Maliki: stop segregation wall


Summary

On a visit to Eygpt, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced that he had ordered a halt to the construction by US troops of the controversial five-kilometre barrier around the Sunni enclave of Adhamiyah in mainly Shi'ite east Baghdad.

US commanders had said earlier that they planned to build similar walls around other restive neighbourhoods of the capital, but a string of Iraqi politicians spoke out against the plans, accusing Washington of further hardening the capital's already tense sectarian divide.

For a change, the deadliest of Sunday's attacks was outside the capital in northern Iraq where 23 members of Iraq's non-Muslim Yazidi minority were dragged from a bus and gunned down by the roadside, security officials said.

"Workers were travelling back from a textile plant in Mosul to their home in Bashika, east of the city," police Brigadier General Mohammed el-Waqa'a said.

"Several gunmen stopped the buses, chose the Yazidi among the passengers and killed them in front of everybody."

The Yazidis, who number about 500,000, mainly in northern Iraq, speak a dialect of Kurdish but follow a pre-Islamic religion and have their own cultural traditions.

They believe in God the creator and respect the Biblical and Koranic prophets, especially Abraham, but their main focus of worship is Malak Taus, the chief of the archangels, often represented by a peacock.

Some followers of other religions know this angel as Lucifer or Satan, leading to popular prejudice that the secretive Yazidis are devil-worshippers.

In Baghdad, two car bomb explosions at a police station killed 16 people and wounded 95, security officials said.

The blast tore a massive crater in the road and devastated at least two civilian houses.

Eleven people were killed in other attacks, nine of them in the capital. Police in Baghdad also found the bodies of 11 men who had been killed execution-style, security officials said.

The latter killings were precisely the sort of attacks that US commanders hoped to stop through construction of the wall.

Since April 10, US paratroopers have been deploying at night around Adhamiyah to erect the five-kilometre wall made of six-tonne concrete sections.

The wall is designed to prevent Shi'ite death squads from launching attacks to drive out the Sunnis from the district, and to prevent Sunni insurgents from using the pocket as a base for raids into Shi'ite areas.

Brigadier General John Campbell, a top military commander in Baghdad, said earlier that several more such "gated communities" would be formed.

"The intent is to provide a more secured neighbourhood for people who live in selected neighbourhoods," he said in a statement.

But Maliki announced on a visit to Cairo that he had ordered a halt to construction of the Adhamiyah wall.

"I am opposed to the building of the wall and its construction is going to stop," he told a press conference.

Iraqi politicians had voiced strong opposition to the wall.

"Erecting a wall around Adhamiyah is the height of failure and a bad, faulty step that violates human rights," said leading Kurdish MP Mahmud Othman.

"It's an obvious sign that the policy of US and our government has failed to keep security."

US commander Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey said the American and Iraqi administrations will spend $US14 billion ($A16.76 billion) on developing Iraqi forces, including hiring 40,000 new members in the next 18 months.

The plan will also involve equipping the existing security forces with new American-made M16 weapons, Dempsey said.

The US military said insurgents killed four more of its soldiers in and around Baghdad, taking to 60 the military's losses for April alone.

It also said that 15 militants linked to al-Qaeda were killed in US air strikes south of Baghdad.


On a visit to Eygpt, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced that he had ordered a halt to the construction by US troops of the controversial five-kilometre barrier around the Sunni enclave of Adhamiyah in mainly Shi'ite east Baghdad.

US commanders had said earlier that they planned to build similar walls around other restive neighbourhoods of the capital, but a string of Iraqi politicians spoke out against the plans, accusing Washington of further hardening the capital's already tense sectarian divide.

For a change, the deadliest of Sunday's attacks was outside the capital in northern Iraq where 23 members of Iraq's non-Muslim Yazidi minority were dragged from a bus and gunned down by the roadside, security officials said.

"Workers were travelling back from a textile plant in Mosul to their home in Bashika, east of the city," police Brigadier General Mohammed el-Waqa'a said.

"Several gunmen stopped the buses, chose the Yazidi among the passengers and killed them in front of everybody."

The Yazidis, who number about 500,000, mainly in northern Iraq, speak a dialect of Kurdish but follow a pre-Islamic religion and have their own cultural traditions.

They believe in God the creator and respect the Biblical and Koranic prophets, especially Abraham, but their main focus of worship is Malak Taus, the chief of the archangels, often represented by a peacock.

Some followers of other religions know this angel as Lucifer or Satan, leading to popular prejudice that the secretive Yazidis are devil-worshippers.

In Baghdad, two car bomb explosions at a police station killed 16 people and wounded 95, security officials said.

The blast tore a massive crater in the road and devastated at least two civilian houses.

Eleven people were killed in other attacks, nine of them in the capital. Police in Baghdad also found the bodies of 11 men who had been killed execution-style, security officials said.

The latter killings were precisely the sort of attacks that US commanders hoped to stop through construction of the wall.

Since April 10, US paratroopers have been deploying at night around Adhamiyah to erect the five-kilometre wall made of six-tonne concrete sections.

The wall is designed to prevent Shi'ite death squads from launching attacks to drive out the Sunnis from the district, and to prevent Sunni insurgents from using the pocket as a base for raids into Shi'ite areas.

Brigadier General John Campbell, a top military commander in Baghdad, said earlier that several more such "gated communities" would be formed.

"The intent is to provide a more secured neighbourhood for people who live in selected neighbourhoods," he said in a statement.

But Maliki announced on a visit to Cairo that he had ordered a halt to construction of the Adhamiyah wall.

"I am opposed to the building of the wall and its construction is going to stop," he told a press conference.

Iraqi politicians had voiced strong opposition to the wall.

"Erecting a wall around Adhamiyah is the height of failure and a bad, faulty step that violates human rights," said leading Kurdish MP Mahmud Othman.

"It's an obvious sign that the policy of US and our government has failed to keep security."

US commander Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey said the American and Iraqi administrations will spend $US14 billion ($A16.76 billion) on developing Iraqi forces, including hiring 40,000 new members in the next 18 months.

The plan will also involve equipping the existing security forces with new American-made M16 weapons, Dempsey said.

The US military said insurgents killed four more of its soldiers in and around Baghdad, taking to 60 the military's losses for April alone.

It also said that 15 militants linked to al-Qaeda were killed in US air strikes south of Baghdad.