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IRAQ WARS
Iraq death toll falls but violence still high: AFP
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) March 1, 2013


Bombings in Iraq kill at least eight
Diwaniyah, Iraq (AFP) March 1, 2013 - Bombings in Iraq, including two car bombs at a sheep market, killed at least eight people and wounded dozens more on Friday, security and medical officials said.

Brigadier General Abdul Jalil al-Assadi, the police chief of Diwaniyah province, said the car bombs went off at about 7:30 am (0430 GMT) in the market, south of the province's capital of the same name.

Dr Adnan Turki, director of the Diwaniyah health department, put the toll from the blasts at six dead and 60 wounded, revising an earlier count.

Two roadside bombs exploded in a village near Dujail, north of Baghdad, killing one person and wounding five, including three police, a police lieutenant colonel and a doctor said.

One soldier was killed by a magnetic "sticky bomb" on his car near the north Iraq city of Mosul, an army first lieutenant and a doctor said.

And two car bombs -- one near a school and another near a police checkpoint -- detonated in Mussayib, south of Baghdad, wounding two people, police and a medic said.

The blasts came a day after at least 26 people were killed and more than 60 wounded in a series of bomb attacks in the Baghdad area and shootings in northern Iraq.

Violence in Iraq is down significantly from its 2006-2007 peak, but even 10 years after the 2003 US-led invasion which toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, attacks still occur almost every day.

The death toll from attacks in Iraq fell in February from January, but more than 200 were still killed for the second month in a row, AFP data showed on Friday.

In February attacks, 220 people were killed and 571 wounded -- down from 246 killed and 735, respectively, according to the tally, based on security and medical sources.

But violence is still up significantly compared to the last three months of 2012 -- 144 people were killed in December, 160 in November and 136 in October.

Most of February's casualties were civilians.

There were six days in the month when 10 or more people were killed in violence, the same number as January.

The deadliest was February 3, when attacks, including a combined suicide car bombing and assault by grenade-throwing gunmen on a police headquarters, left 36 people dead and 91 wounded.

Violence is down markedly from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks still remain common even 10 years after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Iraq finance minister announces resignation at demo
Ramadi, Iraq (AFP) March 1, 2013 - Iraqi Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi announced his resignation on Friday at an anti-government protest, ramping up a conflict between his secular Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc and the Shiite premier.

State television quoted Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office as saying the resignation of Essawi, a leading Sunni and Iraqiya member, would not be accepted until an investigation into "his financial and administrative violations" was complete.

"I announce, in response to you now, that I present my resignation," Essawi told thousands of demonstrators in Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

"I will not be part of a government that has blood on its hands. I will not sell you (or) sell your rights," he said.

"We are with you, Essawi," protesters chanted, also shouting "Allahu akbar!" (God is greatest).

Maliki is at loggerheads with Iraqiya, which is a part of his national unity government, over its accusations of authoritarianism and sectarianism in the run-up to key provincial polls due to be held next month.

"The resignation proves that the political crisis in the country cannot be solved soon," Iraqi political analyst Ihsan al-Shammari told AFP.

"Essawi knows now that he cannot continue working with this government, especially at a time when there are (reports) that there is an arrest warrant against him," Shammari said, referring to Iraqi media reports.

Protests have been staged in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq for weeks, calling for Maliki's resignation and decrying the alleged targeting of their community by the Shiite-led authorities.

The protests were initially sparked by the arrest of several of Essawi's guards on terrorism charges in December, but have since expanded markedly.

In addition to Ramadi, demonstrations were also held on Friday in areas including Mosul, Fallujah, Tikrit, Samarra and Baghdad.

The resignation "was taken after coordination with Iraqiya, because Dr Rafa al-Essawi thinks that the procedure taken against him by the prime minister made it impossible for (Essawi) to work with him," MP Haidar al-Mullah, an Iraqiya spokesman, told AFP, referring to the arrest of the guards.

"Iraqiya will discuss all options in order to put pressure to achieve the demands of the protesters," Mullah said.

In Baghdad, security forces cordoned off Sunni areas including Adhamiyah to prevent protesters from leaving, and set up additional checkpoints in the city.

The Iraqi government has sought to curtail demonstrations by saying it has released thousands of detainees and raised the salaries of the Sahwa anti-Qaeda militiamen.

Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said on Thursday that 4,000 prisoners had been released since the start of the year, some of whom can request compensation if they are not guilty of a crime.

The arrest of Essawi's guards at the end of last year came almost exactly a year after Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's guards were arrested and accused of terrorism.

An arrest warrant was also issued for Hashemi, also a member of the Iraqiya bloc, who fled to Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region and eventually to Turkey, saying the charges against him were politically motivated.

Hashemi has since been given multiple death sentences in absentia on charges including murder, while death sentences have been handed to his guards as well.

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