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IRAQ: String of assassinations raises spectre of renewed violence [Updated]

May 6, 2010 |  6:08 am

  Has it started again?

On Thursday morning, authorities in Baghdad found the bullet-riddled corpse of an Iraqi security official in eastern Baghdad.

The body of Abdul-Salaam Hassan, a section chief of the Ministry of National Security, showed signs of torture, a security source said. He was blindfolded, with his hands tied behind his back.

It was the latest in a mysterious string of assassinations and attempted killings of prominent Iraqis that hark back to the bad days of Iraq's sectarian and political violence.

[Updated, 8:30 a.m. PST:  Late Thursday Baghdad time came word of yet another killing. The body of Kurdish journalist, Sardashet Othman, was discovered in Mosul two days after he was reportedly kidnapped in the city of Erbil.]

Overall, killings in Iraq are slightly on the rise, though not nearly at the levels of Iraqi slayings in 2006 or 2007. About 275 civilians were killed in political violence last month, compared with a little more than 200 the previous month. Many of the victims were innocent bystanders in attacks targeting security forces, such as the two killed Thursday when a roadside bomb targeting a passing army patrol missed its mark.

But the assassinations suggest the killers -- whether Sunni insurgents or Shiite militiamen -- have reestablished intelligence and surveillance networks.

Just a day before Hassan's assassination, gunmen killed Sheik Abdel Jalil Khashab, the Sunni Arab preacher at the Ekhwa Saliheen mosque in the once-notorious Ameriya district of western Baghdad. Khashab was a prominent member of a moderate Sunni clerical association that had been criticized by extremists.

On April 29, a roadside bomb nearly killed a ranking Interior Ministry official while he drove through western Baghdad.

The assassinations aren't confined to the capital. On Monday, gunmen broke into a Sunni mosque after sunset, and killed Sheik Abdul-Hamid Hassan Jabouri, a cleric and at least one worshiper.

A day earlier, a bomb targeted two electricity ministry officials in Baghdad. They survived the attack.

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut


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