BAGHDAD (AFP) – Bombs ripped through an Iraqi market as anti-Israeli protests by Shiite groups went into a second day and the Iraqi army announced that it had killed two suspected insurgents.
Three homemade bombs detonated in a crowded street market in the restive city of Baquba, north of Baghdad, wounding 10 people in an area which has become notorious for sectarian attacks by rival Sunni and Shiite extremists.
In the southern town of Amara the body of a policeman who was also a former member of ousted president Saddam Hussein’s Baath party was found floating in the Tigris river with a bullet in the head, local police told AFP.
At least 11 more tortured corpses were found in and around the capital, in what has become a grim daily harvest of the victims of rival death squads, whose urban dirty war has pushed Iraq to the brink of all-out civil conflict.
US and Iraqi forces are believed to be preparing a major push to win back control of Baghdad from militias and insurgent gangs, and on Saturday their headquarters reported the results of several security operations.
Iraqi defence ministry spokesman Ibrahim Shaker said in a statement that in the preceding 24 hours government troops had shot dead two “terrorists” and seized 63 suspects in raids across the country.
Meanwhile, the US air force announced that F-16 fighter jets had dropped several 500 pound (227 kilo) GBU-12 laser-guided and GBU-38 satellite-guided bombs on an insurgent position near Baghdad “achieving the intended effects”.
The air force gave no further details of the airstrike, part of a pattern of such raids on the periphery of Baghdad in recent weeks.
Crowds from Iraq’s Shiite community on Saturday continued to protest against Israel’s 25-day-old campaign against their co-religionists in Lebanon.
A 100-strong crowd rallied peacefully outside US and British consulates in the mainly Shiite southern city of Basra, while another group marched to government offices further north in Kut.
A British spokeswoman in Basra said: “They brought press with them and were heard to demand the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, and said that the UK and the US should pay for the damage (caused by Israeli bombing).
“The group dispersed after media interviews at around 11:30am,” she said, adding that Britain was “gravely concerned about the situation in Lebanon” and had earmarked 6.2 million pounds (11.8 million dollars) for humanitarian aid.
On Friday, hundreds of thousands of Shiites marched in Baghad in support of Lebanon’s Shiite militia Hezbollah. The rally was largely peaceful, but three demonstrators were shot dead as they drove home through a Sunni suburb.
Also on Friday, insurgent fighters blitzed the restive ethnically-mixed northern city of Mosul with at least six bombs and a mortar barrage, killing nine police and triggering a six-hour gunfight.
Mosul police said they killed a large number of insurgents in the battle.