Iraqi President Backs Militia

Soldiers from the Iraqi Army's 10th division hold their weapons high during a raid in the Nihran Omar area, some 70 kilometers (40 miles) north of Basra Tuesday, June 7, 2005. (AP Photo/Nabil Al-Jurani)
Iraq's Kurdish president backed his Shiite allies Wednesday by openly supporting a militia that Sunni Arab leaders have accused of killing members of their minority.

Clashes in Baghdad and other attacks around Iraq killed at least eight people as the Sunni-dominated insurgency pressed on with its campaign against the Shiite-led government.

The bloody wave of violence that broke out after the April 28 announcement of Iraq's new Shiite and Kurdish dominated government has killed more than 874 people. During the spree, more than 10 Sunni and Shiite clerics have been killed in apparent tit-for-tat slayings that raised fears the country was on the verge of civil war.

President Jalal Talabani's backing of the Badr Brigade came at a time when Sunni leaders have not only demanded that it be disarmed, but have complained that the militia provides intelligence and support for some Shiite-dominated special security units.

The Badr Brigade was the military wing of the country's largest Shiite political party, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Republic in Iraq, or SCIRI. The party claims the Badr Brigade is no longer a militia but performs social and political functions.

In other recent developments:

  • Two U.S. soldiers were killed in an indirect fire attack on their military base in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, late Tuesday, while another was killed by roadside bomb north of the capital, the military said Wednesday. As of Wednesday, at least 1,679 U.S. military members have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
  • In Habaniyah, 50 miles west of Baghdad, insurgents attacked a supply convoy carrying supplies to an American base, and local reporters said they saw at least seven bodies, all of which appeared to be Iraqi men in their 20s and 30s. The U.S. military and American diplomats said they were not aware of any Americans in the convoy. Reporters who returned to the scene early Wednesday saw an additional four bodies, which did not appear to be Iraqi. The other bodies were still there and armed men were also present at the scene.
  • A South African diplomat confirmed that one of his country's nationals was part of the convoy that was attacked. Mbulelo Mtilwa, first secretary of the South African Embassy in Jordan, said officials didn't know if he had been killed, captured or wounded.
  • Gunmen killed two industry ministry officials in a drive-by shooting in the capital's New Baghdad neighborhood.
  • One police officer was killed and six injured in clashes between Iraqi police and gunmen in northwest Baghdad after gunmen attacked a police car.
  • In Mosul, police Col. Nashwan Hadi was killed in a drive-by-shooting near his home. The attackers then fired a rocket at his house, injuring five people — including two children.
  • An officer was shot and killed in eastern Mosul.
  • A car bomb in Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, killed two people. Gunmen also killed Mustafa Ashraf, a translator at an American base.