BAGHDAD: Parliament extended Iraq s state of emergency Monday as gunmen snatched 14 employees from shops in downtown Baghdad in the second mass kidnapping in as many days. Dozens of bodies were found in and around Baghdad, apparently the latest victims of Shiite-Sunni killings.
The shopkeepers were seized from computer stores in front of Baghdad s Technical University in a brazen midday assault. Seven cars pulled up to the shops, and gunmen wearing military-style uniforms fanned out to surround the buildings, police Lt. Thair Mahmoud said.
They then forced the employees outside and into their SUVs at gunpoint, he said.On Sunday evening, 24 workers at a food factory in Baghdad were seized by gunmen who shot and wounded two workers who refused to climb into a refrigerator truck with their fellow captives.
Similar mass kidnappings in the past have been blamed on either Sunni extremists or Shiite death squads, who sort the captives by their sect and kill their targets.
Seven bodies found late Sunday in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Dora were identified Monday as people who had been abducted in the raid on the food factory, Police Lt. Maitham Abdul Razzaq said.
Lawmakers from the Iraqi Islamic Party, a major Sunni political group, issued a statement accusing militias of being behind the two kidnappings, and called on the government to take action.
We see that it is the time in which the government takes serious and urgent steps to disband these criminal organizations and to save the people from their harm, the statement said.
At least 18 people were killed in attacks around the country, including a noontime bomb blast in Baghdad s downtown Al-Nasir Square that killed four and wounded 13 others.
The U.S command on Monday said three U.S. Marines died in Iraq s western Anbar province on Saturday; two of them in combat and the third in a vehicle accident.
With their deaths, at least 73 American service members died in Iraq in September, making it the second deadliest month this year, after April when at least 76 died.
One British soldier was killed and another injured in a mortar attack on the headquarters of the 1st Battalion, Light Infantry Battle Group in Basra, said British military spokesman Maj. Charlie Burbridge.
The attack on the Shat Al-Arab hotel in Basra came Sunday afternoon, Burbridge said. Fifteen mortar shells were fired at the compound and three landed inside.One of the rounds that missed the compound landed on a nearby home, killing a 7-year-old boy and his 3-year-old sister and wounding a third child, Basra police said.Meanwhile, Iraqi politicians expressed concern over a plan by Syria to move border guards from its frontier with Iraq to help patrol on its border with Lebanon, a step that could further open the doors for insurgents to move from Syria to Iraq.
The Syrian move will make the terrorists entry to Iraq easier, said Abdul Karim Al-Inazi, a Shiite lawmaker with the prime minister s Dawa Party and a former minister of state for national security.
The Syrian government should do its best to control the borders with Iraq, he told The Associated Press, calling for the Iraqi government to also deploy more troops on the border.
Syria has long been under pressure to do more to stop insurgents slipping across its long desert border with Iraq, and Damascus has insisted it is doing all it can. Now Syria is facing UN requests that it also strengthen its guard on its Lebanese border to prevent weapons from going to Hezbollah guerrillas.
The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has struggled to rein in sectarian violence, which U.S.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Sunday has become deadlier than the long running Sunni-led insurgency in Iraq.
Parliament approved another month s extension of the state of emergency, in place since November 2004. The measure allows for a nighttime curfew and gives the government extra powers to make arrests without warrants and launch police and military operations when it deems them necessary. It applies everywhere except the northern Kurdish autonomous zone.
This extension of the state of emergency is needed because we are still in a big confrontation with terrorism, Al-Inazi told the lawmakers. Terrorists are planning to break into crucial areas. We have information proving that.
These terrorist groups, which consist of 50 to 100 gunmen, are gathering in camp-like areas in Baghdad s outskirts and Anbar, he said, without elaborating.
But the measure was opposed by some major Sunni political groups, saying it gave the country s Shiite-dominated security forces too much power.
We ask the government for assurances to guarantee the rights and liberties of individuals, and that [parliament] acknowledge that security forces contain corrupted elements who misuse the law, said Saleem Abdullah, a lawmaker with the Accordance Front.
From Sunday morning to Monday morning, 50 bodies were found in Baghdad alone, the apparent victims of Shiite or Sunni death squads, police 1st Lt. Mahmoud said.
More were found elsewhere: the headless bodies of seven people were turned in to the Kut morgue, morgue spokesman Hadi al-Itabi said. The bodies were found Sunday in Suwayrah, 40 km south of Baghdad.
And in eastern Baghdad, the bodies of two more people were found later Monday, police said. They had been shot; their arms and legs bound, and showed signs of torture.