Thursday, February 23, 2006

At Least 138 Dead, Including 7 U.S. Troops, Since Wednesday

Veering out of control:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 23 — At least 138 Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs and including some clerics, were killed in central Iraq Wednesday and today in the maelstrom of sectarian violence that followed the insurgent bombing of one of the country's most sacred Shiite shrines, Iraqi officials said.

Seven American soldiers also died in attacks, the American military said today.

The most powerful Sunni Arab political group said today that it was withdrawing from talks with Shiite and Kurdish politicians to form a new government, accusing Shiite leaders of igniting anti-Sunni reprisals and the American military of standing idly by as the violence unfolded.

Across the country, thousands of furious Shiites, some clad in black and wailing with grief, flooded the streets in a second day of protests against the shrine attack. The demonstrations were mostly peaceful. Much of the violence that began on Wednesday had tapered off, though armed Shiites raided several Sunni mosques in Baghdad and set fire to at least two.

In the deadliest assault, 47 people returning from a protest were pulled off buses south of Baghdad on Wednesday and shot in the head, an Interior Ministry official said today. Three journalists from Al Arabiya, the Arab satellite network, were abducted and killed on Wednesday near the ravaged Askariya Shrine in Samarra, whose signature golden dome was reduced to rubble by insurgent-laid explosives on Wednesday morning.

Political and religious leaders, including Moktada al-Sadr, the firebrand Shiite cleric whose followers are believed to be largely responsible for the anti-Sunni violence, called for restraint, warning that Iraq could slip into a full-fledged civil war. The government set a curfew from 8 p.m. today to 4 p.m. Friday, to keep people from attending Friday prayers, and canceled leave for all soldiers and police officers, while American helicopters roared through the skies above Baghdad.

The poisonous atmosphere created by the bombing of the Askariya Shrine, which houses the tombs of two revered Shiite imams, and the retaliatory attacks that followed, in which Shiites assaulted dozens of Sunni mosques across the country, hung over every aspect of life today, from conversations between neighbors to frenzied meetings among Iraq's leaders. The American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, spent the day talking to politicians, trying to urge calm and keep the political process on track, despite the anger felt by both Sunnis and Shiites at each other and at the Americans.
Richard Perle, one of the chief architects of the Iraq war policy, just told Tweety Bird on Hardball that he doesn't believe these news reports coming out of Iraq and he doesn't believe Iraq is on the verge of civil war.

It must be nice to live in your own reality where you get to make up your own facts and stuff.

I guess you could call it The Land of Truthiness.

Or Bushworld.

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