U.S. BLAMES SYRIA FOR CAR BOMBINGS THAT KILLED 200 IN IRAQ DAYS AGO
SEPT 17 2005
A string of attacks against majority Shiites has left some 200 dead in Iraq this week, one of the bloodiest periods since the 2003 US led invasion, while the US administration has ratcheted up accusations that Syria is supporting insurgents.
The latest attack saw a suicide car bomber targeting Shiite worshippers on Friday as they left a mosque in Tuz Khurmatu, 170 kilometers (100 miles) north of Baghdad. Eleven worshippers were killed and 24 others were wounded.
The bloodshed followed a call Wednesday by Al Qaeda's frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, for "total war" against the Shiites, a threat that religious leaders from both communities warned could spark a sectarian war.
Zarqawi's extremist Sunni group had claimed responsibility for a wave of bombings in Baghdad, including one Wednesday that killed some 112 Shiite day labourers as they waited for work.
Nationwide, the death toll hit nearly 150 Wednesday, at least 23 on Thursday and more than 20 on Friday.
In violence on Saturday, one Iraqi was killed and 17 others, including three soldiers, were wounded in Baquba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of the capital, when an Iraqi army patrol was hit by a car bomb, police said.
Two US army patrols came under attacks Saturday in Tikrit, hometown of ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but no casualties were reported, the US military said.
Eleven bodies were also found at various locations in Iraq. All were blindfolded and handcuffed and had been shot at close range, security sources said.
The Jordanian born extremist, who has a 25 million dollar US bounty on his head, has claimed his total war is in revenge for a US Iraqi crackdown on the northern town of Tal Afar near the Syrian border.
But Zarqawi's call was condemned by the Committee of Muslim Scholars Iraq's main religious authority of the disenchanted Sunni Arabs.
"What Zarqawi said is very dangerous and plays into the hands of the occupier who wants to split up the country and spark a sectarian war," the committee said.
"From a religious point of view, you (Zarqawi) must renounce your threat because it abuses the image of jihad (holy war)," the statement said.
The Committee of Scholars said "Iraq's Shiites are not responsible for the government's sectarian policy.
Meanwhile, the United States has stepped up its rhetoric against Syria, blaming Damascus for the new string of suicide bombings in Iraq and threatening unspecified international action if it fails to crack down on Islamic militants using its territory as a staging base.
"Innocent people are getting blown up in Iraq because Syria is allowing its territory to be used by terrorists bent on sowing murder and mayhem in Iraq and they're not going to succeed," Deputy State Department Spokesman Adam Ereli said Friday.
The international community was going to act "because Syria, more and more, is being recognized as a destabilizing element in the region," she added.
Syria had strongly denied having anything to do with the bombings in Iraq and expressed its willingness to cooperate with Washington and Baghdad on sealing the Syrian Iraqi border.
A statement Thursday by the Syrian embassy in Washington expressed readiness "to do whatever it takes" to achieve this goal.
The United Nations said it expected Iraq's draft constitution to be printed and distributed to five million households after a final reading before parliament on Sunday.
The document, which is to be put to a referendum on October 15, was only agreed on Wednesday after months of tortuous negotiations, with many Sunnis saying it deprives them of wealth and Iraq of unity.
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