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Fear curbs holiday celebrations in Iraq's Mosul
by Staff Writers
Mosul, Iraq (AFP) Oct 17, 2013

Fugitive Iraqi leader to return home if assured of fair trial
Brussels (AFP) Oct 17, 2013 - Fugitive Iraqi vice president Tareq al-Hashemi, sentenced to death on murder charges, said Thursday he would return home if the EU could help guarantee him a fair trial.

"My case is politically motivated and the charges are absolutely fabricated," Hashemi told a press conference in Brussels.

"Nevertheless, I now express my readiness to return to Baghdad immediately ... in (the case) the EU guarantees a fair trial," he said.

Hashemi, a Sunni Muslim leader, was charged in 2011 with a series of murders of senior officials, including judges and lawyers, the day after US forces withdrew from Iraq.

He was tried in absentia the following year and sentenced to death.

Hashemi came to Brussels at the invitation of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament.

Hashemi spoke to journalists and several MEPs in a nearby press centre, arguing that the situation in Iraq under Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, a Shiite, was now worse than before the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein.

He also accused predominantly Shiite Iran of stoking sectarian conflict in Iraq.

Fear generated by near-daily violence has kept residents of Iraq's second-largest city Mosul at home this Eid al-Adha rather than out celebrating the main Muslim holiday of the year.

Nineveh province and its capital Mosul are among the most dangerous parts of Iraq, with militants carrying out frequent bombings and shootings and also allegedly extorting money from shop owners.

In better times, people would celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday with visits to friends and family or trips to amusement parks with their children, but not this year.

"We prefer to celebrate Eid with the family in the house, rather than going out and being exposed to the danger of explosions," said 27-year-old Taisir Abdulwahab.

Ali Bassam sat near the door of his home in the east Mosul neighbourhood of Al-Zuhur, wearing his new Eid clothes, unable to go out to spend the money given to him by relatives for the holiday.

"We were prevented this Eid from going to ... playgrounds" and amusement parks, the disappointed eight-year-old said.

Despite the efforts of the security forces to rein in the militants, Nineveh province remains plagued by violence.

A suicide bomber blew up a vehicle in a village east of Mosul on Thursday, killing 15 people, while three more died in other violence in and around the city.

On October 6, 10 schoolchildren were among 18 dead in suicide bombings at a primary school and a police station near Mosul.

The previous day, two journalists were gunned down in Mosul, the latest in a long list of people to be targeted for assassination in the city.

Leaflets signed by militant groups, including Al-Qaeda front group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, have been circulated around the province calling on security force personnel to desert their posts.

Not everyone in the city chose to stay at home during the holiday.

Near Ali's house, 40-year-old Umm Samir was preparing to take her family to a Mosul amusement park.

Everyone "should challenge the security conditions... and go out," she said.

They should "also help security forces in their duty by telling (them) about suspicious cases."

But her attitude is not shared by many.

Amusement parks, which in happier years would have been packed with children being treated to a holiday day-out, have seen a drop in customers.

"Attendance is weak this season because of the violent attacks that Mosul is undergoing," said Hassan Aziz, 30, an amusement park employee.

The security forces' closure of road junctions in Mosul as a precaution against attacks also discouraged people from going out, he said.

Sunni-majority Nineveh province is not the only area of Iraq to be hit by violence, which has risen this year to a level not seen since 2008.

Nationwide, violence has killed more than 390 people so far this month, and over 5,100 since the beginning of the year, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.

A study released this month by academics based in Canada, Iraq and the United States said nearly half a million people have died from war-related causes in Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003.


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Suicide bomber kills 15 in north Iraq
Mosul, Iraq (AFP) Oct 17, 2013
A suicide bomber detonated a vehicle rigged with explosives in a village in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing 15 people, police and a doctor said. The blast tore through a residential area of Al-Muwaffaqiyah, a village east of Mosul that is mainly populated by members of the Shabak minority. The 30,000-strong Shabak community mostly live near Iraq's border with Turkey. They speak a ... read more

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