BBC Monitoring Iraq Briefing 0400 gmt 2 Aug 04.
(From BBC Monitoring International Reports)
The following is a round-up of the latest reports relating to Iraq and reaction to developments there in the surrounding region, available to BBC Monitoring as of 0400 gmt. This service is filed twice a day at 0400 gmt and 1600 gmt.
In this edition:
DEFENCE AND SECURITY
IRAQI BROADCAST MEDIA
REGIONAL BROADCAST MEDIA
DEFENCE AND SECURITY
Christian churches targeted in wave of violence: At least six bombs exploded during evening prayers at churches in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul on Sunday, 1 August, in what appeared to be a targeted assault on Iraq’s small but influential Christian minority, AFP reported police as saying. Police and medical workers confirmed at least ten people were killed, and dozens were injured. The wave of bombings marked the first attacks specifically aimed at Christians since the US-led invasion last year, the agency said. A police witness said a suicide bomber detonated the first car-bomb outside the Armenian church in the upmarket Al-Karradah district. The blast was followed a few minutes later by the explosion at the nearby Syriac church. Bishop Raphael Kutami at the Syriac church in Baghdad told AFP there were a lot of women and children attending mass, as it was a Sunday. The worst devastation occurred at a large church and seminary complex in southern Baghdad, Al-Dura, an AFP correspondent said, where six were reported dead. Police reported a fourth explosion in Baghdad, outside a Chaldean Catholic church in the east of the city. In Mosul, 370 kilometres (230 miles) north of Baghdad, two car bombs exploded in the early evening outside a Syrian-rite church, a security official, Major Muhammad Umar Taha, said. Medical staff said one person was killed and 11 were wounded in the bombings. In Kirkuk, police said an explosion went off in a Christian residential neighbourhood, but that there were no casualties. (AFP 1828 gmt 01 Aug 04)
Al-Sadr aide blames US, Israel’s Mossad for Iraq bombings: Shaykh Abd-al-Hadi al-Darraji, spokesman for Iraqi Shi’i cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s office, denounced on 1 August the explosions that took place at a number of Christian churches in the country that day. In an interview with Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV, Al-Darraji said they were “terrorist operations” and blamed the “occupation forces” and the Iraqi interim government, saying that the latter had still not been given full responsibility for security in the country. He also said Al-Sadr’s supporters held “the occupation forces and the Israeli Mossad” responsible for the blasts as they were attempting to “create chaos and sedition and to blame the Islamists for it”. Al-Darraji said the Israeli intelligence services had been working in Iraq since the fall of the Saddam government, adding: “Consequently, the Israeli Mossad plays a great role in such bombings that take place inside Iraqi mosques and churches and against the Iraqi people.” (Al-Jazeera TV 1703 gmt 1 Aug 04)
Vatican very concerned about attacks on churches: The Vatican on 1 August described as “very worrying” the attacks against Christian churches in Iraq, which a spokesman said was intended to increase tension. “It is terrible and very worrying because it is the first time that Christian places of worship have been targeted in Iraq,” AFP quoted the Rev Ciro Benedettini as saying. “It seems that someone wants to increase tension by trying to hit all groups, the churches included.” The attacks, aimed at various Catholic and Orthodox rite communities in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk, killed at least 10 people and injured dozens of others, the agency said. (AFP 1911 gmt 01 Aug 04)
Iraq forms “rapid deployment forces” to deal with attacks: Adnan al-Asadi, undersecretary of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, announced on 1 August the formation of “rapid deployment forces” in Baghdad and in all the Iraqi governorates to confront the wave of violence targeting the country, Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya TV reported. He said their job would be to “track down the criminals, gangs and groups engaged in carrying out abductions, killings, looting, bombings and assassinations”. Al-Asadi said that the ministry would enlist the help of public security officers who worked for the former regime and who did not have a criminal record, to work in the new security directorate. (Al-Arabiya TV, Dubai, in Arabic 1613 gmt 1 Aug 04)
Three Iraqi policemen shot dead, four wounded in Kirkuk: Three policemen were shot dead and four wounded on 1 August as they were eating on the terrace of a restaurant in Iraq’s main northern oil centre of Kirkuk, AFP quoted police as saying. Gunmen in two Opel cars fired a hail of bullets at members of two police patrol units as they were having supper at the Kabab Rashid restaurant at around 1900 gmt, said General Mu’nis Ishaq. (AFP 1947 gmt 01 Aug 04)
“At least” ten dead in Al-Fallujah: Hospital sources in Al-Fallujah said that at least 10 Iraqis were killed and 40 wounded in the town on 1 August, in battles between US troops and rocket and mortar-equipped insurgents, AFP reported. Powerful explosions were reported to rock the Al-Askari neighbourhood in the northeastern part of Al-Fallujah in what appeared to be a US bombardment of the city. US Marines called in an air strike against a building in the city’s industrial neighbourhood from where insurgents were suspected to be firing on a military post, the agency said. (AFP 1828 gmt 01 Aug 04)