Iyad Allawi survives assassination bid

57 bodies fished out of Tigris, 19 Iraqi soldiers executed, Govt to be unveiled today

KUT: Fifty-seven bodies were fished out of the Tigris river south of Baghdad yesterday as 19 Iraqi army soldiers were executed in a football stadium in the latest carnage in violence-torn Iraq.

“They were killed and they threw the bodies in the Tigris ... We have the full names of those who were killed and of those criminals who committed these crimes,” President Jalal Talabani told reporters in Baghdad.

He said a new Iraqi government would finally be unveiled on today, but senior members of the United Iraqi Alliance said the cabinet was unlikely to be announced before Sunday.

The relentless violence in a span of 24 hours cost at least 33 lives and included a car bomb at a checkpoint near outgoing prime minister Iyad Allawi’s party headquarters. Two policemen were killed and two more wounded in the attack, an interior ministry source said. Allawi escaped unhurt.

With sectarian tensions running high, police announced the gruesome discovery of 57 bodies of men and children in Suwayrah, some 40km south of the capital. They were found in an area downriver from Madain where unconfirmed reports last weekend said Shi’ite hostages were taken by rebels. Iraqi officials later denied there had been any hostage-taking.

Police in Suwayrah said the bodies were recovered from the banks of the river between the towns of Al-Wihda and Hafriyah which are in an insurgent-strong belt south of the capital. The bodies were buried near Suwayrah after their pictures were taken, police said.

In another grim incident, insurgents executed 19 soldiers in Haditha, 260km northwest of the Iraqi capital, an interior ministry official said. “They were taken to the stadium where they were executed,” he said. “Only one soldier survived and he has been taken to the town’s hospital.”

Before the late-night attack near Allawi’s HQ, three more car bombs exploded, following two similar deadly strikes on Tuesday, as insurgents stepped up attacks in the capital after a relative lull following the January 30 election. Two people were killed, including a child, hospital sources said, in the first car bomb attack in the western district of Amiriyah, that appeared to target a US patrol.

A second car bomb wounded eight near the Bilat Al Shuhada police station in the southern district of Dura. At least three more civilians were hurt when another car bomb exploded in Dura as a police patrol drove by. In a third incident in Dura, three people were killed in a drive-by shooting.

The Al Qaeda-linked group of Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi, in a statement on the Internet, said it carried out the three suicide attacks. In Ramadi, two suicide car bombs exploded, but there were no US or Iraqi casualties, the military said.

It added that insurgents looted a radio and television station in Haditha. South of Baghdad, Iraqi police major Bassem Shaker was gunned down outside his home in Kar-mah bin Said near Nasiriyah.

On the political front, Talabani said on state-run Iraqiya television that the prime minister-designate, Ibrahim Al Jaafari, would unveil his government today. But members of Jaafari’s Shi’ite parliament bloc deflated hopes for the announcement of a government, saying talks were expected today too.

Jaafari spokesman Adnan Ali Al Kadhimi cautioned the names would not be ready, and Shi’ite MP Ali Al Dabbagh added leaders were still waiting to hear back from Sunni politicians on a possible list of cabinet candidates.

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