Deadly Anniversary In Iraq

The first anniversary of Saddam Hussein's capture was marked by violence across Iraq, including a suicide car bombing that killed 13 people in Baghdad and a report that seven U.S. Marines died in combat in western Iraq.

The car bomb exploded at a checkpoint near the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies in Baghdad. At least 13 people were killed and another 15 were injured. The U.S. military said there were no injuries to its troops.

The blast occurred when a vehicle that had been waiting in line to enter the zone at its western Harthiyah gate exploded as it drove up to the checkpoint. Fifteen other cars were destroyed in the blast. Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted on an Islamic web site regularly used by militants.

U.S. officials announced Monday that seven soldiers in the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were killed in two separate incidents while conducting "security and stabilization operations" in Anbar province, which includes the volatile city of Fallujah.

Two more Marines were killed in action in Iraq's volatile western Anbar province, the military said Tuesday, taking the number of Marines reported killed in the region in past three days to 10.

At least 1,298 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The deaths of the Marines were reported a day after U.S. warplanes pounded Fallujah with missiles as rebel forces battled coalition troops in the city.

In other recent developments:

  • The commander of Australia's 350 soldiers in Iraq says hit men are being recruited from other Arab countries to come to Iraq and kill coalition soldiers. "We are seeing zealots brought in from outside Iraq and paid $50 for contract killings," says Air Commodore Greg Evens, in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph in Sydney.
  • Four decapitated bodies in civilian clothes were found in Haswa, about 25 miles south of Baghdad. The victims, who have not been identified, are believed to be Iraqis.
  • In Tikrit Sunday, two rebels died after detonating their explosives-packed car alongside an American M1 Abrams battle tank. No soldiers were wounded and the tank sustained negligible damage.

    In Kirkuk Monday, gunmen shot to death an Iraqi translator working for U.S. forces and at the same time severely wounded an Iraqi passerby.

    Translators and other Iraqis working for coalition forces have repeatedly been targeted by rebels, who consider them to be collaborators in the occupation of Iraq.

    A year after ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was fished out of a hole in the ground and taken into custody by U.S. forces, the Dec. 13th anniversary of his arrest is being noted by his lawyers, in a statement issued from Jordan.

    The lawyers - who were hired last year by Saddam's wife, Sajida - say he is being held illegally by U.S. and Iraqi authorities.

    Accusing the U.S. of violating Saddam's human rights, the attorneys say his arrest and detention "was more of a forced abduction that later became compulsory concealment and solitary confinement, acts rejected by all international conventions."

    The lawyers have not been able to speak with Saddam. And they were not present on July 1 when he was arraigned in Baghdad on preliminary charges, which include killing rival politicians, gassing Kurds, invading Kuwait in 1990 and suppressing popular uprisings in 1991.

    The trial itself isn't expected to begin until 2006.

    Many of the former Iraqi leader's top aides are also detained, awaiting trial.

    Several of them - according to U.S. officials and a lawyer - have begun refusing meals in an apparent protest against their own upcoming trials.

    Iraq's U.S.-backed interim government is sticking to its resolve to go ahead with the elections scheduled for January 30th, despite continued violence aimed at derailing the elections.

    "We have a full desire that all Iraqis will participate, despite their color, sex, race, religion or their political background, because Iraq belongs to all Iraqis," said interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, speaking on Iraqiya TV about what will be the nation's first elections since the collapse of the Saddam Hussein government.

    Two moderate, mainly Sunni Muslim parties announced they would field slates for the polls, despite calls by some Sunni politicians for a boycott.

    Sunnis traditionally have enjoyed significant privilege in Iraq, but have lost their political ascendancy since Saddam's fall. The country's majority Shiites - numbering 60 percent of the population - are expected to exploit their weight of numbers and dominate the post-election legislature.

    "They (the Sunnis) realized that there was no chance for postponing and that it's better to participate," said Nehro Mohammed Abdul-Karim Kasnazan, a leader of the Coalition of Iraqi National Unity, which is fielding a 275-member slate for the polls.

    The Constitutional Monarchy Movement, a moderate Sunni-dominated group seeking the restoration of a constitutional monarchy, also announced a list of 275 election candidates. The slate is headed by Sharif Ali, a cousin of Iraq's last king - who was killed in a 1958 military coup, and includes Kurds and Shiites.

    A former Governing Council member, Naseer al-Chadarchi, announced that his Patriotic and Democratic Party, another moderate Sunni fringe movement, will field at least 40 candidates, including Shiites from southern Iraq.