast of Baghdad in central Diyala province, 10 masked gunmen carrying machine guns and silenced pistols and claiming to be members of Al-Qaeda raided the houses of three Shiite farmers, dragged them outside and shot them dead.
“They brought them outside of their homes and then shot them,” said police Major Mohammed al-Karkhi. “Then they left leaflets on their bodies which said: ‘This is the future for all those who cooperate with the US military and Iraqi security forces’.”
Ahmed al-Zarkushi, the mayor of Saadiyah district of which Rabiyah is a part, said the three men, all members of the same tribe, had no ties to the US or Iraqi militaries, and were farmers.
“They raided one house after the other, and in each house they forced all the family members into one room, and took the father outside,” Zarkushi said.
“They then killed him in front of the house, and put leaflets on his body and left. After they killed three people, they escaped, and then people called the security forces.”
Rabiyah is a predominantly Shiite village in Saadiyah, where a week ago insurgents lured Iraqi troops into a booby-trapped house, killing eight soldiers in coordinated blasts.
“This is an area where all the faultlines are present, with the Shiites and Sunnis living together in the same villages still,” Brigadier General Patrick Donahue, deputy commander of US forces in north Iraq, told reporters on Tuesday, referring to Diyala province.
“Diyala is a real microcosm of Iraq as a whole.”
In the provincial capital of Baquba, meanwhile, an anti-Qaeda militiaman was killed and his brother wounded when a magnetic “sticky bomb” was attached to their car, local police said.
Also on Wednesday, two people were killed and two wounded by a roadside bomb in front of the courthouse in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, at around 7:30 am (0430 GMT), a police colonel said.
Separate incidents in the restive northern city of Mosul left one Iraqi soldier and one civilian dead and two soldiers wounded, police said.
In the western town of Ramadi, a bomb inside a police station killed two policemen and wounded three others, an officer said.
And a communications ministry official was shot dead in Harithiyah, a western district of the capital, an interior ministry official said.
The latest unrest, with around 200 people having been killed this month, comes with less than two weeks to go before US forces declare an end to combat operations in Iraq.
At that point, their troop levels will be at their lowest since the 2003 invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
There are now 59,000 American soldiers in Iraq, a number that is set to drop to 50,000 by the end of the month. Coinciding with the American pullout, James Jeffrey arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday as the new US ambassador to Iraq.
While American commanders insist local forces are up to the job, the top Iraqi officer, Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari, said earlier this month that US troops would have to stay until 2020 before his soldiers would be ready.
Iraq is also mired in a political impasse, with no new government formed more than five months after elections, as no single bloc from the elections has the required number of seats to constitute a parliamentary majority.