Iraq: Kill One, Frighten A Thousand

Shiite Muslim worshippers wave flags as they gather to mark the festival of Ashoura, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006, in the holy city of Karbala, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq. The festival of Ashoura commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala, Iraq, in the year A.D. 680. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Gunmen assassinated a Sunni community leader Tuesday in the former extremist stronghold of Fallujah, part of an insurgent campaign to stop Sunni Arabs from joining the U.S.-backed political process.

Bombs and bullets killed at least 11 other people, including four Marines who died in a pair of bombings in western Anbar province.

Sheik Kamal Nazal, a Sunni preacher and chairman of the Fallujah city council, was gunned down in a hail of bullets from two passing cars as he walked to work, police Chief Brig. Hudairi al-Janabi said.

No group claimed responsibility for the killing, which occurred in one of the most tightly controlled cities in Iraq. However, it appeared part of a campaign of intimidation by Sunni insurgents against Sunni Arabs interested in promoting a political settlement to stem the violence.

Last month, Nazal welcomed Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to the city 40 miles west of Baghdad.

U.S. officials have been working hard to encourage Sunni Arabs to abandon the insurgency, and have been urging Shiite and Kurdish leaders to give major government posts to the disaffected minority.

Shiite officials concede some in their ranks may be guilty, but months of investigations have failed to yield a single arrest, CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier reports from Baghdad.

American diplomats and military commanders believe that strategy offers the best way to calm the insurgency so U.S. and other international troops can begin heading home.

In other recent developments:

  • Authorities say two bombs exploded minutes apart near a central Baghdad square on Tuesday, killing at least seven people and injuring at least 20 others.
  • In western Iraq, four U.S. Marines died in explosions. Three Marines assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit died in a bombing Monday in the city of Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad, according to a statement. The victims had operated in Anbar province since mid-December with an Iraqi army battalion. The deaths bring the number of U.S. military personnel killed to at least 2,257 since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
  • Iraqi security forces detained at least 26 suspected Sunni Arab insurgents who officials said were planning to attack Shiite Muslim pilgrims during Ashoura commemorations, which climax Thursday. The ceremonies mark the 7th century death of Shiite saint Imam Hussein, and attract hundreds of thousands of Shiites from all over the Muslim world.
  • U.S. military officials say about 100 Iraqi soldiers, some rappelling from U.S. helicopters, raided a suspected insurgent training camp south of Baghdad Monday night, detaining 26 people allegedly preparing to attack Shiite pilgrims on their way to Muslim holiday ceremonies in the city of Karbala.
  • According to a witness at an Australian hearing on the U.N. oil-for-food program, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein personally intervened to help Australia's monopoly wheat exporter overcome port delays while the company paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to his regime under the U.N. oil-for-food program.
  • Police say a roadside bomb struck a pickup truck south of Baghdad early Tuesday and killed two Iraqi civilians. The blast happened near a bridge in Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of Baghdad, and destroyed the vehicle the two people were traveling in, said Capt. Muthana Khaled. It was unclear if the civilians were the target of the attack.

    U.S. authorities arranged a meeting with local Sunni leaders in Ramadi on Nov. 28 as a major step in a political dialogue. But a suicide attack Jan. 5 against Sunni police recruits in the city, which is about 30 miles from Fallujah, set back the process. Nearly 60 people were killed, including two Americans.

    A senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni political group seeking a place in the new government, deplored Tuesday's assassination and blamed U.S. and Iraqi authorities in part for failing to protect the sheik.

    "Those who wanted to eliminate Sheik Nazal are aimed at bringing more instability to the city," Dr. Salman al-Jumaili said. "We hold the Iraqi government and occupation forces responsible for bringing all this suffering and damage to this city."

    The Shiites insist the claims they are involved are exaggerated, and they say at least as many Shiites are being killed as Sunnis. But Sunnis are seeing red, and they want payback, Dozier reports, adding, Sunnis were the backbone of the insurgency. By last fall, Americans had talked many of them into joining politics and taking on al Qaeda in Iraq. Now, some are forming new armed groups, turning their energies toward fighting the Shiites.

    Fallujah was the major stronghold of insurgent and religious extremists, including al Qaeda in Iraq, until the city fell to a U.S. air and ground assault in November 2004. Fallujah since has become one of the most intensely guarded cities in the nation.