April 21, 2005

Iraq: Murder along the Rivers


Over 70 Iraqi bodies were discovered yesterday in two separate locations, one on the Tigris River and one on the Euphrates River.

At least 50 bodies were pulled from the Tigris yesterday morning southeast of Baghdad and down river from the town of Mada'in (15 miles southeast of Baghdad), the location where Shi'a residents last week claimed that as many as 100 of their fellow Shi'a were taken hostage by Sunni insurgents. When Iraqi and American forces searched the area, they found no evidence of hostages, nor was there any concrete information on the number of hostages. Some Sunnis in town claim the hostage situation was a hoax to incite violence.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is speculating that the bodies are those of the Mada'in hostages from last week. If that is the case, these will be Shi'a remains, killed at the hands of Sunni insurgents. The Shi'a have already said they will not be baited into a response. The Shi'a clerics exercise great moral authority and discipline - so far.

Along the Euphrates, there were also 19 Iraqis National Guardsmen killed in Hadithah, 130 miles northwest of Baghdad. This is in the so-called Sunni triangle. There are indications that many of the residents are getting sick of the Iraqi on Iraqi violence, especially after the Sunni Clerics Association cleared the way for young men to join the National Guard.

Although the dead were initially identified as guardsmen, they were subsequently indentified as fisherman who may have stumbled on to an insurgent camp.