Nine severed heads found in Baghdad
Police said the heads were discovered in plastic bags in its northern al-Hadid district.india Updated: Jun 06, 2006 14:48 IST
Nine severed heads were found in the latest atrocity in a volatile area north of Baghdad on Tuesday, police said, as Iraqi leaders faced a crisis over filling key security jobs critical to ending rampant bloodshed.
Police in the city of Baquba, 65 km north of the capital, said the heads were discovered in plastic bags in its northern al-Hadid district. No other details were immediately available.
It was the second such gruesome discovery in or near Baquba in the last few days.
On Saturday, police said they found the cut-off heads of seven cousins and a Sunni Arab Imam by the side of the road outside Baquba.
Baquba is the main city of Diyala province, a religiously mixed area that has seen frequent guerrilla attacks aimed at toppling the US-backed, Shi'ite led government and other sectarian violence.
Also in Diyala, gunmen on Sunday dragged 24 people, mostly students, out of their cars and shot them dead. The victims included Shi'ite Turkmen, one of Iraq's ethnic minorities.
Such violence underscores the monumental task new Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki faces in averting a slide towards civil war in the ethnically and religiously divided country of 26 million people.
The formation of his self-styled government of national unity on May 20 raised hopes both in Iraq and abroad that it would be able to defuse relentless killings.
But powerful factions within the government have so far failed to agree on the new interior and defence ministers, left vacant when Maliki took office less than three weeks ago due to intense wrangling.
Political sources said Maliki's rivals in his ruling Shi'ite Alliance had objected to his choice for interior minister, a job that also includes being in charge of police.
Officials in the Alliance and other blocs question whether his government can survive the combined pressure of internal rivalries and a wave of killings that seem to spare no one.
The United States, keen to see improvement on the ground so that it can start withdrawing its 133,000 troops in Iraq, hopes Maliki will name ministers who can start restoring stability.
"To his great credit the reason he has not yet put them in place is because he was determined that they be competent and that they govern from the centre," US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a newspaper interview published on Tuesday.
"And that is why it is taking so darn long for them to get those people in place," the Australian newspaper quotes him as saying.
In Baghdad, gunmen shot dead the second head of a Baghdad district council in as many days, medical sources said.
Thoaban Abdul Kathim, of the western al-Jihad district, was shot dead along with an aide and his driver while they were heading to their office, they said.
It came a day after the killing of his counterpart in Baghdad's Mansour district, also shot with his driver. Medical sources said the same type of bullets were used in the two assassinations.
South of Baghdad, an Italian soldier was killed and four others were wounded on Monday when a bomb blew up the vehicle they were travelling in about 100 km from their base in Nassiriya in southern Iraq, the Italian army said.
Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who took office last month, has vowed to live up to campaign promises for a swift pull-out of Italy's military presence of around 2,600 troops.
He recently called the Iraq war a "grave error".