Thursday, December 21, 2006

December 21st Update2 News In English From Aswat Al Iraq Together With Various Agency Reports

Joint statement : Iraqi Red Crescent abduction:

21-12-2006 Press Release 06/145
Joint statement : Iraqi Red Crescent abduction
On Sunday 17 December a number of Iraqi Red Crescent Society staff and volunteers and other persons were abducted from one of the Society's offices in Baghdad. As of today, some have been released, but many are still being held.

We are appealing for their immediate and unconditional release.

Iraqi Red Crescent staff are helping all Iraqis countrywide with humanity and impartiality. They are performing their humanitarian duties in dangerous circumstances and often pay a very high price for their commitment.

Iraqi Red Crescent staff are entitled to full protection under international humanitarian law and they deserve our respect and support because of their work in support of the many Iraqis in dire need of help.

We strongly reaffirm our support for and solidarity with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society in these trying times.

We call on those who are holding the Iraqi Red Crescent staff members and other persons abducted on 17 December to respect their lives and dignity and to release them unharmed, immediately and unconditionally.

Baghdad, Dec 20, (VOI) - Main security developments in Iraq on Wednesday (Part 2) : Aswat al Iraq:

Iraq-Security (Highlights) 2
Security developments in Iraq
Baghdad, Dec 20, (VOI) - Main security developments in Iraq on Wednesday:

  1. Baghdad - Four civilians were wounded in two car bomb explosions in southwestern and southeastern Baghdad, Iraqi police sources said.
  2. Kirkuk - A car bomb exploded at an Iraqi army checkpoint southwest of Kirkuk, killing one soldier and wounding four others, a police source said.
  3. Baghdad - Unidentified gunmen assassinated the Assistant Dean of the faculty of law in Mostanseriya University in eastern Baghdad, a police source said.
  4. Baghdad - The Multi-National forces in Iraq said they captured three suspects who were attempting to set up a mortar tube and firing point east of al-Qasim near Hilla town in Babel province.
  5. Falluja - U.S. forces lifted blockade over the village of al-Naimiya, south of Falluja, after two days of siege, an official source in Falluja provincial council said.
  6. Baiji - Two people, one of them a police officer, were killed and three civilians wounded in a car bomb explosion in central Baiji town, Salah Eddin province.
  7. Falluja - Saqlawiya police station used by U.S. forces in the restive town of Falluja as a military base came under a heavy mortar attack, without causing any casualties, a police source said.

Iraq-Security (Highlights) :: Aswat al Iraq :: Aswat al Iraq:

Security developments in Iraq
Baghdad, Dec 20, (VOI) - Main security developments in Iraq on Thursday:

  1. Baghdad - A suicide bomber blew himself up at dawn amidst a group of recruits outside Baghdad police academy killing ten people and wounding 15 others, a security source said.
  2. Kirkuk - Police chief of al-Adala town, south of Kirkuk, survived a roadside bomb explosion at his motorcade, while two of his bodyguards sustained minor injuries, a security source in Kirkuk said.
  3. Baghdad - Two U.S. soldiers were killed in military operation in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, the U.S. army in Iraq said. raises the U.S. casualty toll in Iraq during the last 48 hours to four dead and six wounded.
  4. Basra - Four gunmen were wounded in two separate clashes with British patrols in the southern Iraqi city of Basra while all British bases around the city came under attack, the spokesman for the Multi-National forces in the south said on Thursday.
  5. Mosul - An explosive charge went off at a U.S. patrol in southeastern Mosul, but it was not immediately clear if it caused any casualties or damage, an official source in Ninawa police operations room said.
  6. Tikrit - Unidentified attackers killed a police lieutenant colonel north of Tikrit, a source in Salah Eddin police force said.

Reuters AlertNet - FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Dec 21:

Dec 21 (Reuters) - Following are security and other developments in Iraq as of 1130 GMT on Thursday:

* indicates new or updated item.

  1. * BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting a U.S. military patrol wounded a civilian in Adhamiya district in northern Baghdad, police said.
  2. * MOSUL - A roadside bomb targeting a U.S. military patrol wounded two civilians in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
  3. * MOSUL - Gunmen killed a man in mosul, police said.
  4. * MOSUL - The body of a man was found shot dead in Mosul on Wednesday, police said.
  5. BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomb killed two people and wounded two others in Amil district in southwestern Baghdad, police said.
  6. KIRKUK - Two policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near the convoy of police Colonel Adnan Mohammed in Kirkuk, police said.
  7. BAGHDAD - Iraqi soldiers killed 12 insurgents and arrested 56 others over the past 24 hours in different parts of Iraq, the Defence Ministry said.
  8. BAGHDAD - One U.S. soldier and a Marine have been killed in action in Iraq's western Anbar province, the U.S. military said in a statement. The military said the soldier died on Tuesday while the Marine was killed on Thursday.
  9. BAGHDAD - One U.S. soldier was killed and three were wounded when a roadside bomb hit a patrol south of Baghdad on Wednesday, the military said in a statement.
  10. BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber killed at least 10 people and wounded 15 when he blew himself up at a police recruitment centre in eastern Baghdad, police sources said.
  11. NEAR KIRKUK - A suicide car bomber rammed his car into an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing one soldier and wounding four on Wednesday in a town near Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
  12. KIRKUK - Gunmen killed a man and his wife on Wednesday in Kirkuk, police said.
  13. RAMADI - Several mortars landed near a police station wounding three women on Wednesday in the restive city of Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
  14. RAMADI - One woman was killed when two rockets hit a police station in Ramadi on Tuesday, the U.S. military said, adding that a man, a woman and a 12-year-old child were also wounded.
  15. TIKRIT - Gunmen killed police Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Saleh on Wednesday in Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 12/20/2006 | Roundup of violence in Iraq - 20 December:

Roundup of violence in Iraq - 20 December
By Laith Hammoudi
McClatchy Newspapers

The daily Iraq violence report is compiled by McClatchy Newspapers Special Correspondent Laith Hammoudi in Baghdad from police, military and medical reports. This is not a comprehensive list of all violence in Iraq, much of which goes unreported. It's posted without editing as transmitted to McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

Baghdad . According to the Ministry of Interior operation room

  1. -- 11 people were killed including 6 commandos and 30 injured including 9 commandos when a suicide car bomb attacked a commandos checkpoint near Baghdad University in Jadriya neighborhood downtown Baghdad at 7:15 am today.
  2. -- 4 civilians were killed and other 7 injured in a parked car bomb explosion near the Identity directorate building in Al Kasra neighborhood, a part of Adhamiyah neighborhood downtown Baghdad.
  3. -- Anonymous insurgents assassinated early today Mahmood Mohammed Rasheed, the brother of the famous comic actor Zuhair Mohammed Rasheed. Moahmood Rasheed who was a teacher was assassinated near the Al Hikma school where he works in Al Baladiyat neighborhood east of Baghdad. Mohamood is a Palestinian citizen.
  4. -- 4 civilians were injured in two car bomb explosions. Two were wounded in a parked car bomb explosion near Al Baiyaa court in Al Baiyaa neighborhood south of Baghdad. The other two were injured in another car bomb parked near the farmers association in Al Riyadh neighborhood eastern Baghdad.
  5. -- 76 anonymous bodies were found in Baghdad today. 63 were found in the west part of Baghdad ( Karkh) and only 13 found in the east part of Baghdad (Rusafa)
Diyala province
  1. -- A governmental source in Baladrooz town east of Baqouba city (60 kms north of Baghdad) said that 2 civilians were killed and 8 were injured when an insurgents group from Dainiya neighborhood targeted civilians in Shakori village in the same town early morning today.
  2. -- A police source in Baladrooz city said that the explosions experts defused two IEDs which were laid near the shops of two Kurdish businessmen.
  3. -- A military official in the 5th division of the Iraqi army said that a soldier was killed and 3 others were wounded when a group of more than 30 insurgents attacked early morning today a military checkpoint in Abo Al Nakhal district in Khalis city north of Baqouba city. The source confirmed that 5 insurgents were killed.
  1. -- the police chief of Karbalaa, Abo Al Waleed, announced today that Karbala police members had captured two leaders of Ansar Al Sunna army who are accused of committing many crimes of killing and robbery. Abo Al Waleed said that the two men were captured after having intelligence information confirmed that they entered the city planning to commit terrorists actions.

Twenty bodies found in Baaquba : Aswat al Iraq:

Twenty bodies found in Baaquba
By Assem Taha
Baaquba, Dec 21, (VOI) - The Baaquba public hospital on Thursday received 20 bodies that had been found in different parts of the city, a medical source in the Diala health department said.
"The forensic division at Baaquba public hospital received 20 unidentified bodies of people who had been killed by gunshots," the source, who declined to be identified, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
Some of the bodies had been blindfolded and hand-cuffed, he added.
Baaquba lies 60 km north of Baghdad.

Talabani discusses security plans in Iraq with visiting U.S. defense secretary : Aswat al Iraq:

Talabani discusses security plans in Iraq with visiting U.S. defense secretary
Baghdad, Dec 21, (VOI) - Iraqi President Jalal al-Talabani discussed with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposals for developing Baghdad security plans, a presidential statement said on Thursday.
Talabani discussed with Gates on Wednesday "bilateral relations and ways of combating terrorism in Iraq," read the statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
Gates praised Talabani's ideas and promised to take them into consideration when evaluating the situation in Iraq, the statement added.
Gates has arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday on a previously unannounced visit, his first to Iraq after he was sworn in as defense secretary replacing Donald Rumsfeld.
On Wednesday, U.S. president George Bush said he would weigh all options regarding Iraq including sending more troops there.
Bush told a news conference in Washington that he did not make up his mind yet about sending more troops to Iraq, but he was studying all options.

Two U.S. soldiers killed in Anbar : Aswat al Iraq

Two U.S. soldiers killed in Anbar
Baghdad, Dec 21, (VOI) - Two U.S. soldiers were killed in military operation in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, the U.S. army in Iraq said on Thursday.
This raises the U.S. casualty toll in Iraq during the last 48 hours to four dead and six wounded.
"One soldier assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died
Tuesday and one Marine assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division died today from wounds sustained due to… action while operating in Al Anbar Province," the army said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
The army said in a statement last night that one of its soldiers was killed in south Baghdad when a bomb went off near his patrol, while four other soldiers were wounded in the blast.
Another statement said that an improvised explosive device was detonated near a Multi-National Division -Baghdad patrol, killing one soldier and wounding four others southwest of the Iraqi capital on Wednesday.
The latest deaths raise the U.S. official death toll in Iraq to 2,955 since the 2003 invasion, including 66 this month.

Iraqi parliament convenes informally, still lacking quorum : Aswat al Iraq:

Iraqi parliament convenes informally, still lacking quorum
By Adel Fakher
Baghdad, Dec 21, (VOI) - Iraqi legislators will hold an informal meeting on Thursday to discuss political issues as it still lacks quorum, Deputy Speaker Khaled al-Attiya said.
"It will be an open session with some members making statements. We will also discuss a number of issues," he told reporters.
"It will not be a formal session…for lack of quorum," he added.
Parliament has lacked quorum for some two weeks because a large number of members are traveling abroad. Members of the Sadrist bloc have also been boycotting the house.
Earlier this month, the parliament decided to deduct 500,000 dinars (about $340) from the monthly allocations of legislators for each day of absence without a valid excuse.
Each Iraqi parliamentarian gets a total of 17 million dinars monthly.
The parliament also threatened to publish the names of the often-absent members in the media.

Four gunmen wounded in clashes with British forces in Basra : Aswat al Iraq:

Four gunmen wounded in clashes with British forces in Basra
By Malek Saadoun
Basra, Dec 21, (VOI) - Four gunmen were wounded in two separate clashes with British patrols in the southern Iraqi city of Basra while all British bases around the city came under attack, Captain Tane Dunlop, the spokesman for the Multi-National forces in the south, said on Thursday.
A British patrol "clashed last night with gunmen after an explosive charge went off at the patrol west of Basra and the clash resulted in wounding two gunmen," Dunlop told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by telephone.
"Another clash occurred between British forces and gunmen near a British camp in al-Saii downtown district and two gunmen were also wounded in the clash," he added.
Light weapons, hand grenades and RPG7 rockets were used in the clashes, he said, adding that there were no casualties among British forces.
All British bases near Basra came under Katyusha attacks last night and this morning, he said.

Suicide bomber kills 10, wounds 15 outside Baghdad police academy : Aswat al Iraq:

Suicide bomber kills 10, wounds 15 outside Baghdad police academy
By Adel Fakher
Baghdad, Dec 21, (VOI) - A suicide bomber blew himself up at dawn on Thursday amidst a group of recruits outside Baghdad police academy killing ten people and wounding 15 others, a security source said.
"A suicide attacker wearing an explosive belt this morning targeted a gathering of youth who wanted to join the police corps and were waiting outside the police academy in Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad," the interior ministry source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
"The suicide bomber stood in line among the would be recruits at the back gate of the academy then blew himself up, killing eight recruits and two police guards and wounding 15 other recruits," he added.
Police and army recruitment centers have been a repeated target for bombing attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere.

Iran occupied large area during Anfal operation, ex-defense minister tells court : Aswat al Iraq:

Iran occupied large area during Anfal operation, ex-defense minister tells court
By Kawther Abdul-Amir
Baghdad, Dec 21, (VOI) - Iran had been occupying an area larger than Lebanon in Iraqi Kurdistan when the army of former president Saddam Hussein carried out the Anfal operation in which tens of thousands of Kurds were killed in 1988, ex-defense minister Sultan Hashim told an Iraqi tribunal on Thursday.
The court is trying Saddam, Hashim and five others on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1988 campaign in Kurdistan.
"Insurgents have been giving support for the Iranians…they had formed semi-regular forces comprising brigades, headquarters and commanders…," Hashim told the court.
"I carried out a military operation in a specific area within a specific time frame… I hope it is taken into consideration that the military law punished those who did not carry out orders with death. I was carrying out my duty," he said, adding that he had been decorated after the operation.
He asked chief judge Mohammed al-Uraibi al-Khalifa to bring military experts to explain military aspects.
"It is strange that we have been referred to a civil court although we are soldiers. I demand that military experts are brought to explain our statements because it is illogical that soldiers should be tried by a civil court," he said.
Prosecutor Monqez al-Feraun said fighting against Iranian occupation forces did not justify "the arrest and burying of children, men and women or the mass graves and the use of chemical weapons."
The court adjourned the trial to January 8.
In November, Saddam was sentenced to death in a separate trial after being convicted of ordering the killing of 148 people following an attempt on his life in 1982.

Former PM says 'mafia groups' behind violence: Azzaman in English:

Former PM says 'mafia groups' behind violence
By Mundher al-Shawfi
Azzaman, December 20, 2006

Former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari attributed the upsurge in violence in the country to activities by what he said were 'mafia groups' bent to destabilize the government. Jaafari denied the country was in a state of civil war or on the brink of a whole-scale sectarian strife. "Simply there are mafia groups which are behind most of the violence," he said.

He said the current political rhetoric was void of references to sectarian differences because the authorities "are using patriotism as a basis for distinction." However, the Iraqi government itself is built on sectarian grounds with sects, religious denominations and ethnic minorities currently using their positions to steer ministries and armed forces to their advantage.

Jaafari's bloc, the Dawaa Party, is part of the ruling coalition led by Shiite factions in partnership with Kurdish groups.

"Iraq cannot coexist with sectarianism which permits the shedding of innocent Iraqi blood," he said. He said he was hopeful Iraqis will eventually resolve their differences through the reconciliation meetings the government is holding currently. Jaafari said former Baathists were welcome to take part in reconciliation talks. However, he said there was no place for what he described as "Saddamists". He did not elaborate. The former premier said neighboring countries should stop meddling in Iraqi affairs. "Their (interference) is exacerbating the problem," he added. However, he said Iraq needed its neighbors and it was essential for the government to establish good relations. Haafari said the presence of militias was a threat to stability and they should be disbanded.

MIDDLE EAST: Weekly update of human rights violations in the region (14 Nov - 21 Dec 2006):

DUBAI, 21 Dec 2006 (IRIN) - EGYPT: Bahais left without ID cards

CAIRO, (IRIN) - Followers of the Bahai faith this week lost the right to openly state their religious identity on official documents, after a ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court.

The case began in a lower court after the Civil Status Department of the Ministry of Interior confiscated ID cards and birth certificates from the family of Hossam Ezzat, a Bahai, on the grounds that their religious declaration was illegitimate. The lower court granted Bahais the right to enter their faith on official documents, a decision which the Ministry of Interior then appealed.

Hossam Bahgat, of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, represented the Ezzat family in court. "The ruling now creates a problem for the government, because citizens must either live without an ID, or identify themselves as Muslim or Christian," he said.

Egypt's Mufti, Alii Gomaa, has said that Bahais should declare themselves Muslim on official documentation.

IRAQ: 32 journalists murdered in 2006

BAGHDAD, (IRIN) - The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Wednesday that 32 Iraqi journalists were killed in Iraq in 2006 due to spiralling violence in the country.

"For the fourth consecutive year, Iraq was in a category of its own as the deadliest place for journalists," the CPJ said. "Murder now accounts for 61 percent of deaths in Iraq since the war began [in 2003]," it added.

The international watchdog said four journalists died as a result of crossfire or acts of war this year; 28 were murdered and three were kidnapped and then slain.

"The deaths in Iraq this year reflect the utter deterioration in reporters' traditional status as neutral observers in wartime," Joel Simon, CPJ Executive Director, said. "This is an extraordinarily alarming trend because along with the terrible loss of life, it is limiting news reporting in Iraq and, in turn, our own understanding of a vital story," Simon added.

This year's killings brought to 92 the number of journalists who have died in Iraq since the US-led invasion of March 2003. In addition, 37 media support workers-interpreters, drivers, fixers and office workers-have been killed over the same period.
JORDAN: Gov't closes notorious jail

AMMAN, (IRIN) - The Jordanian government on Tuesday closed down a notorious prison after local and international human rights groups repeatedly claimed inmates at the detention facility were tortured and kept in dire conditions.

The run-down Jafer prison lies on the edge of a desert, 250 km east of Amman. Human rights activists say inmates were vulnerable to extreme weather conditions - including high temperatures and blinding sand storms - and snakes, scorpions and other lethal insects were abundant in the facility.

Human rights groups welcomed the closure saying they hoped the move would signal a shift in official policy on the treatment of prisoners. "This is a step in the right direction, but what we would like to see is an end to systematic torture at other prisons," said Abdul Karim Shreideh of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights.

In an unrelated case, the military run state security court on Monday sentenced 74-year-old Mahmoud Said to one year in prison for distributing pamphlets that criticise the government.

The street vendor from Irbid, 60 km north of Amman, distributed four leaflets before being apprehended by secret service agents, the court said. Said was sentenced initially to three years after the court found him guilty of provoking sectarianism and belonging to an illegal political party, Hezb al-Tahrir (Liberation Party). However, the court immediately commuted his sentence to a year "to give him a second chance in life".
SYRIA: Kilo to be tried soon, says lawyer

DAMASCUS, (IRIN) - The trial of Syrian rights activist and writer Michel Kilo will be held soon in a criminal court, his lawyer, Khalil Matouk, said on Tuesday. Kilo was detained in May for calling on Damascus to improve its relations with Lebanon and charges related to inciting sectarian division and engaging with foreign organisations - charges which carry a maximum jail term of three years.

Earlier, the Court of Appeals rejected the appeal lodged by Kilo's lawyers and the appeal of activist Mahmoud Issa, who, along with Kilo, signed the Damascus-Beirut declaration calling on Syria to respect Lebanese sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria said officials interrogated activist Faek al-Meer on 30 December on charges including violating the country's dignity, weakening the patriotic sentiment, jeopardising the country's security and stability, provoking disorder and turmoil, and spying for a hostile country.

These charges followed his visit to Lebanon to mourn the death of Communist leader George Hawy, who was assassinated in Beirut in June 2005. Lebanese authorities claim that Damascus had a hand in Hawy's assassination. While waiting for a decision on his case, al-Meer has been detained in Adra al-Madany Prison.

YEMEN: Jailed editor's appeal rejected

SANA'A (IRIN) - The country's Court of Appeals on 18 December rejected the appeal of Kamal al-Ulefi, the editor-in-chief of al-Rai al-Aam weekly newspaper. On 25 November, he was sentenced to a year in prison and his newspaper was closed for six months. He was convicted of republishing the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which were first published by a Danish newspaper.

Also on 18 December, human rights activists, representatives of civil society organisations, journalists and lawyers staged a sit-in in front of the appeals court in the capital, Sana'a, in solidarity with Anesah al-Shu'ebi, who was allegedly tortured and raped at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Protestors demanded that Rizq al-Jawfi, head of CID, should be investigated in connection with the allegations.

Meanwhile, a report by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo) criticised the Yemeni government for monopolising the Internet service, blocking several news websites, and reading private emails.

"The political security forces and the Ministry of Interior routinely search homes and private offices, control phone calls and read emails. In addition, there is widespread interference in many other personal matters, all of which are alleged to be based on security intelligence. These practices are implemented without any legal orders being issued and they are done without judicial supervision," reads the report, entitled 'Implacable Adversaries: Arab Governments and the Internet'.


IRAQ: Salwa Muhammad, Iraq "This will be the last polio campaign of my life"

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Click here to enlarge image
© Afif Sarhan/IRIN

Salwa Muhammad gives a child polio drops.

BAGHDAD, 21 Dec 2006 (IRIN) - "I am a 32-year-old Iraqi widow with three children. Seven years ago I started working with UNICEF [the UN Children's Agency], giving anti-polio vaccines to thousands of children. But my life has changed drastically in the past two years as my work has become dangerous because now I get threats at least once every two months.

I need to work to help support my family, so now I have to move from place to place. Whenever I feel that my life is threatened in a particular district, I move to another.


  • Called Iraq's polio National Immunisation Days (NIDs).
  • Launched by Ministry of Health.
  • Oral polio vaccines provided by UNICEF.
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) helping plan and monitor campaign.
  • 4.8 million children under 5 will be immunised in two phases.
  • First phase in November immunised 95% of all children in Iraq.
  • Second phase runs for 5 days from 16 to 21 December.
  • 5,300 teams of vaccinators travelling house-to-house throughout the country.
  • UNICEF and WHO are calling on all parties to ensure safety of vaccinators.
  • Iraq has been polio-free since 2000.

Many times I have thought of leaving my job but when a child opens his or her mouth to receive the polio drops and I know that it will save his or her life, I change my mind because as a mother I know how important it is to give children polio vaccines. But I have had enough and this is going to be the last polio campaign of my life.

We carry the vaccines in a special vaccine carrier and go knocking door by door asking if there are any children in the house. Sometimes we try to get information from the neighbours about other houses with children. But people don't always help; sometimes they just close the doors on you saying that they will never assist Iraqis who work for foreign organisations or who work for the government, which has betrayed Iraqis. In moments like these you feel like someone is going to go behind your back and shoot you dead.

We are scared all the time when we go out to give the vaccines. Aid workers have been targeted by insurgents and militias and whenever we turn a corner we fear being hit by a bullet and becoming another victim of this violence.

In some districts the situation is even more dangerous with insurgents or militias coming after us asking our first names, surnames, religious beliefs -and they prevent us from knocking on some doors if people in those houses are from a different sect than the people with guns.

In those circumstances, we don't try to be heroes by insisting on going into these houses because the threat is real and if we insist we could get killed. We usually ask a neighbour to inform the people of those houses about the campaign so that they can take their children to the nearest public health clinic where they can also have the drops administered.

Fighters believe that because UNICEF is delivering the drops we are supporters of the US forces. They do not know the difference between UNICEF and the US and consider us as Iraqis working for a foreign company. This is what makes this job dangerous for us. Iraqis do not believe that there is any organisation which is neutral and people lump you on whatever side they want.

Some of our colleagues have been beaten. Some, especially women, have been accused by fighters of being government followers and because they go out to work, they are also accused of being prostitutes. There are also allegations that our vaccine drops are contaminated with some poison from the US forces.

Of course, all that is ridiculous. All we do is to try and save children's lives but at the end of the day we are considered betrayers, are accused of all manner of things and are insulted.

I have had enough and I cannot stand it anymore because it is becoming increasingly dangerous. We could lose our lives any time and there is no appreciation of what we do. Maybe when all aid workers stop working in Iraq, people will understand how important we are and how protected we should be."

Read more about Iraq's polio campaign

Alertnet Headlines For Iraq:

FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Dec 21
21 Dec 2006 16:06:32 GMT
Source: Reuters
Dec 21 (Reuters) - Following are security and other developments in Iraq as of 1545 GMT on Thursday: * indicates new or updated item. * BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest ... Full article
Emergency relief for Iraqi and Lebanese communities
21 Dec 2006 16:00:00 GMT
Source: World Emergency Relief (WER) - UK
WER has shipped a further 15 tons of emergency humanitarian supplies for immediate distribution to Iraqi and Lebanese communities affected by conflict in the Middle East region. Two 40 foot ... Full article
US soldiers in Iraq urge Gates to send more troops
21 Dec 2006 15:59:02 GMT
Source: Reuters
(Adds Gates news conference) By Kristin Roberts BAGHDAD, Dec 21 (Reuters) - U.S. soldiers in Iraq urged new Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday to send reinforcements but generals expressed ... Full article
Shi'ite officials press Iraq PM to tackle militias
21 Dec 2006 15:01:40 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Mariam Karouny BAGHDAD, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Senior members of Iraq's Shi'ite Alliance are pressing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to go after the Shi'ite militia loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr if ... Full article
IRAQ: Salwa Muhammad, Iraq "This will be the last polio campaign of my life"
21 Dec 2006 10:47:23 GMT
Source: IRIN
Salwa Muhammad is a 32-year-old Iraqi widow who works with UNICEF giving anti-polio vaccines to thousands of children. While she enjoys the satisfaction of knowing that she is helping to save lives, she wants to quit because of the continual threats she and other aid workers receive. Full article
FACTBOX-Military and civilian deaths in Iraq
21 Dec 2006 10:39:44 GMT
Source: Reuters
Dec 21 (Reuters) - One U.S. soldier and one Marine have been killed in action in western Anbar province, the U.S. military said in a statement. It said the soldier died on Tuesday while the Marine was ... Full article
Joint statement : Iraqi Red Crescent abduction
21 Dec 2006 09:16:07 GMT
Source: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - Switzerland
On Sunday 17 December a number of Iraqi Red Crescent Society staff and volunteers and other persons were abducted from one of the Society's offices in Baghdad. As of today, some have been released, but many are still being held. Full article
Iraqi police targeted as U.S. seeks new approach
21 Dec 2006 08:50:48 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Mariam Karouny BAGHDAD, Dec 21 (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed 10 Iraqis at a police recruitment centre in Baghdad on Thursday and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, on his first trip to ... Full article
U.S. Military expected to announce Haditha charges
21 Dec 2006 05:43:22 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Dan Whitcomb CAMP PENDLETON, Calif, Dec 21 (Reuters) - The U.S. military was expected to announce charges on Thursday against a group of Marines in the killing of 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha ... Full article
Suicide bomber kills 10 in Baghdad - police sources
21 Dec 2006 05:38:01 GMT
Source: Reuters
(Updates death toll, details) BAGHDAD, Dec 21 (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed at least 10 Iraqis and wounded 10 at a police recruitment centre in Baghdad on Thursday, police sources said. They ... Full article

Independent Online Edition > UK Politics:

'Brainwashed' Blair losing battle to prove his influence
By Andrew Grice, Political Editor
Published: 21 December 2006

Blair Tony Blair's "shoulder to shoulder" support for George Bush has been called into question again by claims that he was "brainwashed" by President Bush over plans to pull troops out of Iraq.

The Prime Minister returned yesterday from his seven-nation visit to the Middle East, apparently without achieving any significant breakthrough in the peace process. But British officials said that he had found a desire to make progress among Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and insisted that he had never expected to find a magic solution. They said his tour should be judged over the longer term rather than immediately.

The trip has been overshadowed by a growing perception that Mr Blair's relationship with President Bush is very much a "one-way street" in which Britain gets very little in return for his unwavering public backing for Washington. Even some Blairites are starting to question the Prime Minister's stance. They are appalled that President Bush has refused to honour his 2004 promise to expend "capital" on the Middle East peace process during his second term. "He doesn't cut Tony much slack," one Blair aide said yesterday.

For someone who is often described as a "lucky" politician, cabinet ministers believe that Mr Blair was extremely unlucky to have President Bush in the White House for the past six years.

Tareq al-Hashemi, the Iraqi Vice-President, claimed that Mr Blair was ready about three months ago to back a timetable for withdrawing allied forces from Iraq, but was "brainwashed" into changing his mind during his recent talks with President Bush in Washington. He told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York: "It is quite unfortunate that your President made a sort of blackmail out of Mr Blair."

Later he told the BBC: "I got the impression that he was much willing, and interested in fact, to raise this subject maybe for the first time with Mr Bush.

"I think he discovered that Mr Bush is still adamant that he's not going to declare some sort of timetable for withdrawal to avoid passing wrong messages to terrorism."

His claims echoed a report by the respected Chatham House think-tank which claimed that Mr Blair had enjoyed no significant influence over the Bush administration, despite the military, political and financial sacrifices that Britain had made to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Professor Victor Bulmer-Thomas, the outgoing director of Chatham House, said: "Blair has learnt the hard way that loyalty in international politics counts for nothing. And his successor will not make the same mistake of offering unconditional support for US initiatives in foreign policy at the expense of a more positive relationship with Europe."

But Mr Blair predicted that his successor would maintain his close relationship with America. "I think most people, when they are actually in a position of having to take the decisions, will come to the same view," he said. "Us having a strong relationship with America is one reason why, when I come and discuss the Israel/Palestine issue out in the Middle East, you are having a different kind of conversation, precisely because you have got a relationship with America."

Robert Tuttle, the US ambassador in London, described the Chatham House report as "puzzling and incorrect". He said: "Our relationship is the strongest of any two governments in the world and I think the world is a better place for that relationship."

Mr Tuttle added: "I think that the special relationship is very, very strong ... You have a very strong prime minister who made the commitment [in Iraq] on what he thought was best for the United Kingdom."

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