Violence flares in Iraq as leaders bicker in Cairo
BAGHDAD, Nov 20 (AFP): An Iraqi policeman was killed and 11 civilians wounded in a spate of attacks Sunday following two days of bombings that left at least 120 people dead, mainly Shiites.
The violence flared as representatives from the country's ethnic and sectarian factions bickered in Cairo during talks aimed at reconciliation with barely four weeks to go before new elections in Iraq.
Six US servicemen were also killed Saturday in a series of attacks, bringing to at least 2,091 the number of US military personnel killed in the country since the March 2003 invasion, according to an AFP tally based on the independent Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.
In Baghdad Sunday, one policeman was shot dead, five civilians were wounded by a roadside bomb targeting a US military convoy, and two civilians were hurt in a mortar attack, police said.
Four more civilians, three of them children, were hurt when a mortar round hit their home in Al-Mashruyah near an army camp 65 kilometres (40 miles) south of the capital, authorities said.
This followed a bloody two days marked by twin suicide bombings against Shiite mosques in Khanaqin near the Iranian border, which left some 80 dead Friday, and a suicide attack on Shiite mourners in the town of Abu Sayda northeast of Baghdad which left 20 dead Saturday.
The attack on mourners, paying their respects to the family of a local deceased sheikh, was carried out by a suicide bomber in a car who ploughed into a tent set up in the town to receive mourners.
An earlier toll had put the number of dead at 30, but provincial police headquarters in Baquba said that after checking lists in different hospitals, the number of dead stood at 20 and the number of wounded at 25.
In other violence Saturday, 13 were killed and 20 wounded when a car bomb exploded at a Baghdad market and five people, four of them former senior members of Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath party, were shot dead in the Shiite city of Karbala in southern Iraq, police said.
A US marine and 15 Iraqi civilians were also killed Saturday by a roadside bomb in western Iraqi town of Hadithah, the US military said.
In Cairo, bickering marred the first day of Iraqi reconciliation talks Saturday, with Shiite and Kurdish delegates abruptly walking out of one session after a Christian leader expressed a view they deemed offensive.
Arab League chief Amr Mussa, whose organisation has recently stepped up its involvement in Iraq and sponsors the current talks, described the start of the three-day meeting as "an historic day launching the reconciliation process".
But optimism over the unprecedented talks, aimed at setting a date and agenda for a reconciliation conference in Baghdad, was dampened by exchanges of mutual recriminations.
"We have set a red line: there is no room for Baathists in Iraq," Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari told the meeting, which was attended by around 100 Iraqi leaders and regional officials.