Iraq's police overwhelmed by violence
More than 3,000 Iraqis were killed in June, an escalation of the country's death toll.
At her home in central Baghdad, Niran al-Sammarai frets over the fate of her husband, kidnapped Saturday with 30 of his colleagues from a conference hall in one of the most heavily patrolled parts of Baghdad.Skip to next paragraph
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In Rasafah district, a police captain says he and colleagues are contemplating mass resignations in frustration over mistrust from US forces and orders from Iraqi politicians to release known criminals.
In the once fashionable Mansoor shopping district, metal grates are drawn over half of the businesses. And in Karada, one of Baghdad's safest neighborhoods, many of the businesses are shuttered too. The remaining shopkeepers complain that poor security is driving customers away.
In Baghdad and across much of the center and south of the country, the rhythms of normal life and commerce are rapidly breaking down in a sign that US and Iraqi government plans to build an effective security force are faltering. Reports of police standing aside as civilians get attacked are common, as are claims by survivors that government security forces, infiltrated by sectarian militias, took part in the killings.
The United Nations estimates 14,338 Iraqis were killed in the first six months of the year, and there are indications the rate of bloodshed is rising; more than 3,000 Iraqis were killed in June, most after the June 7 killing of Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose death US officials had hoped would diminsh violence.
"The government promised security, but the increasing number of bombs in our neighborhood proves that they're failing,'' says Ibrahim Mohammed, who runs a leather-jacket store in Karada where sales have collapsed "to almost nothing" in the past few months.
The escalating violence induced the reclusive top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to call Thursday "on those who are keen for the unity and future of this country ... to exert maximum efforts to stop the bloodletting."
Members of the Shiite endowment board, which oversees Shiite mosques, suspended their work for five days in a sign of solidarity with their Sunni counterparts after 20 members of the Sunni endowment board were kidnapped. But despite such moves to bring unity, violence has continued largely unabated.
US military officials said Thursday that violence jumped in the capital over the past five days from an average of 24 attacks a day to 34 despite a security plan unveiled last month with much fanfare.
"We have not witnessed the reduction in violence one would have hoped for in a perfect world," said US spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell at a press conference. But he said the plan is "a start." Policemen interviewed across the capital say it's too dangerous to confront insurgents and militia groups. Recently in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, men, women, and children were killed in an insurgent assault that witnesses interviewed by Iraqi journalists say local police did nothing to stop.
The kidnapping of Ms. Sammarai's husband illustrates the extent of the problem. Her husband, Ahmed al-Hajia, who heads Iraq's National Olympic Committee, was leading a committee meeting on Saturday at the Oil Culture Center in Baghdad's Bab al-Sheikh neighborhood.
The center is next to Baghdad's busiest bank, a quarter-mile from Baghdad's Major Crimes Unit, and a half-mile from Tahrir Square, where Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled after US forces captured Baghdad.
The area is usually rife with Iraqi police and army checkpoints.