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Violence verges on civil war
News.com (AU)
By James Hider in Baghdad
January 7, 2006

THE wave of violence in Iraq this week that has killed more than 240 people, making it one of the darkest periods since the US-led invasion in 2003, has sparked real fears of a civil war.

Sectarian tensions, in particular, have been ramped up by a series of deadly explosions in the past two days.

Suicide bombers struck in Karbala, one of Shia Islam's holiest cities, and Ramadi, a Sunni Arab stronghold in western Anbar province and a hotbed of the insurgency.

Iraq's main Shia religious party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, yesterday issued a veiled threat to Sunnis supporting the insurgency that its patience was wearing thin.

"This is a war against Shi'ites," said Rida Jawad al-Takia, a senior member of the party. "Apparently to the terrorists, no Shi'ite child or woman should live. We are really worried. It seems they want a civil war."

Mistrust between Shi'ites and Sunnis has been heightened by the results of last month's elections, which some Sunni and secular leaders say were rigged to favour the majority Shi'ites.

The bombings shattered hopes that Iraq might start this year on a more peaceful footing than last year, allowing for a swift withdrawal of some of the 150,000 US troops in the country.

In all, violence has killed more than 240 people and wounded more than 280 in the five days since the year started. It is a death toll comparable with some of the nation's bloodiest weeks since March 2003.

Thursday's most deadly attack was in Ramadi, the capital of the turbulent desert province of Anbar and at the heart of the two-year insurgency.

A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of police recruits in the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim city, killing 70 would-be law enforcers and wounding more than 100. The city is key to security in the lawless west of Iraq. The US-backed Government has been struggling to gain a foothold there, while US troops come under constant attack.

The suicide bomber mingled with about a thousand applicants who had shown up for a fourth day of screening to join the police force, which is often accused of corruption, incompetence and collaboration with insurgent groups.

Earlier in the day another bomber, strapped up with explosives, grenades and ball bearings, walked into a crowd of pilgrims near the Imam Hussein mosque in the Shia holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad, and blew himself up, killing at least 50 people.

The bodies of men, women and children were left in pools of blood, while merchants ferried bloodied survivors from the scene in wooden pushcarts.

"The terrorists spare no place from their ugly deeds," said Mohammed Saheb, a Shia pilgrim who had travelled to the city ahead of prayers on Thursday.

"This is a criminal act against faithful pilgrims. The terrorists are targeting the Shi'ites."

Just south of Karbala, a roadside bomb killed five US soldiers on a patrol, the US military said. The troops were not involved in the rescue effort.

Two other Americans were reported by Iraqi police to have been killed in a second roadside bombing in Najaf, which also claimed the lives of two Iraqi civilians. In Baghdad, car bombs and gunmen killed at least six Iraqis.

The sudden upsurge in violence mirrors a similar wave of attacks after the elections in January last year, when hundreds of people were killed as insurgents tried to derail the fledgling democratic process.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said this week's violence was an attempt to thwart the political process just as the Sunni minority was being brought into a broad-based Government that would weaken the Sunni-led insurgency.

The Times, AP, Reuters

Commentary:
How long will the American media push Bush's spin and not tell us the truth? Better yet, which news organization in the US will call it a civil war first? I'm putting my bet on the Washington Post.

When Americans killed other Americans it was called "The Civil War." We need to start calling this war what it is. Start today. Say something like, 'the civil war in Iraq is getting out of control.' Let people hear the words.