Monday, August 20, 2007

Provincial governor assassinated; Second in two weeks

Above: An Iraqi policeman guards the governor's house in Samawah, capital of Muthanna province. Security control for the province, which borders Saudi Arabia, was turned over to Iraqi forces in June of 2006. The province was once part of Qadisiyah province, whose provincial governor was assassinated on August 11. The southern provinces have been witness to increasing power plays between Shia militias.

Iraqi Governor Is Assassinated

The governor of a southern Iraqi province was assassinated today by a roadside bomb, officials said, in the latest attack to open up the prospect of escalating violence among Shiites.

The killing of the official, Muhammad Ali Al-Hassani, was the second time this month that a provincial governor was assassinated. On Aug. 11, the governor of Qadisiya Province was killed in a roadside bomb attack in a southern region that has been a battleground between Shiite factions.

In today’s attack, Mr. Hassani was leaving his house in the Rumaitha area of Samawa in Muthana Province for his office when he and a number of his security personnel were killed by the bomb, an Iraqi army commander said.

”The governor was in continuous battles with the militias in the area,” said Gen. Habeeb Al-Husseini, the commander of 10th division of the Iraqi army in Samawa. “I believe this attack came as retaliation on his attempts to eliminate their influence”.

General Husseini, in a telephone interview, said that a curfew has been imposed on the area and Iraqi forces increased.

“The city is calm now, but we expect some armed confrontations,” he said.

Read the rest at the NY Times

Shi'ite rifts deepen as another Iraqi governor is killed

Bombers killed an Iraqi provincial governor on Monday -- the second assassinated in two weeks -- amid mounting tension between rival Shi'ite armed factions in Iraq's southern cities...

Sectarian violence between Shi'ite and Sunni factions have dominated the headlines since the United States-led invasion of March 2003, but tensions inside both rival communities have also sometimes erupted in bloodshed.

Recent months have seen mounting reports of intra-Shi'ite violence between the SIIC's militia, the Badr Organisation, and Sadr's Mehdi Army. Fighting broke out between the factions in Samawa in July.

Many Badr fighters have been recruited into Iraq's new security forces, while the Mehdi Army is a loosely controlled militia movement that can field tens of thousands of gunmen drawn from the Shi'ite underclass.

Al-Sadr's movement, however, denied any involvement in killing the governors.

"We condemn this assassination and also the previous one too," said Sheikh Ahmed al-Shaibani, the spokesman for al-Sadr's movement in the holy city of Najaf. "We want to assure that we have no links with the two assassinations."

Read the rest at the Mail & Guardian

Related Link:
Fears of Shia civil war following assasination of provincial governor