Iraq: Attacks kill at least 18; province takes on militants
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Militants unleashed a series of attacks Wednesday in and around Baghdad, killing at least 18 people, officials said. South of the Iraqi capital, a provincial council approved a decision allowing authorities to demolish homes of convicted militants and banish their families from the province.
The deadliest attack killed three policemen and three civilians when a suicide bomber on foot blew up his explosives-laden vest at a police checkpoint in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Shula, a police officer said. At least 15 people were wounded in the explosion, he added.
In the town of Youssifiyah, 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Baghdad, a bomb explosion in a commercial area killed at least three shoppers and wounded nine others, another police officer said. Elsewhere three intelligence officers affiliated to the Interior Ministry were gunned down by drive-by shooters armed with pistols fitted with silencers in the northeastern suburb of Rashidiya, police added.
Another bomb explosion in a commercial area in the capital's southwestern Saydiya neighborhood killed two civilians and wounded five others.
Also Wednesday, a mortar attack on a camp for displaced civilians south of Baghdad killed four and wounded eight, according to Iraqi officials.
The United Nations issued a statement on the attack, the third such attack on the camp in the past three months, calling it "cowardly." The U.N. statement said four children were injured and no one was killed. The discrepancy could not be immediately reconciled.
"Displaced Iraqis who arrived here had already fled conflict and violence. They regarded the camp as a place of safety, where they and their families could feel protected," said Bruno Geddo, the Iraq representative for the U.N. refugee agency.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, most of which bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State group. The Sunni militant group has claimed previous such attacks against security forces and public places, mainly in Shiite-dominated areas.
Meanwhile, the decision by the Babil Provincial Council reflects attempts by local authorities to try - independently of the central government in Baghdad - to rein in militant attacks in municipalities and provinces across the country battered by years of war.
Hassan Fadaam, a Babil Provincial Council member, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that the council decision was approved on Tuesday in the provincial capital of Hillah, 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad.
It's the first such decision in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Earlier, some pro-government Sunni tribes have demolished houses of those they accused of cooperating with the Islamic State group after the militants' 2014 blitz captured large swaths of land in western and northern Iraq.
The decision will only apply to convicted militants who have exhausted all possibilities of appealing their convictions.
A court order against the militant's family for failing to inform authorities about his activity also must precede the demolishing of a house, Fadaam said. He did not clarify where a family of an offender would go to, once banished from the province.
The decision also calls on Baghdad to hand over militants who are on death row for attacks carried out in a province to provincial authorities. A convict would then be executed in public in the province where he committed the crime, Fadaam added.
"We will consider any means that could help deter terrorism and this is one of them," he said. "We have grown frustrated with the central government's efforts to maintain security and execute convicted militants. Nothing is deterring the terrorists who realize once they are in prison, they only receive good treatment."
Fadaam declined to release the number of militants convicted for carrying out attacks in his province.
Public anger against the government has mounted since a massive July 3 bombing in Baghdad's busy commercial area of Karradah that killed nearly 300 people and wounded hundreds. Demands for execution of hundreds of convicted militants on death row have also grown. In an attempt to absorb public anger, days after the Karradah truck bombing, the government executed five militants, sentenced to death for other attacks.
The militants, who in mid-2014 declared a caliphate in areas they control in Iraq and neighboring Syria, have increased their attacks in recent months in Baghdad and other cities far from the front lines in what is seen by Iraqi and U.S. officials as attempts to distract from their battlefield losses.
Associated Press writer Murtada Faraj contributed to this report.