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Daily Archives: January 25, 2008

Bomber kills Iraq police chief as he visits blast scene

A suicide bomber killed the chief of police of Iraq's main northern city of Mosul and two other officers on yesterday as they visited the scene of an earlier blast, the US military said.

The US military blamed Al-Qaeda for the "cowardly" attack on Brigadier General Salah al-Juburi which it said had been carried out by a bomber disguised as a policeman as the police chief visited the wreckage of an apartment block in which 18 people were killed in Wednesday's bombing.

"A suicide bomber detonated a vest bomb at the site of yesterday's bombing in Mosul," the military said.

"Two Iraqi police were killed in the blast, and one Iraqi army and one coalition force soldier was injured.

"Brigadier General Salah, the provincial director of police, was also killed in the blast.

"The Iraqi army and coalition forces have determined that the suicide bomber was an impostor wearing an Iraqi police uniform."

The US military blamed the attack on Al-Qaeda which has made Iraq's third city a major base for its operations.

"This cowardly behaviour is yet another example of Al-Qaeda in Iraq's complete disregard for human life and another attempt to take down the legitimate Iraqi security forces," it said.

The attack came as Juburi was visiting emergency teams sifting through the rubble of Wednesday's bombing which levelled a three-storey apartment block and shattered some 15 adjoining houses.

Police General Abdel Karim al-Juburi said the death toll of 18 could rise further as emergency teams were still continuing their search through the wreckage. He said 148 people were also wounded.

The US military said three Iraqi soldiers were among the dead.

The explosion, the largest heard in the restive city for several years, apparently occurred when soldiers searching for a munitions cache in a deserted building in west Mosul triggered a booby-trap, US military and Iraqi officials said.

An Iraqi security official said the building was being readied by the Iraqi army for use as a snipers' position to stop Al-Qaeda fighters using a nearby bridge to hang victims of their kidnappings — one of their favoured execution spots.

US intelligence experts warn that the city, 370 kilometres (225 miles) north of Baghdad, remains a dangerous "strategic centre of gravity for Al-Qaeda".

The jihadists, they say, can easily blend in with the local population, which is ethnically diverse.

Three weeks ago, US and Iraqi forces launched a fresh assault against Al-Qaeda operatives, blamed for much of the violence in Iraq.

US military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said on Sunday that since the launch on January 8 of Operation Phantom Phoenix, 18 battalion-level operations had been carried out during which 1,023 suspected extremists had been arrested and 121 killed.

In other violence on yesterday, two Iraqi policemen were killed in the heart of Baghdad when a roadside bomb detonated as their convoy passed, medical and security sources said.

One policeman and two bystanders were also wounded in the 8 am (1300 Macau) blast in the Karrada district, said a doctor at the Al-Kindi hospital where the casualties were taken.


Rebel ex-general, armed groups sign peace pact in DR Congo

by Albert Kambale*


The movement of rebel ex-general Laurent Nkunda and other militias on Wednesday signed an "act of engagement" for an immediate ceasefire in eastern DR Congo's Kivu provinces.

Kambasu Ngeze, lead negotiator for Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), was the first envoy from an armed group to sign the text.

The ceremony took place at the end of a peace conference that began on January 6 at Goma, the regional capital of Nord-Kivu, the province where much of the worst fighting has taken place.

Applause filled the conference venue as the text was signed.

President Joseph Kabila was present for the closing ceremony as delegates from other armed movements each in turn signed the landmark text providing for an immediate ceasefire and gradual troop withdrawals.

"We have won a great victory of the sceptics," Kabila said, whilst conceding there were "immense challenges" ahead.

The deal was also welcomed by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon in a statement issued from Geneva. Ban said he was "very encouraged by the commitment of the armed groups of North and South Kivu to end all hostilities."

The UN chief also appealed to all parties to "act quickly and effectively to implement agreements reached".

He also appealed to "the international community, particularly the DRC's neighbours in the Great Lakes region, to fully support the implementation of these commitments."

The document is the first public and official peace settlement for the two Kivu provinces, ravaged by conflict since the end of a war that raged across the whole Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998 and 2003.

It was presented by top conference officials to the warring sides on Monday in draft form, but the gathering had to be extended by two days before all the parties reached agreement.

National television, in live coverage of the event attended by hundreds of delegates from Nord- and Sud-Kivu, called the signing ceremony a "historic moment".

The nation has been riven by strife since 1996, when autocratic ruler Mobutu Sese Seko was ousted by Laurent-Desire Kabila, the current president's father, who was assassinated in 2001.

The violence in the two provinces has driven more than a million people in the region from their homes, particularly in the north.

The overall conference recommendations, were agreed by elected politicians, members of the different ethnic communities, local business people and other community players.

They make it clear that the support of the UN mission in the DRC, MONUC, the largest peacekeeping force deployed by the world body will be crucial.

Since August last year, though a truce was called for the duration of the conference, Nord-Kivu has seen incessant clashes between the DR Congo army.

Kabila has sent in 25,000 government troops to confront Nkunda's forces, estimated by observers in the UN mission in the DR Congo, at about 4,000.

The conflict has also embroiled warriors from different tribes who have formed local Mai Mai, and an estimated 6,000 Hutu rebels from neighbouring Rwanda, whom Nkunda regards as his main foes.

The Kigali government holds some of these Hutu exiles responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, when the United Nations estimates that nearly 800,000 people were killed, mainly Tutsis.

Sud-Kivu has seen clashes among the army, Congolese Tutsis like Nkunda, and Mai Mai forces. In their recommendations, delegates want UN peacekeeping forces to monitor the ceasefire and "make safe the return of the internally displaced and refugees".

In both provinces, villagers live in fear of uniformed men. Aid agencies, relief workers and rights groups have all reported widespread violations and atrocities, particularly the rape of women by both local and foreign fighters.