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IRAQ WARS
Gunmen kidnap 20 would-be Iraqi soldiers
by Staff Writers
Tikrit, Iraq (AFP) Nov 30, 2012


Iraq violence rises in November
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 1, 2012 - The number of people killed in attacks in Iraq rose in November compared with October, many of them dying in the last few days of the month, figures compiled by the government and AFP showed.

According to figures from the health, interior and defence ministries, a total of 166 people were killed in attacks in November -- 101 civilians, 35 police and 30 soldiers, while 252 -- 129 civilians, 68 police and 55 soldiers -- were wounded.

An AFP tally based on information from security and medical sources meanwhile put the figure at 160 killed and 664 wounded.

Government figures for October indicated that 144 people were killed that month, while AFP's tally showed 136 people were killed.

According to the AFP figures, 82 people -- more than half of those killed in the entire month -- died in attacks from November 26 through 30.

Ali al-Haidari, an Iraqi security expert, pointed to the relaxation of tight measures put in place for major Ashura Shiite religious commemorations that peaked on November 25 as a possible explanation for some of the violence at the end of the month.

"What happened is that security forces were in the peak of readiness and activity during the last occasion (Ashura)," but became less so after the commemorations concluded, Haidari said.

"Security forces usually become tired after such occasions, and the enemy benefits from this directly," he added.

While the end of November saw a spate of attacks, the Ashura commemorations, during which dozens of people were killed in attacks in years past, were largely free of violence.

However, two attacks against Shiite pilgrims killed three people and wounded 35.

Members of Iraq's security forces and the country's Shiite majority are both frequently targeted in bomb attacks by Sunni insurgents.

Violence in Iraq has decreased dramatically from its peak in 2006 and 2007, when brutal sectarian violence swept the country, but attacks remain common.

Gunmen kidnapped 20 men on Friday who were travelling from northern Iraq to Baghdad for medical tests needed to join the army, but the hostages were later freed in an army operation, officers said.

They were seized at Al-Amin restaurant near Baiji, a police lieutenant colonel said, adding that the kidnappers took them in eight vehicles toward Anbar province, which is home home to various former insurgent strongholds.

A colonel from the army's 4th Division, which is responsible for the area where the incident occurred, confirmed that 20 people were kidnapped near Baiji, but did not provide details.

The army officer later said four Al-Qaeda members were arrested and the 20 people who were kidnapped were freed, and that they were now at an army base in central Tikrit.

The police officer said the 20 were freed in an army operation about 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of Baiji in which four of the kidnappers were arrested.

Kidnappings were common during the worst years of sectarian violence in Iraq, but have declined since then.

Violence has also dropped significantly from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks, which usually target security forces, government officials or members of Iraq's Shiite majority, remain common.

PM warns of 'ethnic conflict' in Iraq
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 1, 2012 - Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday warned of the danger of "ethnic conflict" in Iraq, after negotiations aimed at easing Arab-Kurd tensions in the country's north stalled this week.

"If conflict erupts, it would be unfortunate and painful, and it will be an ethnic conflict" that is "not in the interest of Kurds nor Arabs nor Turkmen," Maliki told a news conference in Baghdad.

Talks between federal and Kurdish security officials aimed at easing high tensions between the two sides in northern Iraq broke down over Baghdad's refusal to scrap the Tigris Operations Command, the autonomous Kurdistan region's government said in a statement on Friday.

The establishment of the federal Tigris Operations Command, which covers disputed territory in northern Iraq, has drawn an angry response from Kurdish leaders who want to incorporate much of the area into their region.

Maliki also defended federal troop movements in the north, saying it is the army's right "to be in any part of Iraq."

And he ruled out the redeployment of US forces to help ease the tensions, saying it is "the responsibility of the Iraqi government and the (Kurdistan) region to work to end their problems without the assistance of a third party."

US forces played a coordinating role between Kurdish and Arab forces in disputed territory, forming joint patrols and checkpoints comprised of US soldiers, Iraqi troops, and Kurdish forces.

But US troops withdrew from Iraq last year, removing a buffer to Arab-Kurd tensions.

The dispute over territory in northern Iraq is the biggest threat to the country's long-term stability, diplomats and officials say. Ties between Baghdad and Kurdistan are also marred by disputes over oil and power-sharing.

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