Officials: Bomber attacks Baghdad funeral, kills 28

January 1, 2008 8:47:27 PM PST
A suicide attacker detonated an explosives-rigged vest at a Shiite funeral in Baghdad, killing 28 people gathered to mourn the death of an Iraqi army officer killed in a car bombing, police and ambulance officials said. The afternoon explosion took place in Baghdad's eastern Zayouna neighborhood, a mixed Shiite and Sunni district, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the attack.

The funeral was for Nabil Hussein Jassim, a retired lieutenant colonel killed in a car bombing in downtown Baghdad's Tayaran Square. That blast left at least 14 people dead.

In Jalula, a city about 80 miles north of Baghdad, the bodies of a Sunni policeman and four of his relatives were found hours after gunman abducted them from their home, authorities said.

The abductions occurred in Diyala province, where al-Qaida in Iraq retains a presence and violence has persisted despite falling elsewhere.

Hours later in the same province, a Shiite man and his 16-year-old son where killed in a drive-by shooting as they stood outside their home, police said.

Late Monday, Iraq's government released statistics on the number of civilians and members of security forces it said were killed in 2007.

According to the health, defense and interior ministries, 16,232 civilians, 432 soldiers and about 1,300 policeman died in 2007. The year before, the ministries said that 12,371 civilians, 603 soldiers and 1,224 policeman were killed.

The government figures were roughly in line with a count by The Associated Press.

For 2007, the count found that 18,610 Iraqis were killed. In 2006, the only other full year an AP count has been tallied, 13,813 died.

The AP count - which includes civilians, government officials, and police and security forces - is compiled from hospital, police and military officials, as well as accounts from reporters and photographers. Insurgent deaths were not included. Other counts differ and some have given higher civilian death tolls.

In addition to policemen and Iraqi soldiers, the more than 70,000 Sunni fighters who have joined an anti-al-Qaida in Iraq movement are being targeted by extremists.

On Monday, a suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint manned by such fighters, killing 12 people in one of a series of strikes against the movement singled out by Osama bin Laden as a "disgrace and shame."

Leaders of the rapidly expanding U.S.-backed movement, credited with helping reduce the overall number of attacks in Iraq by 60 percent since June, condemned bin Laden's latest message to his followers.

"We consider our fighting against al-Qaida to be a popular revolution against the devil," said Sheik Mohammed Saleh al-Dohan, head of one of the groups in southern Ramadi, a city in Anbar province where the movement was born.

Al-Dohan blamed al-Qaida, which espouses a radical version of Sunni Islam, for bringing destruction to Iraq: "They made enemies between Sunnis, Shiites and Christians who lived in peace for centuries."

Bin Laden and his fighters "are the traitors who betrayed the Muslim nation and brought shame to Islam in all the world," he said.

In a weekend audio message, bin Laden warned Iraq's Sunni Arabs against joining the groups, known as "awakening councils," or participating in any unity government. He said Sunni Arabs who join the groups "have betrayed the nation and brought disgrace and shame to their people. They will suffer in life and in the afterlife."

The government, meanwhile, sent the speaker of parliament a draft bill for an amnesty for some prison detainees, said spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh.

The bill excludes those held in U.S. custody and those imprisoned for a variety of crimes, such as terrorism, kidnapping, rape, adultery, homosexuality and smuggling antiquities. It also excludes senior figures of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

If passed in its current form, the bill could see about 5,000 prisoners released, al-Dabbagh said. The government has about 20,000 people in custody, while the U.S. military holds about 25,000.

Sunni lawmakers have criticized the draft for its limited scope. They have argued that most prisoners are charged with terrorist crimes, rendering the bill ineffective. Some also fear referring the bill to the gridlocked parliament will actually delay prisoner releases.

Many key draft laws - including measures to share oil revenue and to allow some Baath Party members to hold government jobs - have remained mired in parliament for months.

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Associated Press writer Hamid Ahmed contributed to this report.


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