NSN Iraq Daily Update 2/15/08

NSN Iraq Daily Update 2/15/08
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A Sunni ex police officer's allegations of torture at the hands of Diyala Shi'a police chief, has become a rallying point for Sunni protests that erupted in the last week in one of Iraq's most turbulent regions. More than 10,000 protesters gathered and threatened to unravel the U.S.-funded citizens security group in Diyala, a largely Sunni force. In recent days large numbers of the group's members have refused to patrol or operate checkpoints unless Maj. Gen. Quraishi is ousted. American military officials have said that without the nearly 3,000 volunteer fighters in Diyala -- many of them former insurgents who joined the American side during the last eight months -- security will not improve in the region, a crossroads between Baghdad, Iran and insurgent strongholds to the north. Quraishi, who has been accused by U.S. commanders of refusing to integrate Sunnis into his force, declined to comment. [LA Times, 2/14/08]


Iranian President to travel to Iraq, as Iran postpones security talks. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will travel to Iraq next month, Iraqi officials said Thursday, adding that Iran had postponed a fourth round of talks with the U.S. to discuss Iraq's security. Ahmadinejad is scheduled to arrive March 2 to discuss bilateral relations. He is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The United States and Iran set aside their own animosities and held three rounds of talks to discuss ways to improve Iraq's security. But on Thursday, Iran postponed the next session for the fourth time, "These negotiations have been postponed, not canceled," said a diplomat at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad. "We believe these negotiations should continue, but we postponed them for technical problems." [Washington Post, 2/15/08]


Mistaken battle kills 6 U.S.-allied fighters. Six members of an Awakening Council, groups composed mostly of Sunni Muslims who have turned against the insurgency, were killed early Thursday after they mistakenly fired on American soldiers in the north who they thought were insurgents, the Iraqi police said. American forces returned gunfire, killing the U.S.-allied Sunnis and two women in nearby houses. The firefight occurred in Salahuddin Province, northeast of Baghdad. In recent week, Sunni extremists have increasingly aimed their attacks at Awakening Council members, killing at least 33 people in car bombings aimed at the groups this week alone. [NY Times, 2/15/08]


Iraq welcomes U.N. role in October elections. Iraq's Parliament, faced with a stalemate in appointing election commissions in the most populous provinces and accusations of overt politicization of the election process, announced Thursday that it would welcome the United Nations to play a large role in organizing the vote. Under a new law approved by Parliament on Wednesday, provincial elections must be held by October 1. To meet the Oct. 1 deadline, the United Nations will take a hands-on role and, if necessary, appoint qualified election commission officers at the local level. Most importantly, a new law would spell out who is qualified to vote and where. Some two million Iraqis are displaced within the country, so a contentious question is whether they should be allowed to vote where they now live or in their home provinces, and where their votes should be counted. [NY Times, 2/15/08]


Four killed in Suicide Bombing at Iraqi Mosque. At least four people were killed and 13 wounded in northern Iraq when two suicide bombers with explosive vests blew themselves up at the entrance to a Shi'a mosque in Tal Afar during Friday prayers. Tal Afar is located 360 miles northwest of Baghdad. The country's north remains a strong hold of foreign led al Qaeda in Iraq, who regrouped there after being cleared from western Anbar province and from around Baghdad. [Reuters, 2/15/08]

Nine members of a family distantly related to Saddam Hussein, found dead. On Thursday, nine members of the same family were found dead, apparently executed in their house in Auja, in Salahuddin Province. A note was found at the home, signed by Tawhid Wal Jihad, a group that is part of the Sunni insurgency. The family is distantly related to Saddam Hussein and lives next to the cemetery where he was buried after he was executed in December 2006. . [NY Times, 2/15/08]

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